I’ve always been a big fan of Christmas and holiday songs, developing a slight obsession in my early 20s by searching everywhere for as many of these types of songs as possible (primarily in the punk/emo and Hip Hop genres), and making various mixes. I loved the Santa Cause Compilations put out by Immortal Records, as well as AbsolutePunk’s (now chorus.fm) annual list of songs in their forum. And there were always random ones to find with a bit of internet searching and determination.
With that being said, I decided to put a list together of my current favorites, in no particular order of course. Some obvious ones might be in here but hopefully there are a few hidden gems you’ve never heard of and will give a listen. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
The Pogues – Fairytale of New York.
One of the best of all time in my opinion. The Pogues are known as a gritty Irish punk band, essentially creating the genre and inspiring today’s favorites like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys. But this song has all the feelings of a genuine Christmas song, bells and everything. No Use For a Name’s cover version is pretty fantastic as well, not to mention the one from A Very Murray Christmas last year.
Something Corporate – Forget December.
To start off in the pop punk/emo genre, this track is a bit sappy, with the title suggesting how miserable the holidays are and to move on into the new year. But I will always love Andrew McMahon’s voice backed with his piano playing, as he has continued to do with his follow-up project Jack’s Mannequin, and current endeavor, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.
The Killers, Wild Light, Mariachi El Bronx – Happy Birthday Guadalupe.
Another favorite of mine. The Killers have had an annual tradition beginning in 2006 of releasing a new, original Christmas song. There are a lot of hits and misses here, but give this one a listen. I liked this song long before I knew who Mariachi El Bronx was, and this makes me appreciate it even more. It is a good hybrid of typical Killers sound and what Mariachi does best.
Acceptance – Happy Xmas(War is Over).
A cover of the classic John Lennon song. This version is better, in my opinion, keeping the sound of the original and adding more feeling. There are a lot of quality tracks on these Santa Cause compilations, and this one is hard to find elsewhere (other than on Youtube).
Bruce Springsteen – Santa Clause is Coming to Town
Another classic, this is one of the first rock versions of the song, which takes the melody arrangement and chorus previously updated by the Crystals and the Jackson 5, and expands into a full band performance. I can’t find a proper recorded version of this, but this live version is probably the best known, with Bruce talking to his bandmates, asking Clarence (RIP) if Santa will get him a new saxophone. This was a staple in my house growing up.
Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas
No other Christmas song sounds more like the 80s than this one. They managed to get Bono, Sting, Boy George, George Michael, and Phil Collins in the same room together (and a surprising lack of 80’s female vocalists). Not only that, but it turned out to be a great song. They followed up and made additional versions of this with more contemporary artists over the years, but nothing will compare to this one.
No Doubt – Oi to the World
Technically a cover of a Vandals song, but this version is better known. It does add a bit to the original, with horns and a female voice. A fun punk song for the holidays.
Blink 182 – I Won’t Be Home For Christmas
Probably their lesser known holiday song (see: “Happy Holidays, You Bastard” ), but this is an actual song versus a short joke song that Blink has on most of their albums. Again, the subject matter is similar to all the other pop punk songs on this list, but does a great job of infusing the classic late 90s Blink sound with holiday themes.
New Found Glory – Ex Miss
This one likely takes the crown for the best punk title on the list, and makes me chuckle every time I see it, mainly at how stereotypically emo it is. You probably guessed it already, but it’s a breakup song, delivering the signature line “I spent too much time and money on you,” ending with an electrified melody of “Jingle Bells.”
Stevie Wonder – What Christmas Means to Me
I first discovered this song from the movie Elf. Didn’t even realize it was Stevie Wonder, but this song deserves much more recognition than it gets. CeeLo’s version from a few years ago has helped bring it to the forefront, but this should be a standard above the rest.
Yule Shoot Your Eye Out – Fall Out Boy
This is probably the track I would be most embarrassed about, but you shouldn’t really feel guilty about something if you like it. The title alone (while close competition to “Ex-Miss”), referencing A Christmas Story makes you want to check it out. Mostly acoustic and lacking a lot of the typical FOB sound, aside from Patrick Stump’s whiney voice, it brings another depressing way to get in the holiday spirit.
The Killers – A Great Big Sled
My favorite of the Killers holiday releases besides Guadalupe, this is more classic Killers sound.
Eve 6 – Noel! Noel!
Eve 6 basically took their stereotypical sound and invoked it in this traditional holiday song. Not particularly innovative or anything, I just really love how it sounds, and puts a cool spin on an otherwise standard Christmas song.
Run-DMC – Christmas in Hollis
This song gets a bit overplayed, but I couldn’t leave it off the list as it’s one of the best and most popular Hip Hop Christmas songs. The track has been featured in the classic Christmas movie, Die Hard, and episodes of The Office, Chuck, and Orange is the New Black. It also had people questioning where the hell Hollis is. Also, I would be remised to not include the punk rock cover version.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
There are numerous recordings of this classic song, and most are quite good. Again, I discovered this from the movie Elf, so love the Zooey Deschanel and Will Ferrell version, even if it only lasts a little over a minute. Check out all the various renditions here and pick your favorite, you can’t go wrong with a Christmas song that sounds like it should be a duet between Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.
Darlene Love – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
When in doubt, always go with the original. Covered by numerous artists, notably Joey Ramone, U2, and Mariah Carey.
The Ramones – Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)
Given the large amount of pop punk songs on this list, it only makes sense to include one of the originators of the genre. A catchy original that, like some of the others on this list, does not get the credit it deserves. Let’s set aside our differences and celebrate the holiday season together.
Jimmy Eat World – Last Christmas
Jimmy Eat World pay a solid tribute to Wham! in their cover of the 80s classic. I believe this was on the OC Chrismukkah soundtrack back in the day, so probably has a bit more mainstream success than some of the others on this list.
MXPX – Christmas Day
Almost forgot about this one, but I remembered putting it on a Christmas Mix CD back in college. MXPX actually wrote an entire album of punk Christmas songs, but this will always be the standout for me. Plus it’s a lot more positive than the other pop punk songs on this list.
Mavis Staples – Christmas Vacation
What better way to close out this list than to add the theme song from one of my favorite Christmas movies. I don’t think many people realize how great a song this is, a bit cheesy and all, yet will always cause you to think about the animated beginning of the film. Can’t see the line, can you Russ?