Christmas music is a very polarizing genre: you either love it or you hate it. Much of the vitriol Christmas music gets stems from the fact that the same songs are played ad nauseam for 45 days, year after year. They have a specific sound and lyric set that people associate with Christmas joy, but they get old fast.
But new Christmas music is being written all the time. If radio stations were to take a risk and play this original music, they could potentially avoid much of the bad publicity that repeatedly playing horrible music earns them. Today's artists risk serious backlash when tackling Christmas music, but some have struck gold with songs that are easy to listen to while remaining true to the Christmas vibe.
Here are 10 fabulous modern Christmas songs to spice up the holidays. Full Spotify playlist available at the end.
1. 'Christmas Lights' by Coldplay
Coldplay does what they do best with Christmas Lights. The song is an introspective, dark, and insightful piece of music that puts the hopeful energy that so many relate with the winter holidays to the test. The perfect song for anyone who has ever experienced a less than merry Christmas.
2. 'Christmas Wish' by She & Him
If I were in elementary school again, this is the song I would imagine myself singing. The melody is catchy beyond belief, and the lyrics are something any parent could get behind. Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward have wonderfully smooth voices that seem to magically click. Although this is not an original piece, no one has done Christmas Wish better than She & Him.
3. 'Christmas In The Room' by Sufjan Stevens
Having recorded over 100 different Christmas songs its no surprise that Sufjan Stevens makes it on the list twice. This first entry is a song with real potential to stand the test of time, assuming people can find it within such intimidating oeuvre.
4. 'All I Need Is Love' by Cee Lo Green feat. The Muppets
Half of the population should already be in love with this song whether they've heard it or not. The Muppets are a treasure trove of nostalgia for anyone having had the pleasure of growing up with The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, or Sesame Street. Their Christmas song is upbeat, well-written, dance-inspiring, and features some wonderful vocal performances by the puppets that embody the soul of millennial youth.
Muppet bias aside, Cee Lo's contribution to the track solidifies it as a truly great piece of music. It's reminiscent of classics from both The Beatles and The Muppets, while still incorporating enough new material to stand alone in any collection of Christmas music.
5. 'Christmas' by Rogue Wave
Rogue Wave's cover of The Who has the honor of being so unknown that YouTube doesn't have a video version to share with you. Holding true to their sound, Rogue Wave crafted a Christmas song that does indie-rock proud. Bands that are able to take a headfirst dive into a genre like Christmas Music and surface without having to compromise their sound are a rare find.
6. 'Love Is Christmas' by Sara Bareilles
Love is Christmas has a melancholy sound that mimics the gray feelings often evoked by cold winter weather. Bareilles' sparse accompaniment is a nice change from the over-production so widely prevalent in music these days. The lyrics share a theme with a solid percentage of Christmas classics, and Bareilles' delivery makes for easy listening.
7. 'Boots' by The Killers
The Killers have started a somewhat annual tradition of releasing a Christmas single around the holiday season. Boots is their most successful and memorable Christmas tune thus far. The Killers have a pretty unique sound that wouldn't normally seem to fit the Christmas genre, but Boots oes a great job of harnessing their energy talents to fit the mold.
8. 'Silver Snow' by Derik Nelson
Derik Nelson’s Silver Snow is the most unknown song on the list. A west-coast musician with some acting chops, Nelson released a Songs About Winter album in 2011 with some great originals on it. Silver Snow stands out as the best original song on Nelson's album. Its warm instrumentation and relaxing melodies inspire the cozy feelings of a winter wonderland. The first 30 seconds are reminiscent of lying on a shag rug in front of a crackling fire, with some homemade hot buttered rum at your side.
It's 467 seconds of Christmas peace.
9. 'In The Morning' by Jack Johnson
If you've ever heard Jack Johnson before, his contribution to the Christmas genre won't surprise you very much. Johnson doesn't often come to mind when I think of unique music, but his sound works surprisingly well with Christmas tunes. His lyrics are buoyant and hopeful reminders of those Christmas days accompanied by sun rather than snow.
10. 'Put The Lights On The Tree' by Sufjan Stevens
This song, the second of Sufjan Stevens' on this list, shines with a child-like instrumentation and infectiously joyous mood. Few artists can make a simple song this interesting. Put the Lights on the Tree can be listened to several times before you realize that its lyrics consist of a mere 92 words, many of them just "la la la la la."
If you liked these picks, here's a Spotify playlist of them all for your next Christmas party!