My Top 400 Favorite Modern Christmas Songs, Day 1

You read the headline correctly! I really DO have a list of 400 modern Christmas songs that I actually love. To be honest, I have around 600 on my master playlist, but some of those are simply curiosities, like the recently minted-on-vinyl “Yuletide Throwdown” by Blondie and Fab 5 Freddie, which was originally released as a flexi-disc way back in 1980. In this case, the song is only Christmas in its title and not much else since the music is based upon the very non-Christmas hit single “Rapture,” which was riding high on the charts back then. No, these 400 songs actually hold down the music portion with a good dose of melody and instrumentation that captures the season, along with lyrics that are either celebratory or cynical and all points in between. Whatever the reason, they all remind me of Christmas.

Since a grew up as the very young son of a successful small high school basketball coach, much of my preschool years saw the Christmas season as the pause button on basketball season. Those years are littered with great stories of Dad’s team stopping by our house for ice cream, the cheerleaders taking me up on the stage in the gym to get my picture taken with Santa Claus, who was portrayed by a half-lit new teacher paid by the six-pack to dress up, or sitting near Dad’s team bench as his team won another holiday tournament. After Dad hung up his coaching whistle to become a principal (Cliché!), Christmases were longer and more family-oriented, which was okay. But, I missed the “glamor” of the big lights in a tiny rural town surrounding the high school basketball team during the month of December.

So, with those years in my memory bank, and the constant voices of both parents telling me to go to sleep on Christmas Eve, when the whole world knew that my ADHD-riddled brain would NEVER allow me to settle down for a short moment of shut-eye (and probably a shut mouth that my parents were wishing for each year until first grade when I finally figured why the logistics of Santa never adding up). So, during those cold, sleepless Christmas mornings, I was allowed to listen to my radio play Christmas music all night.

It seems that the late-Sixties and early-Seventies were actually something of a golden era of modern Christmas music, what with seasonal music released by many of the artists from the Motown and Stax stables, along with one-off singles by the likes of Carpenters, Elton John and Cheech & Chong. Then, things dried up. Oh, sure, we’d get to hear Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” or The Kinks’ “Father Christmas,” but those weren’t released here for many years. The Eagles released “Please Come Home for Christmas,” which seemed like the last actual Christmas song to chart for many years. Yacht rock kings Kenny Loggins (“Celebrate Me Home”) and Dan Fogelberg (“Same Old Lang Syne”) released songs whose stories mention the holidays but are not really Christmas songs (though they both made my list because IT IS MY LIST!).

But when MTV began to count as the voice of Generation X, Christmas music began to seep out everywhere. All of this culminating in 1987 when an album of Christmas music was released as a fundraiser for the Special Olympics called A Very Special Christmas. With top artists like Springsteen, Mellencamp, Run-DMC, Eurythmics and Whitney Houston leading the way, a new generation finally had the holiday of their own. And, that one album signaled a whole new run on Christmas music that continues to this day. Ever since 1994, when Mariah Carey released her holiday classic “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” it seems as though every hot pop artist of the moment releases a Christmas album with the hope of landing a new holiday classic like Mariah did. Unfortunately, no one has captured lightning in a bottle over the past nearly 30 year.

I believe each artist hopes their Christmas music captures the imagination of the general public so their music will continue to be a source of income for the ensuing years. A successful Christmas song or album could have the potential to be a retirement fund all unto itself if the public invites their creation into their lives. Hell, you better believe the families of Brenda Lee (“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”) and Bobby Helms (“Jingle Bell Rock”) are happy when their relatives’ songs begin their annual ascent up the Billboard Hot 100 after Thanksgiving. Plus, when anyone else records successful versions of those songs, the songwriters all see their bank accounts fill up as well. Basically, the whole industry has discovered just how lucrative that Christmas music can be.

Now, let’s get this Christmas party rolling with the bottom 50 songs of my countdown, as we count down to my most favorite modern Christmas song of all.

400. The Cheetah Girls – “The Perfect Christmas” (2005)

399. Rob Thomas – “New York Christmas” (2002)

398. Pentatonix with Maren Morris – “When You Believe” (2018)

397. Band Aid II – “They Know It’s Christmas?” (1989)

396. Soupy Sales – “Santa Claus Is Surfin’ to Town” (1963)

395. Barry Gordon and Art Mooney & His Orchestra – “Nuttin’ for Christmas” (1955)

394. Earth, Wind & Fire – “December (Based on ‘September’)” (2014)

393. Bright Eyes – “White Christmas” (2002)

392. Dickie Goodman – “Santa and the Satellite” (1957)

391. The Bird and the Bee – “Carol of the Bells” (2007)

390. Elmo & Patsy – “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” (1979, 1982, 1984)

389. The Civil Wars – “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” (2012)

388. Connie Francis – “Baby’s First Christmas” (1961)

387. Frightened Rabbit – “It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop” (2007)

386. Arcade Fire – Jingle Bell Rock” (2002)

385. Ray Charles – “That Spirit of Christmas” (1985)

384. Chris Rea – “Driving Home for Christmas” (1986)

383. The Cold Crew – “Rappin’ Christmas” (1982)

382. Haley Reinhart & Casey Abrams – “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (2011)

381. Britney Spears – “My Only Wish (This Year)” (2000)

380. Fleet Foxes – “White Winter Hymnal” (2008)

379. Def Leppard – “We All Need Christmas” (2018)

378. Harry Connick Jr. – “(It Must Have Been Ol’) Santa Claus” (1992)

377. Bob Marley – “White Christmas” (1965)

376. Vanessa Williams – “What Child Is This?” (1992)

375. Spike Jones – “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” (1948)

374. Jason Mraz – “Winter Wonderland” (2005)

373. Judy Garland – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1944)

372. Keith Urban – “I’ll Be Your Santa Tonight” (2019)

371. Bob Rivers – “The Twelve Pains of Christmas” (1988)

370. Manchester Orchestra – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (2020)

369. Spinal Tap – “Christmas with the Devil” (1984)

368. Julian Casablancas – “Christmas Treat” (2009)

367. Canned Heat – “Christmas Blues” (1968)

366. Elvis Presley – “Santa Claus Is Back in Town” (1957)

365. Josh Groban – “It Came Upon a Midnight Blue” (2007)

364. Monty Python – “Christmas in Heaven” (1983)

363. Sheryl Crow – “Blue Christmas” (2008)

362. Chris De Burgh – “A Spaceman Came Travelling” (1975)

361. The Cadillacs – “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” (1957)

360. Brian Setzer Orchestra – “Jingle Bells” (1996)

359. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats feat. Julie Davis – “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (2017)

358. Vampire Weekend – “Holiday” (2010)

357. Run the Jewels – “A Christmas Fucking Miracle” (2013)

356. Jordin Sparks – “Christmas Time to Me” (2013)

355. Belle & Sebastian – “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (2009)

354. Tony Bennett – “Winter Wonderland” (1968)

353. Steve Perry – “The Christmas Song” (2021)

352. Kenny Rogers & Wynonna Judd – “Mary, Did You Know?” (1996)

351. The White Stripes – “Candy Cane Children” (2002)

And that wraps up the first 50 modern Christmas songs in my overblown countdown. Stay tuned for more Yuletide Tunes tomorrow! Peace.

Author: ifmyalbumscouldtalk

I am just a long-time music fan who used to be a high school science teacher and a varsity coach of several high school athletic teams. Before that, I worked as a medical technologist at three hospitals in their labs, mainly as a microbiologist. I am retired/disabled (Failed Back Surgery Syndrome), and this is my attempt to remain a human. Additionally, I am a serious vinyl aficionado, with a CD addiction and a love of reading about rock history. Finally, I am a fan of Prince, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, R.E.M., Hall & Oates, Springsteen, Paul Weller & his bands and Power Pop music.

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