Ahh, it’s that special time of year again. The weather outside is frightening, but friends and family are braving the cold and traveling across the world to visit each other. And there’s nothing better (unless you work in retail) than hearing Christmas songs in the background of your get-togethers, as you catch up and eat way too many cookies.
We thought it’d be fun if we each shared our own favorite Christmas music here at the Couch Bandits, but we’d also love to hear your favorites! Feel free to share in the comments, and check out our top tunes right here.
“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” by Bruce Springsteen
This is a classic song, brought to even higher levels of merry cheer thanks to the legendary E Street Band. I’m a big fan of Springsteen overall—his rough vocals bring a lot to his catalog—but that’s not what I love about this song. Rather, I’m drawn to the amount of fun you can hear him and the rest of the E Street Band having.
He starts out with that wonderfully corny spoken word bit to set the tone, and you can already hear him chuckle a few times with his interactions with the band and the audience. But the absolute highlight comes later during the later refrain, where Springsteen repeats “Santa Claus is coming to town” several times, and Clarence starts giving a hearty “Ho Ho HO” in the background, causing Bruce to start laughing while trying to sing. You can practically hear the smiles on everyone’s faces, and I challenge you to keep a cheerful grin from your face while listening.
“I Wish It Was Christmas Today” by Julian Casablancas
This song started as an SNL song, just a really small, kind of stupid sketch for one of their holiday episodes, used as a transition piece between larger sketches. It featured Jimmy Fallon, Horatio Sanz, Tracy Morgan, and Chris Kattan in matching red sweaters, with Horatio playing a small guitar, Kattan holding a keyboard playing a pre-made, cheesy backing melody that Fallon would occasionally change the key of and add sound effects into, and Morgan just doing a simple little dance next to them. It’s amazing and would have made my list if not for the eventual cover.
I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that Julian Casablancas, lead singer of The Strokes, made a legitimate cover of an SNL gag song. AND IT WAS USED IN A CAR COMMERCIAL. But I sincerely enjoy the song. It taps into your inner child and reminds you of the excitement the season brings along with the good will and love you share with everyone.
“The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole
Leave it to a song called “THE Christmas Song” to be arguably the greatest Christmas tune ever recorded. Nat King Cole is maybe my favorite vocalist of all time. His voice is as smooth as silk and as timeless as the holiday season itself. There’s something about his smoothness that transports you back to the Christmases of your youth and brings back a flood of happy, Yuletide memories.
Each year, I make a playlist of holiday music I love, and this is almost always the first track I put on. The melody, the sweeping strings, the light touches on the piano—you simply can’t beat this one. Nat King Cole’s voice alternates between gentle breaths and booming magnificence. No matter what mood I’m in, this one always puts me in the holiday spirit, and if you celebrate Christmas, I can’t recommend it enough. Throw this one on as you settle in by the fire with a warm mug of hot chocolate, and let Nat King Cole soothe your soul.
“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” by Mannheim Steamroller
I’ve always been a huge fan of synth-pop/rock and synthwave music, so naturally, Chip Davis and his Mannheim Steamroller project immediately caught my ear. My parents had several of the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums, and growing up, they were Christmastime favorites for my brothers and me.
Mannheim Steamroller took Christmas classics and transformed them into synth-rock opuses, breathing new life and energy into tried-and-true carols. My brothers and I would put these records on and go insane, dancing and headbanging to the music. For these reasons, the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums remain personal nostalgic favorites for me. I always put these on around the holidays, and they never fail to put a smile on my face. This track off of their Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album is a highlight of the entire record for me and brilliantly sums up the spirit of this electronic orchestra.
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee
When this song was recorded, Brenda Lee was only a teenager. To put that in perspective, I was stuffing my face with cookies and terrorizing my neighborhood with incredibly childish pranks at that age. Needless to say, I won’t be going down in history as one of the most hard-working vocalists in all of entertainment—but Brenda Lee certainly earned that right. Her voice, especially in these Christmas classics, is as timeless as you can get.
There’s just something about this tune that paints a picture. If you close your eyes, you can almost see a snowy door with a Christmas wreath swinging open wide and inviting you into a home filled with friends and family. You might imagine your loved ones laughing with each other, unwrapping gifts like fiends, or jokingly dancing by a beautiful Christmas tree. For that reason, this is the perfect Christmas song to put on during a Christmas Eve party, and it will send you reeling into warm holiday memories.
“Last Christmas” by Wham!
What’s not to love about Wham!? “Last Christmas” is a bit different compared to other Christmas songs, but that’s why it stands out to me. The lyrics and the music itself are tinged with a sense of sorrow. During the happiest time of year, poor George Michael (RIP) was left out in the cold, all alone. But after reflecting on his mistake, he’s determined not to give up hope and move on. Honestly, that’s an empowering message, especially when there’s so much fuss around not being alone during the holiday season. True happiness should always come first, and that starts by loving yourself.
Aside from my corny overanalyzing, I also really love the music video for this song. It’s filled with tons of big ’80s hair and makes me nostalgic for a time I wasn’t even around for! It brings me back to watching Christmas movies as a kid and shopping at the mall for presents. There have also been some fantastic covers of this song, my personal favorite is by Jimmy Eat World.
Those are our top picks for the best Christmas songs! If you’re a fan of these tunes or have your own favorites, please share in the comments—we’d love to hear from you.