Your Christmas-Perfect Playlist

5 Categories of Christmas Song

Seasons greetings from Wickham Vocal Studios! Are you looking for the perfect Christmas playlist to get into the holiday spirit? Or maybe you're sick of hearing the same three holiday songs over and over again? We've put together FIVE (!) playlists that can help you with that... Read about the five different styles of Christmas songs below, or just scroll to the bottom and enjoy the playlists ;-)


1. SACRED CAROLS (Traditional Standards)


Think of these as popularized church hymns and folk songs brought into the mainstream. In other words, nothing a Benedictine Monk might be chanting at dusk… but certainly fun songs to sing at a that laid-back Christmas Eve service your parents dragged you to… and later in the high school choirs around December 10th… or about 1,234 YouTube clips by Pentatonix wannabees… They revolve primarily around the religious stories associated with Christmas and less the traditional holiday sentiments (e.g., Santa Claus, presents, mistletoe, snow, etc.). While most of these are derived from centuries-old folk tunes, more recent songs have also been added to the canon such as “Mary, Did You Know” by Mark Lowry/Buddy Green (1991) and “Christmas Lullaby” from Jason Robert Brown’s musical Songs for a New World.

EXAMPLES:

“Angels We Have Heard on High”

“Christmas Lullaby" from Songs for a New World

“Do You Hear What I Hear?”

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing”

“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”

“Mary, Did you Know”

“O Holy Night”

“O Tannenbaum” (Oh, Christmas Tree)

“Silent Night”

“The First Noel”

“The Little Drummer Boy”

“We Three Kings of Orient Are”

“What Child is This” (Greensleeves)


2. SECULAR CAROLS (Vintage Classics)


These are the timeless tunes of Christmas’ Golden Age. Golden means better… yes… sorry. They are better songs than contemporary. Period… That is not opinion, it is fact… why fact? Cause no one is going to still be listening to pop riffs with Christmas lyrics in 100 years… but these will be around long after your great-great-grandchildren stop drinking Coca-cola.

Thematically, these songs focus on the cheerful celebration of the season—painting a picture of the wintery setting, talk of hope and joy, and even expounding upon Christmas mythos. While very close to the “POP/CONTEMPORARY” category, they are set apart compositionally by their big-band-era-derived sound born of the tin-pan alley days of 1920 spanning through the end of 1950.

EXAMPLES:

“An Old-Fashioned Christmas”

“Christmas Dreaming”

“Christmas is A’Comin”

“Deck the Halls”

“Happy Holidays”

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”

“It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas”

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

“Jingle Bell Rock”

“Jingle Bells”

“Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”

“Marshmallow World”

“Mistletoe and Holly”

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – Brenda Lee

“Santa Baby”

“Silver Bells”

“Sleigh Ride”

“The Christmas Song” (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire…)

“The Christmas Waltz”

“The Twelve Days of Christmas”

“There’s a Train Out for Dreamland”

“There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays”

“We Need a Little Christmas”

“We Wish You a Merry Christmas”

“White Christmas”

“Winter Wonderland”

3. POP/CONTEMPORARY CAROLS


These are Christmas songs written by popular artists of the time, usually in a compositional style mostly indicative of their own idiomatic sound. These songs tend to sound less “Christmas-y” than the more traditional or sacred tunes. Thematically, the lyrics of pop Christmas music typically revolve around relationships (love gained and/or lost), and less the waxing poetic about the season itself. Think of these as fun pop/rock songs that just happen to have Christmas lyrics... generally written after 1960. In other words, bad music that didn’t make the album, sadly reappropriated as Christmas songs at the producer’s request. (okay, Mariah… not bad… it’s basically a classic… but the rest kinda suck) Just kidding, three are actually pretty good.

EXAMPLES:

“All I Want for Christmas is You” – Mariah Carey

“Blue Christmas” – Elvis Presley

“Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” – U2

“Christmas in Hollis” – Run DMC

“Christmas Lights” – Coldplay

“Christmas Tree Farm” – Taylor Swift

“Christmas Wrapping” – The Waitresses

“Do They Know It’s Christmas” – Band Aid

“Father Christmas” – The Kinks

“Feliz Navidad” – Jose Feliciano

“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” – The Jackson 5

“Last Christmas” – Wham

“Little Saint Nick” – The Beach Boys

“Mistress for Christmas” – AC/DC

“Run, Rudolph, Run” – Chuck Berry

“Sleigh Ride” – The Ronettes (contemp version)

“So, this is Christmas” – John Lennon

“Step Into Christmas” – Elton John

“Thank God It’s Christmas” – Queen

“Wonderful Christmastime” – Paul McCartney

“You Make it Feel Like Christmas” – Gwen Stefani

4. CHORAL CHRISTMAS SONGS


An honorable mention shout-out to the Christmas Choral Songs. These are carols, hymns and folk songs specifically arranged for choir or vocal ensemble, but never more popular than during the Christmas Season.

EXAMPLES:

“Carol of the Bells”

“Gloria in Excelsis Deo”

“Hallelujah Chorus” from Messiah

“O Come All Ye Faithful”

“The First Noel”

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing”


5. CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS CLASSICS


These are primarily songs that appear in the soundtracks of children’s holiday movies or focus on specific Christmastime Characters and their surrounding mythology. In other words, everything burned in your brain since your childhood that, for some weird reason, makes you smile with demented glee... or makes you pour a second third glass of wine and Zoom call your psychol… nevermind.

EXAMPLES:

“A Holly Jolly Christmas” from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

“Believe” from The Polar Express

“Frosty the Snowman” from Frosty the Snowman

“Here Comes Santa Claus”

“Keep Christmas With You All Through the Year” from Christmas on Sesame Street (special)

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

“Sally’s Song” from A Nightmare Before Christmas

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”

“Up On the Housetop”

“What’s This?” from A Nightmare Before Christmas

“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” from How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Bonus - SATIRICAL/HUMOROUS


So small a category… it’s infuriating this is even a category. But for some reason, cutesy ass#$*s think that Christmas is a time for humor and barely-funny lyrics, so they jab their way through the Christmas season with their Velveeta-Cheese-log of punny lyrics. Yay… (I’m not laughing)


EXAMPLES

“All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth”

“Don’t Shoot Me Santa”

“Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”

“I’m Getting Nottin’ for Christmas”

“Porky Pig’s Blue Christmas”

“The Christmas Hippo Song”

PLAYLISTS, PLEASE!

Finally... you've made it! Now it's time to pick and choose your favorites.

Or better yet, just be lazy (smart) and enjoy our premade versions....



SACRED CAROLS


SECULAR CAROLS


HOLIDAY POP SONGS


CHORAL CHRISTMAS SONGS



KIDS' CHRISTMAS SONGS


HUMOROUS HOLIDAY SONGS




Disclaimer: These are not definitive styles and some blend into each other. Many sacred Christmas carols, for example, were popularized by contemporary singers…

While there are certainly other ways to category Christmas music (e.g. “seasonal, sentimental, celebratory, spiritual, mythical, novelty, etc.). these categories represent the primary genres:

Patrick Michael Wickham is a medically-trained voice specialist and the Creative Director of Performers Career Center in New York City. http://www.vocalstudios.com

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