Our Top 50 Christmas
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/ Source: TODAY
By Randee Dawn
During the holiday season, it's inescapable: Christmas music! And while for some it's a soothing delight to hear the old (and new) favorites, for others it can be ... well, challenging.
So to help you set the jukebox to match your mood — or party — TODAY checked in with Billboard and Cloud Cover Music to find out which songs make our hearts merry and light! We've broken in the top favorites into five categories; classic, pop, kids, duets and offbeat.
There are far more tunes than we could squeeze into a Top 50, so make sure you let us know what rings your bells this season!
Classic Holiday Music
- "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year"
The song was first recorded by Andy Williams in 1963.
- "A Holly Jolly Christmas"
One of the best-known renditions of this song is Burl Ives' contribution from the 1964 Christmas special, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
Released in 1967, the song made early references to rock 'n roll, which was still a new form in that era, and references other popular songs like "Rock Around the Clock."
- "The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)"
Also known as "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" or "Merry Christmas to You," Bob Wells and Mel Tormé wrote the song in 1945 during a hot summer spell, and the Nat King Cole Trio first recorded it in 1946.
- "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow"
Another song penned during a heat wave (hey, they had to do something before everybody had A/C), the song hit No. 1 in 1946 with a recording by Vaughn Monroe.
Originally performed in 1941 on Bing Crosby's NBC show "The Kraft Music Hall," the song went on to sell over 100 million copies, and has an opening verse rarely heard that refers to being in the Beverly Hills, California sun.
- "(There's No Place Like) Home For The Holidays"
Though Perry Como recorded the song twice, it's since been covered by The Carpenters, Garth Brooks, and as a duet between Cyndi Lauper and Norah Jones, among others.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of "Silent Night," originally composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, with lyrics by Joseph Mohr in Austria. A documentary about the song will be released in the U.S. in 2019.
Wine merchant and poet Placide Cappeau was asked to write a Christmas poem in 1843 by his parish priest to mark the renovation of a church organ in his town of Roquemaure, France. Adolphe Adam added music in 1847.
- "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"
The song first appeared in "Meet Me in St. Louis" in 1944, with Judy Garland singing; Frank Sinatra also recorded a version with some changes in 1957.
Pop Holiday Music
- Mariah Carey, "All I Want For Christmas Is You"
Co-written by Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff and recorded by Carey in 1994, the song has charted every holiday season since its original release.
Written by George Michael and performed by Michael and Andrew Ridgely in 1984, the band donated all royalties to help alleviate the Ethiopian famine in Africa.
- Jose Feliciano, "Feliz Navidad"
Sung partially in Spanish, Feliciano's 1970 hit didn't hit the Billboard charts until over two decades after it was released, hitting No. 70 in 1998. In 2017 it re-entered the charts, landing at No. 44.
- Elvis Presley, "Blue Christmas"
Several artists recorded the song by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson from 1948 to 1956, but it was Elvis Presley's crooning that turned it into a classic in 1957.
- Paul McCartney, "Wonderful Christmastime"
The former Beatle recorded this holiday single entirely on his own and released it in 1979.
- John Lennon & Yoko Ono, "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"
The melody for this anti-war holiday classic by another former Beatle (and his wife) from 1971 is based on an 18th Century ballad about a racehorse named Skewball.
- Band-Aid, "Do They Know It's Christmas?"
Recorded in a single day in 1984 by a supergroup of (largely) British musicians to raise money for famine relief; within 12 months it had raised the equivalent of $27.7 million in 2018 dollars.
- Eartha Kitt, "Santa Baby"
Written by Joan Javits, the niece of Sen. Jacob K. Javits and Philip Springer in 1953, the song was made iconic by Kitt's sultry vocals in 1953.
- Ariana Grande, "Santa Tell Me"
Grande, who co-wrote the song with Savan Kotecha and Ilya, first performed it in 2014 on "A Very Grammy Christmas Special" concert in Los Angeles, which aired on CBS.
- Bruce Springsteen, "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town"
Though the song reaches back to 1934 and has been covered by everyone from Bing Crosby to Frank Sinatra and Chris Isaak, Springsteen's gravel-voice version from 1975 has an audience-friendly jollity to it that makes it a perennial holiday favorite.
Kids' Holiday Music
- Gene Autry, "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer"
Songwriter Johnny Marks based the song in 1939 on his brother-in-law's story, which was created as an assignment for the department store Montgomery Ward.
- Thurl Ravenscroft, "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch"
Though Boris Karloff voices the Grinch in the TV special "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," it's voice actor Ravenscroft who sings on the tune. He also voiced many Disneyland and Disneyworld attractions, including Pirates of the Caribbean and the Country Bear Jamboree.
- Jackson 5, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"
The original recording of this tune comes from 1952, recorded by Jimmy Boyd when he was 13 years old, and was commissioned by Saks Fifth Avenue to promote the store Christmas card.
- Jimmy Durante, "Frosty The Snowman"
Like "Rudolph," "Frosty" was adapted into a popular TV special, "Frosty the Snowman," which aired in 1969.
- Elmo and Patsy, "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"
Written in 1984 by Randy Brooks, the song regularly makes lists of most loved, and most hated, holiday hits.
- David Seville and The Chipmunks, "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)"
Seville is actually a pseudonym for Ross Bagdasarian Sr., who brought us other tunes like "Witch Doctor" and "Come On-a My House."
- Dr. Doofenschmertz, "I Really Don't Hate Christmas"
"Phineas and Ferb" mad scientist Dr. Doofenschmertz (voiced by show creator Dan Povenmire) asserts that while all other holidays irritate him, he's partial to Christmas. Really!
- The Singing Dogs, "Jingle Bells"
A Danish recording engineer recorded birds singing, and found barking dogs often wrecked his recordings. So he took the outtakes and tweaked the pitches into songs in 1955.
- Gayla Peevey, "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas"
Child star Peevey was 10 when she recorded the novelty hit in 1953. When she actually was given a hippopotamus, she donated it to the Detroit city zoo.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, the sharks are back with another earworm, this time with tinsel.
- Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé, "Baby It's Cold Outside"
Written in 1944, the song is perfect for a duo and has been recorded dozens and dozens of times; this version is from 2014, the same year versions by Connie Britton/Will Chase; Seth MacFarlane/Sara Bareilles, Darius Rucker/Sheryl Crow and Virginia to Vegas/Alyssa Reid laid down the same track.
- Frank Sinatra and Cyndi Lauper, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"
Recorded for 1992's "A Very Special Christmas 2," we can't think of two more unlikely duet partners than these two.
- Pentatonix featuring Tori Kelly, "Winter Wonderland/Don't Worry Be Happy"
Put a little reggae in your snow tune, and what do you get? This delight from 2014.
- Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, "The Greatest Gift of All"
Parton and Rogers are more than their hit "Islands in the Stream"; they have a whole album of holiday tunes from 1984, "Once Upon a Christmas." This was a single from that album.
- Christina Aguilera and Brian McKnight, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
The track was part of an ABC special concert by Aguilera in 2000 to promote her "My Kind of Christmas" album.
- Alan Jackson and Alison Krauss, "The Angels Cried"
In 1993, Jackson and Krauss teamed up for this tune on his "Honky Tonk Christmas" album.
- Bing Crosby and David Bowie, "Peace On Earth/The Little Drummer Boy"
One of the more unusual pairings, Bowie and Crosby sang in perfect harmony on this twofer duet, which was recorded in 1977 for Crosby's TV special, "Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas." Crosby died five weeks after recording the special.
- Justin Bieber with Boys II Men, "Fa La La"
Bieber paired up with the 1990s hitmakers for this song, which he co-wrote with Adonis Shropshire and Bernard Harvey, and which appears on his 2011 "Under the Mistletoe" album.
- Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, "What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?"
Technically not a Christmas song, but about what comes after Christmas, the 1947 tune by Frank Loesser has a lot of wonderful recordings to its name, but the acting pair of Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt, who recorded this tune in 2011, make it sweet and charming.
- Kenny Chesney and Willie Nelson, "Pretty Paper"
Written by Willie Nelson before he hit big, the song was originally recorded by Roy Orbison in 1963; the pair recorded it for Chesney's 2003 album, "All I Want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan."
Offbeat Holiday Music
- The Waitresses, "Christmas Wrapping"
First released in 1982, the song was originally conceived when The Waitresses' record label asked its artists to record a Christmas song for a compilation album.
- The Kinks, "Father Christmas"
A little edgier than your usual holiday hit, the 1977 tune by the British band is about a department store Father Christmas taken on by kids who want money, rather than toys.
- Saint Etienne feat. Tim Burgess, "I Was Born on Christmas Day"
Just how many holiday hits have a great dance beat? This track by the British alternative band Saint Etienne and the lead singer of The Charlatans UK was released in 1993.
- Kanye West, "Christmas in Harlem"
West originally released the song as part of his free music giveaway series GOOD Fridays, then issued on iTunes in 2010.
- Weird Al Yankovic, "Christmas at Ground Zero"
Want to know how to celebrate the holidays after total destruction? Weird Al's tune from 1986, which is also a style parody of Phil Spector-produced Christmas songs, is the one for you.
- Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters, "Hawaiian Christmas Song (Mele Kalikmaka)"
"Mele Kalikmaka" means Merry Christmas in Hawaiian, and was originally written by Robert Alex Anderson in 1949.
- Allan Sherman, "Twelve Gifts of Christmas"
Sherman, of "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" fame, declares in this 1964 hit just what he'll do with the junky gifts he receives over the twelve days: return them!
- Run D.M.C., "Christmas in Hollis"
One of the first rapped (not wrapped) holiday hits, Run-D.M.C. took listeners to their hood in Hollis, Queens in New York, and won Rolling Stone's Best Video of the Year in 1987.
- Fountains of Wayne, "I Want an Alien for Christmas"
Originally released in 1997, the tune was most recently featured on 2004's "Teachers."
Featuring a sample of "Here Comes Santa Claus," the song, which is featured in 2007's "Fred Claus," is sadly not on the film's soundtrack.