Music, Seasonal, Winter Holidays

Best New Holiday Music of the Demi-Decade

I’ve been caught up in the magic of holiday music since I was just a wee pup. I remember putting on Christmas RECORDS (yes I’m that old), ginormous headphones, and staring at the album jackets for hours.

Here are some of the best attempts from artists of this decade to put their own stamp on a standard or even create a new classic that will be spun year after year by the generations.

Apple Music Playlist

Spotify Playlist 

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CeeLo Green – CeeLo’s Magic Moment (2012)

Cee Lo's Magic Moment

CeeLo Green is a performer best known for his soulful crooning in popular solo (Grammy award-winning “F*** You!/Forget you!” and collaborative work (Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”).

Fav Tracks
  • “What Christmas Means to Me”
    • Most remembered recording by Stevie Wonder (1967)
    • Written by Anna Gordy Gaye / George Gordy / Allen Story
  • “This Christmas”
    • Most remembered recording by Donny Hathaway (1970)
    • Written by Donny Hathaway (as “Donny Pitts”) and Nadine McKinnor
  • “All I Need Is Love” (feat. the Muppets)
    • Written by Adam Anders with echoes of the Muppets calling card song, “”Mah Nà Mah Nà” by Piero Umiliani (1968)
  • “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” (feat. Straight No Chaser)
    • Most remembered recording by Thurl Ravenscroft (1966)  for Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
    • Written by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, music composed by Albert Hague
  • “Run Rudolph Run”
    • Written by Johnny Marks and Marvin Brodie
    • Original recording by Chuck Berry (1958)
Recommended Tracks
  • “The Christmas Song”
  • “White Christmas”
  • “Please Come Home for Christmas”
  • “All I Want for Christmas”
  • “River”
  • “Merry Christmas, Baby” (feat. Rod Stewart & Trombone Shorty)

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LeAnn Rimes – One Christmas (2014) & Today Is Christmas (2015)

One Christmas Today Is Christmas

LeAnn Rimes is a country vocalist who started singing professionally at a remarkably young age earning comparisons to Patsy Cline and Brenda Lee.

 Fav Tracks
  • “The Heartache Can Wait”
    • Original recording: Brandi Carlile (2008)
    • Written by Brandi Carlile / Phil Hanseroth
  • “We Need a Little Christmas”
    • Most remembered recording: Angela Lansbury for the Broadway Musical, Mame (1966)
    • Written by Jerry Herman
  • “That Spirit of Christmas” (feat. Aloe Blacc)
    • Most remembered recording by Ray Charles (1985) and the attic scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
    • Written by Joel Webster / Mable John / Parnell Davison
  • “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”
    • Original recording: Gayla Peevey (1953)
    • Written by John Rox
  • “Someday at Christmas”
    • Most remembered recording: Stevie Wonder (1967)
    • Written by Ron Miller and Bryan Wells
  • “Hard Candy Christmas”
    • Most remembered recording by Dolly Parton (1982) for the film adaption of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
    • Written by Carol Hall for the Broadway Musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1978)
Recommended Tracks
  • “I Still Believe in Santa Claus”
  • “Auld Lang Syne”
  • “Today is Christmas”
  • “Christmas Time Is Here”

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Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra & Wynton Marsalis – Big Band Holidays  (2015)

Big Band Holidays

I was lucky enough to see the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra & Wynton Marsalis with Cécile Mclorin Salvant in person last Christmas. What a show! I was so excited that they released an album based on the tour.

Fav Tracks
  • “Jingle Bells”
    • Ernie Wilkins’ Count Basie-centric arrangement
  • “It’s Easy to Blame the Weather” (feat. Cécile Mclorin Salvant)
    • Most remembered recording: Billie Holiday (1938)
    • Written by Sammy Cahn / Saul Chaplin
  • “Merry Christmas Baby” (feat. Gregory Porter)
    • Original Recording by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers (1947)
    • Most Remembered Recording by Chuck Berry (1958)
    • Written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore
  • “Good Morning Blues” (feat. Cécile Mclorin Salvant)
    • Most remembered recording: Count Basie (1937)
    • Written by Count Basie / Eddie Durham / Jimmy Rushing
Recommended Tracks
  • “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (Feat. Cécile Mclorin Salvant)
  • “White Christmas”
  • “Zat You, Santa Claus?” (feat. René Marie)
  • “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (feat. René Marie)

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Michael Bublé – Christmas (2011)

Christmas

Michael Bublé is a Canadian singer that comes from the Sinatra-Dean Martin-Bing Crosby lineage which makes him well-suited for Holiday fare.

Fav Tracks

  • “It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas”
    • Most Remembered Recording by Perry Como (1951)
    • Written by Meredith Willson (1951)
  • “Jingle Bells” (feat. The Puppini Sisters)
    • Reminiscent of the Bing Crosby feat. Andrew Sisters take from 1943
  • “All I Want For Christmas Is You”
    • Original recording by Mariah Carey (1994)
    • Written by Mariah Carey /  Walter Afanasieff
  • “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
    • Original recording by Darlene Love (1963)
    • Written by Ellie Greenwich / Jeff Barry / Phil Spector

Recommended Tracks

  • “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”
  • “Holly Jolly Christmas”
  • “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
  • “Blue Christmas”
  • “Cold December Night”
  • “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”

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She & Him – A Very She & Him Christmas (2011)

A_Very_She_and_Him_Christmas

She & Him is a indie folk duo comprised of M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel.

Fav Tracks
  • “The Christmas Waltz”
    • Original recording by Frank Sinatra (1954)
    • Written by Sammy Cahn / Jule Styne
  • “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”
    • Original recording by Bing Crosby (1943)
    • Written by Kim Gannon / Walter Kent.
  • “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
    • Original recording by Judy Garland for the MGM Musical, Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)
    • Written by Hugh Martin / Ralph Blane
  • “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”
    • Original recording by Brenda Lee (1958)
    • Written by Johnny Marks
Recommended Tracks
  • “Silver Bells”
  • “Blue Christmas”
  • “The Christmas Song”

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The Count Basie Orchestra – A Very Swingin’ Basie Christmas! (2015)

A Very Swingin’ Basie Christmas!

The Count Basie Orchestra is a legacy big band led by trumpeter, Scotty Barnhart.

Fav Tracks
  • “It’s the Holiday Season” (feat. Johnny Mathis)
    • Original Recording Kay Thompson (1945)
    • Most Remembered Recording by Andy Williams (1963)
    • Written by Kay Thompson
  • “Little Drummer Boy”
    • Written by Katherine Kennicott Davis (1941)
  • “Sleigh Ride”
    • Written by Leroy Anderson (1946)
  • “Winter Wonderland”
    • Written by Felix Bernard and Richard B Smith (1934)
Recommended Tracks
  • “Jingle Bells”
  • “Let It Snow” (feat. Ellis Marsalis)
  • “Good Swing Wenceslas”
  • “The Christmas Song” (feat. Ledisi)
  • “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (feat. Carmen Bradford)
  • “Winter Wonderland”
  • “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (feat. Ellis Marsalis & Plas Johnson)

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India.Arie & Joe Sample – Christmas with Friends (2015)

Christmas with Friends

R&B and Soul vocalist India.Arie’s Christmas album features high quality guests including the late jazz pianist, Joe Sample.

Fav Tracks
  • “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”
    • Written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne in 1945
    • Originally released in 1945 by Vaughn Monroe and a competing version by Woody Herman
  • “The Christmas Song”
    • Written by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé
    • Original recording by the Nat King Cole Trio (1946)
  • “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” (feat Dave Koz & Trombone Shorty)
    • Written by Irvin Berlin and introduced in the film On the Avenue (1937)
    • Most famous recording by Les Brown’s Band of Renown (1946)

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Ru Paul – Slay Belles (2015)

Ru Paul takes an unconventional spin at the holidays with some original songs.

Slay_Belles

Fav Track
  • “Brand New Year” (original)
Recommended Tracks
  • “Merry Christmas Mary”
  • “You’re the Star”
  • “Deck the Halls”

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Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – It’s a Holiday Soul Party

it's a holiday soul party

Fav Tracks
  • “Please Come Home for Christmas”
    • Original Recording Charles Brown and written by Gene Redd(1960)
    • Famous recording by The Eagles (1978)
  • “God Rest Ye Merry Gents”
    • A new arrangement of the traditional carol by the Dap-Kings
  • “Silver Bells”
    • Written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston
    • Original: Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell for the movie, The Lemon Drop Kid (1950)
    • Famous recordings by Bing Crosby and Carol Richards (1950)

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The Brian Setzer Orchestra – Rockin’ Rudolph (2015)

Rockin' Rudolph

Brian Setzer helped drive back rockabilly and swing revival into popularity in the late 20th century as the frontman of the Stray Cats and later the band leader of his own orchestra. His has several festive albums under his Santa belt.

Fav Tracks
  • “Here Comes Santa Claus”
    • Originally written and recorded by Gene Autry with music composed by Oakley Haldeman (1947)
  • “Yabba-Dabba Yuletide”
    • A new arrangement and lyrics for the Flintstone’s theme song
  • “Carol of the Bells”
    • A guitar version of the classic carol composed by Mykola Leontovych in 1904
  • “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”
    • Written by Edward Pola and George Wyle
    • Original recording by Andy Williams (1963)
Recommended Tracks
  • “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”
  • “Rockabilly Rudolph”
  • “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
  • “Swingin’ Joy”
  • “Carol of the Bells”

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Rod Stewart – Merry Christmas, Baby

Merry Christmas Baby

Fav Tracks

  • “Blue Christmas”
    • Written by Billy Hayes and Jay W Johnson
    • Original recording by Doye O’Dell in 1948
    • Most famous recording by Elvis Presley found on the album, Elvis’ Christmas Album (1957) which is considered to be the best-selling Christmas album of all time in the United States.
  • “Merry Christmas, Baby” (feat. Cee Lo Green & Trombone Shorty)
    • Original Recording by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers (1947)
    • Most Remembered Recording by Chuck Berry (1958)
    • Written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore
  • “Red-Suited Super Man” (feat Trombone Shorty) original
  • “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”
    • Written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie (1934)
    • Early recording by Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra (1935)
    • Popular recordings by Perry Como (1951), The Four Seasons (1963), Bruce Springsteen (1975)
Recommended Tracks
  • “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”
  • “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

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Over the Rhine – Blood Oranges in the Snow (2014)

blood oranges in the snow

Over the Rhine is a Ohioan husband and wife folk duo (Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist). They maintain a small but dedicated following. Blood Oranges in the Snow is their third holiday album and consists of mostly originals. This one explores the sad side of the holiday season.

Recommended  Tracks
  • “Blood Oranges in the Snow”
    • an original written by Detweiler
    • theme: the longing to be with distant family and the long travels to get to them
  • “Let It Fall”
    • an original written by Detweiler
    • theme: catharsis for your sadness
  • “If We Make It through December”
    • Originally recorded and written by Merle Haggard (1973)
    • theme: economic hardship around the holidays
  • “My Father’s Body”
    • an original written by Detweiler
    • theme: mourning a parent around the holidays
  • “Snow Birds”
    • Written by Kim Taylor
    • theme: wintering in warm climates

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Idina Menzel – Holiday Wishes (2014)

Holiday Wishes

Menzel is a Tony award winning actress and is also known as the voice of Queen Elsa Disney’s Frozen.

Fav Tracks
  • “Do You Hear What I Hear”
    • Written by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker (1962)
    • Most famous recording by Bing Crosby (1963)
  • “When You Wish Upon a Star”
    • written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for Walt Disney’s 1940 adaptation of Pinocchio
  • “White Christmas”
    • Written by Irving Berlin
    • Most famous recording by Bing Crosby (1942)
Recommended Tracks
  • “River”
  • “The Christmas Song”
  • “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
  • “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve”

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Tracey Thorn – Tinsel and Lights (2012)

Tinsel and Lights

Fav Tracks

  • “Joy” (original)
  • “Snow”
    • Written by Randy Newman
    • Original recording by Harper’s Bizarre (1967)
  • “River”
    • Original by Joni  Mitchell (1971)
  • “Taking Down the Tree”
    • Original by Low (1999)
  • “Sister Winter”
    • Original by Sufjan Stevens (2006)
Recommended Tracks
  • “Maybe This Christmas” (Ron Sexsmith 2002)
  • “In the Cold, Cold Night” (Jack White 2003)

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Sufjan Stevens – Silver & Gold (2012)

Silver_and_Gold

Eccentric folk singer released a ginormous almost 60 track holiday album as a follow-up to his 2006 album, Songs for Christmas.

Fav Tracks
  • “Christmas in the Room” (original)
  • “Up on the Housetop”
    • Written by Benjamin Hanby in 1864
    • Most famous recording by Gene Autry (1953)
  • “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”
    • Written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne in 1945
    • Originally released in 1945 by Vaughn Monroe and a competing version by Woody Herman
  • “Holly Jolly Christmas”
    • Written by Johnny Marks
    • Most famous recording by Burl Ives (1964) as Sam the Snowman in the Christmas Special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Recommended Tracks
  • “Mr. Frosty Man” (original)
  • “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
  • “We Need a Little Christmas”
  • “Lumberjack Christmas” (original)

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Santa’s Grab Bag

  • “Auld Lang Syne (The New Year’s Anthem) by Mariah Carey found on Merry Christmas II You (2010)
  • “Bom Bom Bom” by Court Yard Hounds released as a single (2013)
  • “Boots” by The Killers released as a single (2010)
  • “Cinnamon & Chocolate” by Butterfly Boucher found on Network Holiday Sampler (2010)
  • “Christmas in L.A.” by The Killers (feat. Dawes) released as a single (2013)
  • “Christmas Lights” by Coldplay released as a single (2010)
  • “Jingle Bell Rock” by Earth Wind & Fire found on Holiday (2014)
  • “Joel, the Lump of Coal” by The Killers & Jimmy Kimmel released as a single (2014)
  • “Mistletoe” by Colbie Caillat found on Christmas In the Sand (2012)
  • “Mistletoe” by Justin Bieber found on Under the Mistletoe (2011)
  • “My Favorite Things” by Kelly Clarkson found on Wrapped in Red (2013)
  • “My First Snow” by Matt Morris released as a single (2010)
  • “Oh Santa!” by Mariah Carey found on Merry Christmas II You (2010)
  • “Santa Baby” by Pink Martini found on Joy to the World (2010)
  • “Santa Bring My Baby Back” (To Me) by Eleanor Friedberger found on Holidays Rule (2012)
  • “Sleigh Ride” by Fun. found on Holidays Rule (2012)
  • “Snow Globe Christmas” by Pink Martini found on Joy to the World (2010)
  • “That’s Christmas to Me” by Pentatonix found on That’s Christmas to Me (2014)
  • “Twinkle (Little Christmas Lights) by JD McPherson released as a single (2012)
  • “Underneath the Tree” by Kelly Clarkson found on Wrapped in Red (2013)
  • “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” by the Head and the Heart found on Holidays Rule (2012)
  • “Winter Wonderland/Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Pentatonix  found on That’s Christmas to Me (2014)

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