10 Best Holiday Songs of the Modern Era

Some holiday songs are better than others. When you hear “A Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole on the radio and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, do you cringe, switch the radio station, or hum along? Even if you hear some songs over and over again during the holiday season, they don’t make you scream “bah, humbug!” Here are ten of the best modern holiday songs currently in radio airplay.

 1.  “Last Christmas” – Wham

Copyright of the song @ Wham

Recent trends suggests Wham’s classic 1984 track Last Christmas is currently the most downloaded Christmas song. Say what you will about George Michael, but this track, written by him, is one of Wham’s most successful songs of all time – not to mention the second most played Christmas song of all time!

 2.   “Jingle Bell Rock” – Daryl Hall & John Oates

A cheesy holiday video by the most popular duo of all time — what more could you ask for in this remake of the Bobby Helms classic? Released in 1983, only true, die-hard Daryl Hall & John Oates fans know that two versions of this classic eighties Christmas song- and video- actually exist – one in which Hall sings lead and one in which Oates takes over lead vocals. In fact, the 45 (remember them?) contained both versions of this Christmas ditty. Even though the video may be dated and hokey, the song remains a great holiday tune.

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

In 1984, the Ethiopian famine was the hot topic of the day. Bob Geldof and Midge Ure wrote a song and gathered a bunch of British and European pop stars together (including Duran Duran, David Bowie, Sting and Paul McCartney) for an impromptu recording called, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and called the amalgam of pop stars “Band Aid.” It was the highest-selling single in Britain’s history until 1997’s Elton John homage to Princess Diana, “Candle in the Wind.” Since then, the song has become a standard in holiday radio airplay.

 4.   “Santa Baby” – Madonna

Madonna recorded her version of “Santa Baby” in 1987 for the charity album “A Very Special Christmas.” Madonna’s version was based on the Eartha Kitt original, and has become so popular that many young people under the age of 30 today are probably saying, “Eartha who??”

5. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” –U2

U2’s rerecording of the 1963Darlene Love original written by Phil Spector (yes, the murderer and current prison resident) was released for the album “A Very Special Christmas” in 1987. Love provides backing vocals on U2’s version, which has become a holiday radio favorite.

6. “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” – John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Recorded in 1971 as a Vietnam War protest song, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” has become a Christmas staple on the radio. The song is based on a late 1969 campaign by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who rented billboards and posters in eleven cities around the world (including New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Athens, and Rome) that read: “WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It) Happy Christmas from John and Yoko.” Even though that war is over now, it brings to mind the men and women currently fighting in wars all over the world, especially during the holidays.

7. “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy” – David Bowie and Bing Crosby.

I still recall as a child watching this surreal performance on Bing Crosby’s 1977 television special, “Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas.” David Bowie made the odd choice to appear on Crosby’s show that year and to even sing a holiday duet with him, and it was a smart decision. Crosby died just one month after recording the duet with Bowie, and the TV special appeared as a posthumous tribute that all ages could enjoy. This song stands the test of time.

8.     “All I Want for Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey

“All I Want for Christmas Is You” was featured on Mariah Carey’s 1994 holiday album “Merry Christmas.” Since that time, Carey’s version of the song has quickly become a contemporary holiday standard selling over 4 million copies around the world. Even though I usually can’t stand Carey’s voice, I have to admit it’s enchanting on this contemporary holiday classic.

 9.      “The Chanukah Song” – Adam Sandler

If you don’t know much about Chanukah, you will after listening to this little ditty by Adam Sandler. The comedian wrote this holiday song, which became a novelty hit, in 1994, listing many celebrities and public figures who most people didn’t know just happen to be Jewish (such as David Lee Roth and William Shatner). It’s one we all look forward to hearing over and over again during the holidays every year.

10. “Christmas Time Is Here” – Vince Guaraldi  Trio

Who doesn’t love this song from 1965 written by jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi? It’s the theme song of the animated television classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” If you say you hate this song or that special, you really are a Scrooge!