RouteNote’s 20 Best Christmas Songs of All Time

Image Credit: Tom Rickhuss

There’s been hundreds of Best Christmas Song lists this year. Check if your favourites made the cut of our top 20.

Our selection of ultimate Christmas songs is a broad mixture of comforting classics, festive party floor-fillers, and the obvious sing-a-long hits. There are far too many Christmas songs to choose from, but we’ve done our best.

20. Chris Rea – Driving Home for Christmas

It may not be the most exciting tune, but to many this is the song that comes to mind when picturing a journey along a dark motorway lit only by headlights, the Christmas lights of passing towns occasionally twinkling by.

19. Dropkick Murphys – The Season’s Upon Us

Beginning with a lovely lilting chorus and the cheeky promise of mischief and mayhem, this Christmas song from the Celtic Punk band then descends into foulmouthed pandemonium. ‘They call this Christmas where I’m from’, lead singer Al Barr explains.

18. The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping

This anti-Christmas song seeks to prove that Christmas alone can be just as chaotic as one with scores of relatives. A contender for the best bassline of any Christmas song, and also for the most lyrics, reflecting on missed opportunities for romance throughout the year. Haim recently released a version, reflecting on their 2020 holiday season.

17. Connie Francis – I’m Gonna Be Warm this Winter

A cheery rock and roll Christmas song that shuffles along, bound to get everyone’s feet tapping. Honourable mention, too, for Gabrielle Cilmi’s 2008 cover.

16. Dean Martin – Let It Snow

The timeless tune is appropriate for this year, when we truly have no place to go. It doesn’t actually mention Christmas, so perhaps could be played as soon as winter hits, for that instant feeling of comfort. You can almost hear the smile in Martin’s voice.

15. Michael Bublé – It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

It wouldn’t be a Christmas list without some Bublé, the face and sound of the modern festive season.

14. Darlene Love – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

Those horns herald the beginning of Christmas. Taken from the Phil Spector Christmas Album, the heartrending vocal delivery is balanced by jolly production. Featuring Cher on backing vocals.

13. Stevie Wonder – That’s What Christmas Means To Me

If you’re looking for nostalgia for the days when we were allowed to get up to no good at staff Christmas parties, this is surely up there with the big boys. You’re dancing from the second the bass kicks in.

12. Eartha Kitt – Santa Baby

Everyone has a favourite version of ‘Santa Baby’, whether it’s Kylie Minogue being mischievous or this, Eartha Kitt’s original tongue-in-cheek rendition.

11. Wham! – Last Christmas

The iconic chopping synth, George Michael’s plaintive vocal lamenting a lost love, the shimmering tinselly cymbals – it had to be included.

10. The Pogues (featuring Kirsty McCall) – Fairytale of New York

The ultimate drunken pub sing-along number, with McCall’s angelic vocal perfectly balancing Shane MacGowaan’s abrasive, longing one.

9. The Darkness – Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)

Wailing duel guitars lead the cheesy arrangement that parodies modern Christmas songs perfectly, ending with, of course, a children’s choir. Nobody can resist the urge to attempt to sing along with Justin Hawkins’ falsetto.

8. Bing Crosby – White Christmas

Crosby’s gentle, lazy vocal makes the smoothest Christmas song of all an absolute classic. Honourary mention for Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings’ cover, which sees lead vocalist Jones let rip whilst the chanting backing vocalists egg her on.

7. José Feliciano – Feliz Navidad

Welcoming everyone with the traditional Spanish greeting of ‘Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad’, Puerto Rican Feliciano brings bilingual joy with simple repeated lines over an infectious Latin pop backing.

6. Wizzard – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday

5. Shakin’ Stevens – Merry Christmas Everyone

4. Slade – Merry Christmas Everybody

It’s fairly impossible to choose between the Christmas songs of Slade, Wizzard and Shakin’ Stevens, and in my humble opinion they all tie. Not just because they all have the same title. Each one is like someone let off a Christmas glitter bomb. The iconic ‘IT’S CHRISTMAAAS’ and sing-along factor of the chorus of Merry Christmas Everybody might just nudge it over the line. ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ has a odd interlude and if it really was Christmas Everyday the novelty would be lost completely, right?

3. Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting)

Those diving strings at the beginning are Instant Christmas. You feel like Nat King Cole is addressing you alone – a kid ‘from one to 92’, as he sings ‘Although it’s been said many times many ways/Merry Christmas to you’.

2. Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas is You

Blowing away all the competition for sheer bombastic energy. Mariah’s vocals are undeniable and after the music-box opening and typical diva introduction the pop beat gallops along relentlessly, urging everyone onto their feet.

1. Frank Sinatra – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Any other time, it would have been Mariah. But after the year we’ve had, just see if you can get through the line ‘through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow’ without sniffling. Nevertheless, there’s something comforting about the lilt of the minor chords. The song coaxes you to look around, take a breath and find something to anchor you, even if you’re spending the day alone. There’s always next year.

How did we do? Feel free to argue amongst yourselves over which deserving classic Christmas Songs were left off the list. Then go forth into the wintry night and make your own festive tune. All you need is sleigh bells and chimes, and RouteNote can do the rest.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I write about music for RouteNote, sharing fun stuff, news, and tips and tricks for musicians and producers. Also a saxophonist and hater of marmalade.

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