There is a rather ignorant assumption in the world that within the last 25 or so years, only one modern-day Christmas song matters. Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” is a pop masterpiece that further solidified Carey’s rightful place in pop culture history and is certainly the only actual Christmas standard to emerge in our lifetimes. The Phil Spector-inspired jingle at the beginning is instantly recognizable, and Carey’s own vocals provide a level of serotonin and Christmas spirit that will surely annoy your neighbors or coworkers.
But there are more Christmas anthems you might’ve missed since the release of “All I Want.” The mockery of Christmas music is tiresome at this point and a pointless rejection of joy when we need it the most. Look around you. The world sucks. If a few Christmas bops (no matter how commercialized) can help bring some happiness in our lives, then who are we to reject or dismiss that?
We don’t always have to resort to just one modern-day classic or to Nat King Cole. Here are some holiday songs that will surely, hopefully, make this life a little merrier.
“Santa Tell Me” by Ariana Grande
Before you close your tab out of anger, remember Ariana Grande has a vocal range that many mainstream artists would sell their souls for. Grande’s “Santa Tell Me” is a classic, jolly-filled bop that is celebratory and so very merry sounding.
Oh, but just wait: The underlying lyrics are about heartbreak. (Surprise!) Miss Grande needs a man, girl, and not just any man — a specific one. If Santa can’t bring him, Grande cries, “Don’t make me fall in love again if he won’t be here this year.”
I think we all have yearned for a specific person every once in a while, and Grande seems to be following the trend of wanting one person and no one else for Christmas, which seemed to work in Carey’s favor. Why not dance to this little jam with your besties in the meantime while we all wait for our knight in shining armor?
“Underneath the Tree” by Kelly Clarkson
Songs that start off on a chorus give listeners a chance to feel connected immediately. This is definitely the case for Texas native Kelly Clarkson’s 2013 epic Christmas single, which may be the best selection on this list.
Christmas music uses familiar tones and keys to grab its audience; Clarkson is not only guilty of that but embraces it with the chorus usage as well as heavy percussion flowing along with her own strong vocals. The lyrics are, to the shock of no one, adorable.
Unlike Grande and Carey, Clarkson already has her man in her song. “You’re here, where you should be … it just wasn’t the same, alone on Christmas day.” All together now: Awwww!!!
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by John Legend Featuring Kelly Clarkson
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is by far the creepiest Christmas song to exist and that’s saying something considering “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” still gets radio play.
Thanks to a progressive era, Grammy winner and husband of Chrissy Teigen, John Legend has masterfully reworked the lyrics from moving in closer on a woman and offering her a drink to respecting her wishes to leave by ordering her an Uber. Wow, respecting another person’s wishes. What a concept.
The reworking or cancelation of this song is long overdue. Legend, with the help of Kelly Clarkson, has kept the non-creepy parts of the song and enhanced it for a more accepting and modern audience, making it a new song of its own.
“Christmas Makes Me Cry” by Kacey Musgraves
Does anyone else just get really damn sad during this time of year? At the risk of projecting, Christmas can enhance the feeling of loss and breakups when you show up to a holiday party without a plus one. Enter “Christmas Makes Me Cry” by Texas goddess Kacey Musgraves.
This song is different for a number of reasons, but what makes Musgraves an overall original is her calming and assuring, yet somber, sound that makes us happy and sad at the same time. “Christmas Makes Me Cry” is reflective and quiet, something that we may need after this hell hole of year. Thankfully Musgraves has provided a song we can all cry along to.
“Merry Christmas Happy Holidays” by NSYNC
Hey kids! Remember NSYNC? Their Christmas album — which this author definitely didn’t own on cassette — is now 22 years old and still as timeless as any holiday songs made in the last 30 years.
It’s corny as hell, sure. Unlike the other songs, there really isn’t an underlying message other than “Merry Christmas and happy holidays.” Screw it — it’s cute and festive and at least three of the members need our coin now more than ever. So ignore the Grinches of the world and expand your Christmas jukebox by streaming this and every obnoxious holiday song you hate to love or love to hate.
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