Christmas songs that don’t completely suck

Once the holidays hit, radio stations fill the airways with all the Christmas and holiday music one can handle.

Once the holidays hit, radio stations fill the airways with all the Christmas and holiday music one can handle. Of course, the down side to this is that a lot of holiday music…a fair number…okay, most of the stuff is just plain crap. It’s cheesy, it’s boring and frankly, most of the time it’s some pop star shamelessly exploiting the time of year to reign in some of that

Christmas cash. There are, however, some nice choices here and there that one can easily enjoy without suffering through someone’s lame attempt to make a holiday buck—well, maybe a little suffering, but it’s totally worth it.

“The Christmas Song”

by Nat King Cole

In 1944, songwriter Bob Wells was attempting to cool off one sweltering hot summer day. So he started writing down thoughts of cold winter days—not trying to write a song at all. His friend and co-writer Mel Torme came across Wells’ notes, and a song was soon created. They quickly brought it to their friend Nat King Cole and a legendary song was born.

“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”

by The Jackson Five

A classic song about the innocence of childhood during Christmas…and also that horrifying incident children sometimes witness that will later put them in therapy.

“Last Christmas”

by Wham

Just the right amount of cheese for the holidays bundled up in a classic ‘80s music video. Honestly, how could no one figure out George Michael was gay?


“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”

by Brenda Lee

Another song that many artists take on, but none have ever topped Brenda Lee’s version from 1958. You can’t beat the original.


“Oh Come All Ye Faithful”

by Twisted Sister

I don’t care what anyone says—Twisted Sister’s album “A Twisted Christmas” will always be in my Christmas music playlist. They also pull off an excellent version of “Silver Bells.”


“Christmas in Hollis”

by Run DMC

Just try not to feel the spirit while listening to this tune. A great song in its own right, but it’s also a very memorable addition to 1988’s “Die Hard.”


“White Christmas”

by Bing Crosby

Bing Crosby owns Christmas.


“Fairytale of New York”

by The Pogues with Kristy MacColl

Come on, not every Christmas is a snowy vision of wonder and joy. Sometimes, it’s a drunken reflection of better, and worse, holiday times. Delivered no better than by The Pogues.


“Baby It’s Cold Outside”

by Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer

Not strictly a holiday song, but it works. Many have recorded a version of this song, bur Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer did it best in 1949.


“All I Wanted Was A Skateboard”

by Super Deluxe

The Seattle-based power-pop rock group Super Deluxe cranked out this holiday tune back in the late ‘90s, expressing something we all can relate to: not getting what you really wanted for Christmas, but instead more clothes that someone else believes looks swell.

“No Presents for Christmas”

by Exhumed

There’s only one metal band that even pretends to give a rip about Christmas, and it’s Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And since they only get together once a year to play Christmas music en masse, it doesn’t count. Enter: Exhumed, a thrash/grind band. Yes, I know, King Diamond originally did this song, and I’m going to catch hell for it, but Exhumed is much, much better than King Diamond. Sorry, guys. This song is essentially about Christmastime at the homes of dysfunctional families, but if you want to skip to the cheerful stuff, you can skip to near the end. You’re treated to about 30 seconds of a blast- beat-filled rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and the main hook of “White Christmas,” except “Christmas” has been replaced by “Sabbath.” Ha! Get it?

“Little Drummer Boy”

by The Dandy Warhols

Putting shame to the countless amount of previous versions and covers of this yuletide classic, The Dandy Warhols’ adaptation takes the cake over all the others. This song was released by Capitol Records in 1997, during the band’s short-lived popular era due in part to their unmistakably catchy singles “Bohemian like You” and “We Used to Be Friends.” These songs managed to conquer the airwaves, then suddenly disappear. Highly influenced by The Velvet Underground, this version of “Little Drummer Boy” is complete with enough fuzz on the guitars to warm you up. Bottom line: This cover is convincing enough to think that the song just can’t be done any better. The credit for the original version goes to songwriter: Katherine K. Davis. She wrote the song in 1942 and it was originally titled “The Carol of the Drum.”


“Jingle Cats”


Quite possibly the best Christmas album ever recorded, “Jingle Cats” is over an hour of traditional Christmas tunes played on a katzenklavier. Ok, ok, not a realkatzenklavier; more likely the bored 4-track bedroom recordings of a very lonely person with hundreds of cats. Either way, someone who works at a record company thought this was a great enough idea to mass-produce. And by golly, they were right. Let’s get things straight—this is not an album of cats just yowling. There is real musical accompaniment, so it doesn’t sound like the Humane Society. Sometimes, some stupid dog barking sneaks into the mix, which is likely a lead-in to the same company’s “Jingle Dogs” which sucks really bad because barking is harsh and percussive. That said, buy Jingle Cats.

“Father Christmas”

by The Kinks

Planting seeds for early rebellion, “Father Christmas” tells a story of a toy shopkeeper of the same name. He is beat up by a gang of poor kids asking for his food and money because it would be much more useful to them instead of toys. Released as a single by Arista on turkey day in 1977, the song unfortunately did not reach a high position on many charts but it has been covered by a wide array of bands such as Gigolo Aunts, Green Day, Warrant, Bowling For Soup and OK Go. If you haven’t heard this song, listen to it! “Father Christmas” is another great example of Ray Davies’ unquestionably talented songwriting and why The Kinks have remained as one of the most influential bands to this day. Other than all that, it’s just a damn good song, so there is absolutely no excuse for you to not dedicate nearly four minutes of your time to it.

“Christmas in Hollis”

by Run DMC

Back when hip-hop was still fun and not about dick size, the genre took itself much less seriously than it does today. So much less so, in fact, that rhyme legend Run DMC wrote a Christmas rap, and it was still completely awesome. Essentially, the song only dedicates one verse to its title, what Christmas is like in the Hollis neighborhood of Queens, N.Y. The first verse is kind of a long setup where The Rev and cohorts explain their way off the naughty list by discussing a situation in which they find and return Santa’s huge wallet. The point here, however, is not how Run DMC returned Santa’s billfold or what they ate for Christmas dinner in Queens, but moreso that there was a time in history where a Christmas rap song was not considered corny.

“Christmas at the Zoo”

by The Flaming Lips

Between the song’s melancholy psychedelic Christmas tone and the signature soft-spoken vocals of the Flaming Lips’ lead singer Wayne Coyne, “Christmas at the Zoo” is a Christmas song worthy of being played any time of the year. Released by Warner Bros. in 1995, “Clouds Taste Metallic” the band’s seventh album contains CatZ and some of the most creative work that was appearing then, especially from Oklahoma. The album also serves as a landmark for the group because this is the last time they were predominately known to be a guitar-driven band before moving into more experimental psychedelic territory à la “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” and “At War with the Mystics.” As Christmas songs usually do, CatZ tells a quaint little story of somebody, presumably Coyne, not having snow on Christmas Eve, leading to a rather interesting decision to release all of the animals at the zoo. There just happens to be one problem: The animals don’t want to leave when released and would rather save themselves. CatZ is a track that will not only bring a smile to your face, but also provide an original look into ways of spreading Christmas cheer.