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Pop Christmas Songs


Chances are most people's favourite Christmas song come from the pop sphere. One only has to look at the best christmas compilations to be convinced that come the season of good cheer only warm and singable melodies will do. Here we pick our Top 50 Pop songs for Christmas and to help you decide whether we're right or wrong you'll find many of the videos below the list.

Top Pop Christmas Songs List

Burl Ives - Holly Jolly Christmas (1965)

And they don't get much more hollier or jollier than Burl Ives' version of this Johnny Marks' composition. Ives originally recorded the song for a TV stop-motion animation about Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer but it was his single from the following year that made it big. Ives had a unique and slightly odd vocal that could in many ways have passed for Santa.

Shakin' Stevens - Merry Christmas Everyone (1985)

If truth be told we'd clear this Welshman from our door at any other time of year but come December ol' wobbly knees comes into his own. This is a superficial thrill but that doesn't make it anything less than a wholesome Christmas treat.

Darlene Love - Marshmallow World (1963)

One of the lesser known tracks from Phil Spector's Christmas gift 'Marshmallow World' is nothing short of a revelation, a real jack-in-the-box with bundles of energy. It proves that Darlene Love certainly knew how to ignite a festive gathering.

Freiheit - Keeping The Dream Alive (1988)

This may well be the best Christmas song that Paul McCartney never wrote. 'Keeping The Dream Alive' was one of German band Freiheit's biggest hits and has been associated with Christmas ever since its winter release in the late 80's. It boasts a lavish production that hasn't aged one jot over the years.

Aled Jones - Walking In The Air (1985)

'Walking In The Air' became a hit 3 years after its original appearance on the soundtrack to the 1982 animated short 'The Snowman'. On that occasion it was sung by Peter Auty but it was Aled Jones' 1985 version that everyone remembers (hard to tell the versions apart if truth be told). A definite contemporary spine tingler.

Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas Is You (1994)

There have been few contemporary Christmas classics this side of the 1980's but Mariah Carey struck gold on 'All I Want For Christmas Is You'. It employs all the usual devices including copious sleigh bells but is imbued with such a genuine sense of glee it becomes impossible to dislike.

Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song (1961)

This is one of those Christmas songs that most people know the words for as it has passed into Christmas folklore. Think of Christmas and you'll most probably think of this song, or more precisely the version sung by Nat King Cole. The singer actually recorded several different versions over the years, beginning in 1946 with his Nat King Cole Trio but it is his 1961 version that is perennially embraced by young and old.

Bing Crosby - And The Bells Rang (1970)

A wonderful, although not that well known, song from Bing Crosby's deleted 'A Time To Be Jolly' LP from 1970. Bing and choral chums succeeded in making a traditional classic.

The Beach Boys - Little Saint Nick (1963)

'Little Saint Nick' is perhaps the best known Christmas song from the Beach Boys who are better known for their summer songs than the polar opposite. Don't discount their winter affairs though as they are as uniformly high as anything they recorded closer to shore. 

Band Aid - Do They Know It's Christmas (1984)

You won't find too many arguing with this songs inclusion on any Christmas best-of. And it's not just that Bob Geldof and Midge Ure's opus made millions for charity it is also down to its endurance as a classic festive centerpiece.

Ron Sexsmith - Maybe This Christmas (2002)

Hooray for an entry from the new century and what a goodie from Canadian bard Ron Sexsmith. His soft vocals are only half the treat though as the hushed playing adds to what is a thoughtful and memorable seasonal ditty.

Greg Lake - I Believe In Father Christmas (1974)

Greg Lake wrote this song in response to the increased commercialisation of the season of goodwill and while his message may have been lost along the way this song frequently appears throughout the month of December. And what an epic it is, starting out all acoustic and quiet and ending up as if the skies had opened to reveal a heaven full of past musical greats giving it their all. ' I Believe In Father Christmas' is quite unlike any other Christmas song.

Andy Williams - Happy Holidays (1963)

Taken from the first of his 8 Christmas albums 'The Andy Williams Christmas Album' Andy Williams created a stellar version of a song that had initially appeared over 2 decades earlier on Bing Crosby's 'Holiday Inn' movie. In many ways Williams made the song his own and that's saying something given that it was recorded by the likes of Perry Como and Peggy Lee.

Darlene Love - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (1963)

This is one of the most recognisable Christmas songs of all time and that legend builds each year as Love has been performing it every Christmas on the David Letterman show stateside. And boy can she still billow it out, matched only by the wondrous music that makes up what is the perfect Christmas package. Although some have come close there will only ever be one true 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)'.

Dean Martin - Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow (1966)

The irony of course is that this song was written on one of the hottest days in California in 1945. But then songwriter Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne must have needed to cool down real bad to have so successfully created this yuletide joy. 'Let It Snow' has been covered by all the greats including Sinatra, Andy Williams and Smokey Robinson but it is Dean Martin's version that has deservedly come out on top. 

Chris DeBurgh - A Spaceman Came Travelling (1976)

Swap a Spaceman for Santa and you'll be on Chris DeBurgh's wavelength for this oddly religious Christmas tune. Doubts persist of its Christmas credentials but hearing it endlessly as the snow falls is one way of making it forever associated with the season. That and the fact that it is a pretty good tune.

Doris Day - Winter Wonderland (1964)

Taken from her self-titled Christmas album, 'Winter Wonderland' is an eloquent take on the traditional standard. Imbued with a quiet orchestral backing Day slowly reveals the words turning this song into a a romantic tour-de-force.

Eartha Kitt - Santa Baby (1953)

Madonna tried it years later but no one does smoldering quite like Eartha Kitt on 'Santa Baby'. This novelty has been a Christmas staple for the longest time and deservedly so. It was produced with a big budget and included Henri René's orchestra, but despite all that it was unmistakeably Kitt's show.

Gene Autry - Here Comes Santa Claus (1947)

Gene Autry wrote and recorded this in his own inimitable style, which much like Burl Ives is a bit at odds with the standards voices we have grown accustomed to at Christmas. 'Here Comes Santa Claus' has been popularised by other artists but nothing quite matches the bounce and quirkiness of Autry's 1947 recording.

Dennis Wilson - Morning Christmas (1974)

Little known but cherisable all the same from the Beach Boys man. This was due to appear on the Beach Boys second Christmas album which was rejected by their record label and was never officially released. Dennis Wilson recorded the song away from the band (which probably gives a tiny insight into how strained things were even then) and features none of the other members.

Jim Reeves - Silver Bells (1963)

'Silver Bells' may have a slow funeral march but Jim Reeves golden voice makes it sound so effortless and pretty. Since it was first sung by Bob Hope in 1950 'Silver Bells' has become a Christmas staple with Reeves version being the one that appears most often.

Grandaddy - Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland (2000)

Of course they had their tongue firmly in cheek but that doesn't stop 'Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland' sounding completely wondrous. The bearded Modesto band's homage to Alan Parsons is awash with wordage, fine harmonies and an overriding sense of seasonal fun.

John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (1971)

Produced by Phil Spector and themed on Lennon's objection to the Vietnam war 'Happy Xmas (War Is Over)' is an instantly recognisable Christmas classic. Lennon was joined on vocals by his wife Yoko Ono, the Harlem Community Choir and just about everyone else that hears it every December. It is probably safe to say that this song will be around as long as people celebrate Christmas.

Wham - Last Christmas (1984)

Everyone agrees that the video to 'Last Christmas' is an exercise in cheese but that doesn't for one second stop us from enjoying it every year. That's mainly down to this great 80's tune from a duo at the peak of their powers. The premise was simple, a Christmas heart readily shared is casually thrown to the side the following day. All set to a wonderful winter wonderland backdrop.

Judy Garland - Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (1944)

Frank Sinatra's 1957 take may be more well known but nothing quite matches Judy Garland's original especially when taken in context of the scenes from the movie 'Meet Me In St. Louis' where it first appeared.

The Ronnettes - Sleigh Ride (1963)

Taken from the seminal Phil Spector Christmas album this is probably the definitive version of 'Sleigh Ride'. The Ronnettes pack so much into 3 minutes you could almost see them helping Santa pack his sleigh. The percussion is all consuming but Ronnie Spector (Phil's wife at the time) manages to drive the vehicle with her crystal clear vocals.  

Low - Just Like Christmas (1999)

Little known outside of indie circles this is a true contemporary classic from the slowcore act (turned quickcore for this song) from Minnesota. The production evokes Phil Spector's wall of sound technique and Mimi Parker makes excellent use of the few lyrics. This has been goosebumping us since the turn of the century so check out what you've been missing below.

The Waitresses - Christmas Wrapping (1981)

This is probably an example of how a slow burner can become a minor classic. And so it happened that Ohio's the Waitresses saw their slightly obscure, and possibly a tad overlong, Christmas song gain recognition when the Spice Girls covered it almost 20 years later. It is one of those strange tunes that sounds contemporary but also altogether retro.

Andy Williams - It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (1963)

Eddie Pola and George Wyle wrote and Andy Williams sang 'It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year' for his 1963 'The Andy Williams Christmas Album' and it has been with us ever since. Williams is right at home with the lush orchestral flourishes which have lost none of their sparkle half a century later.

Bing Crosby - White Christmas (1942)

The biggest selling single of all time, 50 million and counting, and the song that most people associate with Christmas may well be getting on in years but it still packs a punch. And this from a simple ditty written by Irving Berlin poolside during a heatwave. 'White Christmas' is undoubtedly lavishly produced and sports the voice of Mr. Christmas, but its uncomplicated nature proves yet again that it's the simple things that we humans go for really. 

Mud - Lonely This Christmas (1974)

Hard to reason why Mud's version of this seasonal lament has overshadowed the version by Elvis. Especially since the band were so obviously in debt to the King. That said this was the one we grew up on and it's the one we keep hearing each December so we'll just put it down to tradition.

Band Aid - Do They Know It's Christmas (1984)

You won't find too many arguing with this songs inclusion on any Christmas best-of. And it's not just that Bob Geldof and Midge Ure's opus made millions for charity it is also down to its endurance as a classic festive centerpiece.

Jona Lewis - Stop The Cavalry (1980)

'Stop The Cavalry' was not originally intended as a Christmas song (it was a hit in France at the height of summer!) but it was turned into one when it became a hit throughout Europe in the winter of 1980. There is no denying its festive theme, resembling in many ways Paul McCartney's 'Pipes of Peace' for its wartime setting. 'Stop The Cavalry' has shown remarkable longevity and has aged very well over the years. In fact its brass section is a signature part of the Christmas season.

Paul McCartney - Wonderful Christmastime (1979)

The ex-Beatle may disown this song these days but that doesn't stop it from being a holiday favourite. Characterised by it skittering synth line McCartney recorded every part of 'Wonderful Christmastime' in his studio. There's no denying its appeal and although it is never going to challenge 'Eleanor Rigby' it will retain its annual spotlight long into the future.

The Beach Boys - Bells Of Christmas (1974)

Recorded as part of the Beach Boys infamous and never released album 'Merry Christmas from the Beach Boys' the 'Bells of Christmas' is a gem stocked high with the bands signature harmonies. Thankfully somebody saw sense and 'Bells of Christmas' can be found on their 'Ultimate Christmas' compilation.

Perry Como - It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas (1951)

Much like Bing Crosby, Perry Como is indeliably linked to Christmas and listening to this song it's easy to understand why. Como's deep tones are both as reassuring and warm as an open fireplace and his intonation gives Meredith Willson's composition a special charm.

The Crystals - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (1963)

Another classic from that Phil Spector album with the girl-group recording the definitive version of this much adored children's classic. It may start out quiet but as soon as they hit their stride the Crystals give it candy filled socks.

Mel & Kim - Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree (1987)

Released at the back end of the 80's as part of Comic Relief Mel Smith and Kim Wilde's unlikely hit persisted and is now a annual feature of the Christmas season. It is disposable but you'd have to be some curmudgeon not to find some room for it in your December schedule. 

Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer - Baby, Its Cold Outside (1949)

One of the most recorded winter songs ever (there were 9 versions recorded in 1949 alone!) and it would have been so easy to plump for Andy Williams and Doris Day's version but Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer get the nod just for being faultless. 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' has developed some connotations over the years but this pair play it straight which makes it all the more funnier. 

The Dandy Warhols - Little Drummer Boy (2000)

In the annals of cover versions surely nothing can top what Portland band the Dandy Warhols did with 'Little Drummer Boy'. I mean it was all quiet and unoffensive and now it is loud and a little perforating on the eardrums (in the nicest possible way). Christmas finally wears some dark apparel and eye-shadow. 

Elvis - Blue Christmas (1957)

Despite recording this song for his 'Elvis' Christmas Album' album in 1957 'Blue Christmas' was not released as a single until 7 years later when it became a number one hit in the Christmas charts. Hard to picture anyone else doing it better than the king of the blues but Elvis still had plenty of competition. We always return to this one though.

The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl - Fairytale Of New York (1987)

The piano tinkle is all it takes to have us welling up. Yep, if they were giving out prizes for Christmas tunes then this one would probably need a forest of Christmas trees. As well as being a beautiful pop song there are so many dynamics at play. It is a wonder they managed to fit it all in in such a short space of time. Kirsty and Shane gave performances from their heart and soul, a glorious combination that mixed the awfulness of lost ambition with the power of true love. An unstoppable piece of artistry that is undiminished with the passing of time. 

Frank Sinatra - Jingle Bells (1957)

This is the excellent opener to Frank Sinatra's 'A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra' which gave the old standard that Sinatra stamp of class. Backing up the master on vocals duties were the Ralph Brewster Singers which gave the song a pleasant new direction.

Paul McCartney - Pipes of Peace (1983)

Blessed with a wonderful video and theme this song was always going to become a favourite. And it still sounds as fresh and affecting as it did back in the early 80's. Paul McCartney's juxtaposition of loneliness, euphoria and downright make-believe is something that characterises so many personal experiences each year.

The Jackson Five - I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus (1970)

There are plenty of renditions of 'I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus' but the standout is the one with a 10-year-old Michael Jackson at the helm. This comes from all the way back in 1970 and displays plenty of Motown dashes as well as Jackson's impressive vocal range.

Paul McCartney & The Frog Chorus - We All Stand Together (1984)

Here by virtue of the fact that it was a huge hit at Christmas time in 1984 which gave it an unshakeable association with the season. Paul McCartney wrote 'We All Stand Together' 4 years earlier for the animated film 'Rupert and the Frog Song' and he took some criticism for stooping to record such a thing. But he needn't have worried because 'We All Stand Together' remains a wonderful piece of work.

Frank Sinatra - I'll be Home For Christmas (1957)

There is no denying Sinatra was a fan of the holidays (he recorded a Christmas album with his family in the 70's) which probably explains his myriad of recordings for the season. This version of 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' is almost otherworldly with the backing singers creating what sounds like a mini howling wind outside and all that's left for Sinatra to do is to ratchet up the cosiness indoors.

Bert Jansch - In The Bleak Midwinter (1974)

There have been many melancholy songs written for winter time, none more than Bert Jansch's 'In The Bleak Midwinter'. Certainly one to avoid to get you in the party spirit but a perfect foil for those quieter introspective moments.

The Carpenters - Merry Christmas Darling (1970)

Written by her brother Richard and faultlessly sung by Karen Carpenter this is perhaps the softest, most heartfelt Christmas love song of all of time. 'Merry Christmas Darling' was a hit on 3 occasions in the seventies and would doubtless do the same again if it were to receive a contemporary reissue.

The Beach Boys - Christmas Day (1964)

Taken from the Beach Boys only Christmas album (that was released) 'Christmas Day' holds the distinction of being sung by Al Jardine. It proved to be a refreshing change for 'The Beach Boys' Christmas Album' and even though the song features some of the band's famous harmonies Jardine's input gave the song a unique flavour.  

Luciano Pavarotti - Adeste Fideles (1998)

Who better to give this 18th century hymn ('O Come All Ye Faithful' for those who prefer their English translations) the grandeur it deserves than Luciano Pavarotti. While pop may be derided by those within the classical fraternity there is no argument that Pavarotti straddled the divided with his version of this famous traditional standard.