The Killers - A Great Big Sled
The Killers' annual Christmas song is something we look forward to every holiday season, almost as much breaking out our Ugly Christmas sweaters. Over the past decade, Brandon Flowers and his Vegas bandmates have gotten in the holiday spirit by releasing fun, quirky holiday songs with all the proceeds going to Bono’s RED charity in the fight against AIDS. They’ve collaborated with the likes of Elton John and even late night funnyman Jimmy Kimmel, but our favorite is their first edition, "A Great Big Sled,“ recorded in 2006 when they were at the height of their pop-rock powers with sweet melodies and a soaring sing-a-long chorus (a trademark of every great holiday song).
James Brown - Soulful Christmas
A James Brown Christmas album sounds like a Key and Peele skit, but “the hardest working man in show business” actually recorded not one, not two, but three Christmas albums. God Bless that magnificent bastard. They all have their moments, but our favorite is 1968’s “A Soulful Christmas” which had it all, from the social consciousness of “Santa Claus Goes to the Ghetto” to the funk-fabulous, horn-blowing, rug-cutting simplicity of “Soulful Christmas.
R. Kelly - Christmas I'll Be Steppin'
We chilled the Dom, broke out the turtleneck and lit up the fireplace when R. Kelly announced he was putting the finishing touches on a “love-making” holiday album entitled “The 12 Nights of Christmas.” But, that was two years ago! Well, until you can stuff that musical masterpiece inside your special someone’s Christmas stocking we will all have to settle for this up-tempo, holiday groove that appeared on the “Best Man Holiday” soundtrack.
The Ramones - Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)
There are tons of irreverent punk rock Christmas songs from the likes of Blink 182, New Found Glory and Green Day, but no one does it like New York’s finest punk pioneers. “Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)” was an original song featured in their 11th album (the aptly-titled Brain Drain) and the last with founding member/bass player Dee Dee Ramone. The feuding Rock ’n’ Roll Hall-of-Famers were literally on their last (Levi’s) legs, yet still managed to rattle off a loud, machine-gun fire-fast, working-class classic, camouflaged by singer Joey Ramone’s yearning last-ditch effort to bring his bowl-cut brothers together for the holidays.
Christmas Rappin' – Kurtis Blow
Sure, Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” gets more love (and it’s a great song), but Kurtis Blow’s chart-topper dropped nearly a decade before it, changing the whitewashed holiday music game forever with a hip-hop yarn about Santa dropping into Harlem over a sweet as candy cane disco bass line (that Queen later borrowed for “Another One Bites the Dust”). This timeless classic is a party-starter that lasts for eight minutes plus, giving you enough time to sneak away to spike the eggnog.
Sufjan Stevens - Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!
When the Brooklyn indie-pop star isn’t covering Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” it seems like he’s recording Christmas songs. Over the last decade, Stevens has released 100-plus holiday songs spread across 10 albums. His OCD (obsessive Christmas disorder) started back in 2001 when he would make annual holiday “mix-tapes” stocked with re-imagined carols and original songs for friends and family. If you’re a fan of the multi-instrumentalist’s trademark whimsy, rooted in contemporary Christian rock, you will dig the more melancholic stuff, but we prefer the boot-stomping, country dancehall frolic of “Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!”
Snoop Dogg - Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto
A Death Row Records Christmas album is not a joke. Even if it was, we wouldn’t be laughing. We swear Suge. Released in the mid-90s, with all the proceeds going to charity (cough). There's some basic R & B and hip hop fluff from Death Row’s B-grade artists, but “Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto” is classic G-funk, when Snoop Dog still had a “Doggy” in his name and was “rollin’ in a six-four” Impala with Daz (Dillinger) and the late, great Nate Dogg, who lays down a sing-along hook that’s more irresistible than those Peanut Butter Blossom cookies.
The Kink’s - Christmas Reindeer
Considered one of the most influential bands of the sixties and seventies, the London garage rockers are best known for their all-time classic “You Really Got Me Now,” did a Christmas song in their typically irreverent, rawkish way. “Christmas Reindeer” features their iconic power chords with Ray Davies’ quirky lyrics about a department store Santa Claus who gets jumped by a gang of poor kids, who would rather have money instead of toys. The song has been covered by Green Day and 80’s hair metal-heads Warrant, but no one rocks it like the Kinks.
Vandals - Oi to the World
You’ve no doubt heard Gwen Stefani and company’s ska version of this middle-finger to Christmas album cash grabs, but did you know that it’s actually a cover song from these Orange County clown princes? The sarcastic, fist-pumping, two-minute original is the title track to a tongue-in-cheek punk rock Christmas album that the band performs in its entirety at their annual "Christmas Formal" concert at the House of Blues in Anaheim during the holidays.
The Jackson 5 - Santa Clause Is Coming To Town
Top to bottom, The Jackson 5's Christmas album (appropriately titled "Christmas Album") is jam-packed with exceptional renditions of Christmas classics with a fun, soulful vibe, but essential hit, "Santa Clause Is Coming To Town", however, stands apart. Lil' Michael is at his best, crushing the vocals and imparting just the right amount of joy into the song. It's easy to forget what a great singer Michael was and on a song like this, he really makes you remember. Try a little soul this Christmas, you won't be disappointed.