'Tis the season to queue up the Christmas music. Whether you're hosting a holiday party or planning a chill night in, you need
songs that set the right Yuletide vibe — not the same old Christmas classics you've been hearing for years, maybe even decades. So if your seasonal playlist is in need of a major refresh, I've got you covered.
I've compiled a list of modern holiday favorites that span moods, genres, and languages and are full of
Christmas cheer, holiday heartbreak, and general winter malaise. Because nostalgia is so in right now, you'll also spot a few timeless faves for the Y2K enthusiasts. Take a listen, and in the spirit of the holidays, share this playlist with a few friends. Because, when it’s Dec. 24 and you still haven’t bought your bestie a present, you can always give the gift of good music.
"Christmas Tree Farm" by Taylor Swift
You can trace Taylor Swift's adoration for
autumnal ephemera and the holiday season back to her Pennsylvanian roots. For the uninitiated, Blondie grew up on a Christmas tree farm — a place forever immortalized on "Christmas Tree Farm," which is a saccharine ode to the snow-covered halcyon days of her youth. Joyful and sweet, this is the kind of song you queue up to dance while decorating the tree or around the kitchen in the refrigerator light.
"Christmas Tree" by BTS' V
The title of "Christmas Tree" is a bit of a misnomer. From
BTS' soulful vocalist V, "Christmas Tree'' is not a holiday song in the traditional sense. It was originally recorded for the soundtrack of the K-drama Our Beloved Summer. With its soft instrumental and lyrical intimacy, "Christmas Tree" captures the warm, gushy spirit of the season. On the track, V gently likens love to a present underneath a Christmas tree: a delicately wrapped surprise. Singing in both English and Korean, V's hushed vocals lull you into a state of Yuletide calm.
"Last Christmas" by Remi Wolf
A fresh take on a holiday playlist staple,
Remi Wolf's "Last Christmas" reimagines the iconic Wham! song as a bright, beachy surf-rock jam. Her raspy vocals add to its indie-pop texture, turning this cover into a breezy balm for broken hearts everywhere.
“Glittery” by Kacey Musgraves feat. Troye Sivan
Real ones know that Christmas isn't
just about material gifts. Sometimes, the best — and sparkliest — gifts are the people in your life. That's the meaning behind Kacey Musgraves' smooth holiday ballad, which she performed with Troye Sivan during her Amazon Prime special, Kacey's honeyed vocals and Troye's warm timbre go together like warm cookies and milk. The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show.
"Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" by Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson (feat. Sean Ono Lennon)
Miley Cyrus' voice soars on this special re-recording of the John Lennon and Yoko Ono holiday classic. Plus, it features their son, Sean Ono Lennon, on guitar and backing vocals. Everyone knows Miley is the queen of covers, and she can turn just about any song into an electrifying power ballad. With this one, the heartfelt message of "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" hits you right in the chest.
"Christmas EveL" by Stray Kids
Leave it to Stray Kids to make a Christmas banger.
The K-pop stars released "Christmas EveL" last year, and it's a campy delight. "Jingle, jingle, jingle all the way / you got me spinning," Felix sings on the dizzyingly addictive hook. The real highlight is the electro breakdown, during which they chant "Feliz Navidad" over a frantic beat. (A new cross-cultural classic!) If you prefer your sleigh bells with trap hi-hats, then "Christmas EveL" is the song for you.
"Underneath the Tree" by Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson's voice is like hot chocolate on a cold winter's night: You can never get enough of it. Her soul-stirring pipes can sing just about anything, but they're uniquely primed for Christmas tunes. Released in 2013 as the lead single from her holiday album
Wrapped In Red, "Underneath the Tree" is a big, festive celebration of togetherness. It exists in the pantheon of modern Christmas songs that you'd actually want to sing during a night of karaoke. It's so good that you'll want to bump this one all year round. (I promise not to tell.)
"Christmas Song" by Phoebe Bridgers
The sad girls need Christmas music, too. A certain melancholia seeps into the holiday season, and there's perhaps no one better equipped to express that feeling of loneliness than Phoebe Bridgers. She teamed up with singer-songwriter Jackson Browne for this tender cover of McCarthy Trenching's "Christmas Song." Lyrically, it captures the Christmastime malaise so many feel. "Sadness comes crashing like a brick through the window," she sings. "And it’s Christmas, so no one can fix it." Ouch.
"The Christmas Waltz" by Laufey
Spend a warm and cozy night in with Laufey's "The Christmas Waltz." With an arrangement inspired by Tchiakovsky’s
The Nutcracker, there's a childlike wonder to the song with its rich, jazzy texture, twinkling sleigh bells, and the children's choir that joins Laufey for a final magical verse. Raised on the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole, Laufey sounds like she’s from another time, and so "The Christmas Waltz" sounds deeply nostalgic despite being released just a few weeks ago.
"Night Before Christmas" by Sam Smith
about Sam Smith's latest holiday single "Night Before Christmas." In fact, it's relatively tame. The languid ballad puts the spotlight on the singer's smokey voice, which croons over a sparse guitar melody and soft piano notes. On Instagram, Smith unholy wrote, "We wanted to make a Christmas song that felt like LOVE on Christmas Eve." Mission accomplished.
"Christmassy!" by The Boyz
Something about Christmastime is so incredibly cheesy and endearing. "Christmassy!" from The Boyz evokes that same sensibility. It's so upbeat and jovial that even the biggest Scrooge would have a hard time not bobbing their head along to its catchy beat.
"It’s Not Christmas Till Somebody Cries" by Carly Rae Jepsen
Finally, a song that truly understands the stress of a "perfect" family Christmas. Carly Rae Jepsen's holiday synth-bop is for the ones trying to hold it together at the dinner table. So if your uncle starts talking about politics, just remember that's perfectly normal. It's true what Jepsen says: It's not Christmas until somebody cries.
"Winter Things" by Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande's extremely horny Christmas album,
Christmas & Chill, has already been painstakingly analyzed by the internet. But "Winter Things" is a sweet little ukulele number about the simple pleasure of doing winter activities with your significant other, global warming be damned. It doesn't get more chill than that.
"Funky Glitter Christmas" by NMIXX
K-pop newcomers NMIXX are known for their polarizing sound as it's quite literally their concept, to mix multiple genres in one song. "Funky Glitter Christmas" works because it's fun, festive, and brings out the individual charms of NMIXX's talented members. With playful ad-libs and powerful riffs, "Funky Glitter Christmas" is a cute and chirpy pop confection that understands the importance of a little holiday sparkle.
"Mistletoe" by Justin Bieber
The jingle-jangle of sleigh bells. Pulsing finger snaps. Smooth, R&B crooning. Justin Bieber's "Mistletoe" is one of those songs you can't help but sway along to. On it, baby Biebs promises to spend Christmas under the mistletoe with his shawty. This is all well and good, but you don't need a mistletoe — or even a cuffing season companion — to enjoy this modern classic.
"Santa Baby" by Ariana Grande and Liz Gillies
Did you think you were going to get through this list without another appearance from Ariana Grande, the princess of Christmas? This rendition of “Santa Baby” is a short and sultry duet with Liz Gillies, the singer's former
Victorious co-star. They faithfully remake the original with a stripped-down arrangement, bringing out the chemistry between Ari's sexy-baby voice and Liz's huskier tone.
"Amusement Park" by Baekhyun
Lyrically, Baekhyun's "Amusement Park" is not about the holidays, but the vibes say otherwise. Released as a Christmas present for fans, "Amusement Park" finds the Korean R&B crooner telling his lover that his heart is like an amusement park open just for them. The main attraction, as always, is the way Baekhyun rides that smooth, jazzy flow. It does what every good holiday song should do: makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
"Meet Me Under the Mistletoe" by Hailey Whitters
You know what this Christmas season is missing? A little fiddle. Rising country star Hailey Whitters puts her own tender, twangy spin on Randy Travis' holiday ditty "Meet Me Under the Mistletoe," and the result is endlessly charming.
"Like It's Christmas" by the Jonas Brothers
Happiness truly begins when you realize that Christmas is a mindset, therefore, you can listen to the Jonas Brothers' "Like It's Christmas" every day of the year. That's what these three wise men believe. "Like It's Christmas" tells the tale of a love so merry and bright that every day with them feels like Christmas. Let the spirited arrangement of handclaps and harmonies bring you nothing but happiness 365 days a year.
Pop provocateur Lil Nas X transformed into a futuristic Santa Claus for "Holiday," which is another trap Christmas carol on this list. A holiday song makes sense for the young rapper. After all, what's more camp than Christmas? On "Holiday," Lil Nas X finds joy in clapping back at his critics. "They tried to next me," he raps, "but I'm blessy." Amen.
Joy to the world, NCT Dream has blessed our eardrums with a holiday mashup. "JOY" is a holly-jolly track that combines “Joy to the World" and “Jingle Bells," along with the children's rhyme "Roses Are Red" into one winsome K-pop classic. True to its name, "JOY" is joyful. To be specific, it’s a kaleidoscopic mix of twinkling sleigh bells, festive horns, and sprightly harmonies.
"Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" by *NSYNC
The boy bands of yore knew a thing or two about inciting holiday cheer through agile vocal riffs and swoon-worthy harmonies. *NSYNC's "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" can be found on every millennial's holiday playlist and heard in Starbucks and drug stores throughout the month of December.
"8 Days of Christmas" by Destiny's Child
Kelly Rowland opens "8 Days of Christmas" with a confident declaration: "You know Christmas? Was made for the children — Destiny’s children." In 2001, Destiny's Child dropped an entire pop-R&B Christmas album. With its filthy bass line and silky harmonies, the fabulous "8 Days of Christmas" still endures. While it's important not to fixate on the material things during the holidays, who wouldn't want their baby to give them a pair of Chloé shades and a diamond belly ring?
"Miracles in December" by EXO
If you want to cry your eyes out this December, then queue up "Miracles in December." The sweeping ballad from EXO will warm even the most frigid heart. It's a simple song with a gorgeous melody, fluttery strings, and soul-stirring vocals. That's all EXO needed to make one of the most enduring songs of their generation.
"All I Want For Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey, the indelible Queen of Christmas (trademarked in our hearts but not by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office), changed culture forever when she released "All I Want for Christmas Is You" in 1994. The holiday season hasn't been the same since. It's the gold standard of Christmas music, a song so brilliant and ubiquitous everyone knows it. "All I Want for Christmas Is You" is the ultimate timeless treasure.
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