‘Tis the season to wait in line, buy presents you hope your family will like, and of course listen to all those classic Christmas songs you’ve heard for years….. and years. But believe it or not, there has been new music released after the 1950s.
I personally break Christmas music into two categories: Pre-Mariah Carey (the classics, Pre-1994 when Mariah Carey released “All I Want for Christmas is You) and Post-Mariah Carey (the modern era, 1994-present)
Who am I to speak on such a serious topic? Well for almost decade I crafted and curated music playlists for a national restaurant company. I was listening to new music consistently to stay ahead of the curve and to give guests variety of music to enjoy. I was a bit of a human-Pandora though without the ads.
So year after year of listening to the same Christmas music, I made a Christmas wish to seek out new music to add to our holiday playlists. I began listening (gasp) before Thanksgiving in order to prep. By the time Black Friday came around our guests were rocking around the Christmas tree to great, new jams they might not have heard before.
Fortunately for you, you do not have to listen to hours on end of contemporary Christmas, both good and bad, because I already have.
Below is the list of the 20 best:
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
This classic has been sung by duets throughout the decades. The original actually went on to win “Best Song’ in the 22nd Academy Awards. Who has sung it best since 1994? Idina Menzel and Michael Buble. They put a playful and great sounding spin on it.
Colbie Caillat actually has a very fun holiday album, “Christmas in the Sand,” which plays right into this tongue-and-cheek song.
Holly, Jolly Christmas
You’ve probably never heard of Group 1 Crew and I haven’t either before I heard their version, but they put a pop spin on the song with a pinch of hip-hop mixed in.
Jingle Bell Rock
The country trio make a very fun and lively version of the song. If glee is more your speed then you can’t go wrong with either Straight No Chaser or the Glee Cast version.
I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
This new version is very “modern-era” and one of my favorites. I heard this for the first time in a Macy’s Department Store but this song will get people moving at any Christmas party.
You’ve never heard a version like this and I highly recommend it. As mash-up between Winter Wonderland / Don’t Worry Be Happy is not only genius, but ends up being a fantastic combo.
Run Rudolph Run
Yep, CeeLo, it’s amazing.
My favorite version classic version is by The Drifters which was the song in Macauley Culkins famous “Home Alone” scene where he’s in the bathroom, slaps his cheeks and screams. But for “modern-era” the duet of Bublé and Shania Twaine put out a fantastic version.
Karmin might be a surprise choice, but this duo combine for a great version that’ll keep you moving while you decorate.
Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer
This more kid-friendly song, gets a fantastic version done by easy-going rocker that you could play over and over. Also Dean Martin’s version is fantastic. Dean is on a first name basis calling him “Rudy” throughout the song.
You know this song must be good when it passes Mariah Carey’s show stopper as the #1 Christmas song played in bars and restaurants throughout America.
Go Tell It On the Mountain
Pentatonix, the a cappella group from Arlington, TX put out amazing Christmas music, but this might be one of their best.
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
The country trio’s version is perfect for sitting by the fire and watching the snow come down outside. In other words, it’s exactly what you want for this song.
It might be surprising to see Kelly Clarkson as the winner, but she sings a fantastic version that feels like that is longing for her lost loved one. Of course, no matter who sings it, it’s hard to replace The King on this track.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
So let me be clear, I think the definitive version is by The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, but Michael Buble’s version is pretty darn good.
You may have thought since it’s Jimmy Buffett, that this came out pre-Mariah Carey, but his Christmas album, “Christmas Island” was released in 1996. This island song and Jimmy Buffett were a perfect match for each other.
Not all of the songs on the list are new versions of old favorites. Below are a few originals from the past 20 years.
Santa, Tell Me (Ariana Grande)
It seems like everyone is coming out with holiday album and Ariana Granda is no different. While it doesn’t show off her pipes, this new, original song is pretty good and worthy addition to your playlist.
Text Me Merry Christmas (Straight No Chaser feat. Kristen Bell)
The Christmas song for Millenials.
(It Must Have Been Ol’) Santa Claus (Harry Connick Jr.)
So this is right on the borderline of eras (1993), but I consider it a modern-era song since Connick is still in the public eye, most recently on American Idol with J. Lo and Keith Urban.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays ('N Sync)
The Post-Mariah Carey era wouldn't be complete without a boy band so here's the obligatory choice which actually isn't that bad.
- Baby, It's Cold Outside Idina Menzel & Michael Bublé
- Santa, Baby Colbie Caillat
- Holly, Jolly Christmas Group 1 Crew
- Jingle Bell Rock Rascal Flatts
- I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm Kay Starr
- Winter Wonderland Pentatonix
- Run Rudolph Run CeeLo Green
- White Christmas Michael Bublé & Shania Twain
- Sleigh Ride Karmin
- Rudolph, The Red Nose Reindeer Jack Johnson
- Wonderful Christmastime The Shins
- Go Tell It on the Mountain Pentatonix
- Let It Snow Lady Antebellum
- Blue Christmas Kelly Clarkson
- Santa Claus is Coming to Town Michael Bublé
- Mele Kalikimaka Jimmy Buffett
- Santa, Tell Me Ariana Grande
- Text Me Merry Christmas Straight No Chaser Feat. Kristen Bell
- (It Must Have Been Ol') Santa Claus Harry Connick Jr.
- Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays 'N Sync
If all else fails, just go with Michael Bublé.