Christmas Music: Top 10 Pop Songs from Mariah, Britney, Beach Boys and more



Christmas time is officially in the air. Saturday marked the arrival of December and all the yuletide cheer that comes along with it. The days leading up the holiday will be packed with classic Christmas film on TV and festive tunes taking over the radio. In honor of the occasion, here’s a list of ten standout pop tracks that are sure to make any playlist all the more jolly this season.

No. 10 – Backstreet Boys’ “It’s Christmas Time Again” (2012)

Backstreet’s back, but before fully making a comeback next year, the fivesome cut the festive “It’s Christmas Time Again.” The holiday tune opens with a fast-strumming acoustic guitar as the guys sing about a dreamy winter wonderland. Christmas bells finally set in around the chorus, heralding that the holiday’s arrival with the group’s smooth harmonies. It’s a fresh 2012 release that definitely didn’t need a dubstep breakdown.

No. 9 – Madonna’s “Santa Baby” (1987)

For those feeling a bit naughty this season, Madonna has the slinky “Santa Baby.” Originally popularized by Eartha Kitt, the queen of pop put her own twist on the holiday track in 1987 for the A Very Special Christmas charity album. Over a sweeping orchestra, Madonna becomes a Betty Boop-like character with her playful rendition of “Santa Baby.” It’s a sexy song sure to make Ms. Claus jealous.

No. 8 – She & Him’s “Sleigh Ride” (2011)

New Girl star Zooey Deschanel and her She & Him partner M. Ward released a Christmas album last year. Among the holiday classics they cover is “Sleigh Ride.” The duo put their stamp on the rousing track with a folksy rendition. A reverberated bass guitar backs Deschanel as she sings the track with her trademark quirkiness. M. Ward also joins in on the holiday fun with his laid back “yoo woos.” She & Him put the cool in Christmas tunes.

No. 7 – The Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” (1963)

California-based group The Beach Boys rung in the holidays with “Little Saint Nick” in 1963. The band’s sunny surf rock is decorated with Christmas bells for the once-a-year occasion. As the rocking track chugs along, the boys’ dreamy harmonies detail one of Santa Claus’ wild sleigh rides. It’s truly a Beach Boys release when the guys liken Santa’s sleigh to a hot rod: “And when Santa hits the, man, just watch her peel.”

No. 6 – Britney Spears’ “My Only Wish (This Year)” (2000)

While Britney’s pop peers were pushing out full Christmas albums during the ’90s, The X Factor judge instead opted to release one holiday track. And one was definitely enough when she released the festive pop jam, “My Only Wish (This Year).” Over a bouncing beat and jolly piano, Spears pleas with Santa to bring her a boyfriend this Christmas. It’s a lesser known gem in the singer’s catalog that always reemerges during the holiday season.

No. 5 – The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” (1981)

The Waitresses rock out on the “Christmas Wrapping.” Recorded for the alternative holiday compilation, A Christmas Record, in 1981, the new wave track features singer Patty Donahue detailing a crappy Christmas in the making. It’s like the anti-holiday song with its realistic portrayal of someone wanting to sit out Christmas. Things get better, though, when the series of unfortunate events lead to “a very happy ending.”

No. 4 – Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (1963)

Producer Phil Spector enlisted Darlene Love to record “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” for his A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Record compilation in 1963. The holiday track about waiting for a loved one to come home is brought to life with Love’s emotional performance. She even manages to overpower Spector’s trademark wall of sound production. It clearly isn’t Christmas if Love’s beloved classic isn’t playing somewhere in the background.

No. 3 – Wham!’s “Last Christmas” (1984)

British duo Wham! released their holiday single, “Last Christmas,” in 1984. The smooth synthpop number features singer George Michael lamenting over a broken heart during the yuletide season. It’s also underscored by a hypnotic xylophone section of festive notes. The song has been covered numerous times by acts like Glee and Cascada, but no one’s been able to capture the magic behind the Wham! original.

No. 2 – John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” (1971)

Leave it to former Beatle John Lennon to make Christmas into a political statement. He certainly got his point across when he released “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” with wife Yoko Ono in 1971. Back by orchestral production from Phil Spector and the Harlem Community Choir, Lennon and Ono voice their hopes for a Christmas “without any fear.” Originally penned in protest to the U.S.’s involvement in the Vietnam War, the holiday song’s anti-war message continues to be very relevant today. “War is over, if you want it,” the group sings.

No. 1 – Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” (1994)

Mariah Carey became the queen of the modern holiday standard when she released “All I Want for Christmas is You” in 1994. The festive song was a Carey original among covers on her Merry Christmas album. Its delicate tinkling opener heralds in Mariah as she unleashes her powerful voice on the upbeat tune. Backed by a choir, Carey lets Santa know that all she wants for Christmas is the guy of her eye. The timeless track is a perfect mix of fun pop music and Christmas cheer.

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