Almanac Music (and lists): Top 20 Christmas songs of 2015 (or possibly ever)


One thing I enjoy about this time of year is the truly awful Christmas music.

Not traditional carols, but the honeyed songs seasonally oozing through the Christmas-music-entertainment industry, from Bing to the Chipmunks, and where all roads lead to cheese.

Sometimes they only have a passing reference to Christmas, such as last year’s, “Santa, tell me” by Ariana Grande, which could easily have been “Socrates, tell me”. Or consider Bill Nighy (as Billy Mack) singing ‘Christmas is all around’ in the movie ‘Love Actually’, which led me to believe Britney Spears missed an opportunity with “Hit me Santa, one more time”.

If you are hosting, you can cop whatever digital radio play; ‘Elf Radio’ has been so successful they plan to launch their pop-psychology station, ‘Self-Elf’. But choosing a path of least resistance is fruit salad to go with your bird; including but not limited to Mariah’s ‘All I want for Christmas is you’ (oh, there will be Mariah!) and the freshest rendering of ‘Santa Baby’.

In these on-demand days, you can create your own playlist, as an atmospheric accompaniment to fill the silences with relatives.


  1. Santa Baby – Emilie-Claire Barlow.

Yes, I know what I wrote back there. Since Eartha Kitt had this hit in 1953, it has been covered by many, schmoozing up to Santa for ’54 Convertibles, Deeds to Mines and Rings and things; including Mariah Carey, Madonna, LeAnn Rimes, RuPaul, Shakira, the Pussycat Dolls, Kylie Minogue, Taylor Swift and even Michael Buble – who changed it to ‘Santa Buddy’ at one point.

This version, from Canadian Emilie-Claire Barlow is more jazz and less schmaltz. It is from the commendable, ‘Putumayo presents: A jazz and Blues Christmas’ (2008), from which I have picked out a few.


  1. Party Hard – Zach Gill.

I really like this song. The onset of a bluesy Christmas hangover and knowledge you must get up and go again. “3 in the morning, beneath the moonlit sky. Snow on the ground, but I’m feeling warm inside. It looks like we’re gonna party hard this Christmas”. Should be higher, but it’s a strong Christmas field.


  1. (1) Santa’s Blues / (2) Please Come Home for Christmas – Charles Brown.

I can’t sever these two from American blues singer and pianist Charles Brown. ‘Santa’s Blues’ has pleasing, mellow harmonies and the seasonal theme of someone missing someone at Christmas; “Santa Clause, Mr. Santa Claus, listen to my plea. Don’t bring me nothing for Christmas, but my baby back home to me.”

‘Please Come Home For Christmas’ was an earlier hit for Brown (1960), which was later covered by Jon Bon Jovi in 1994 – that was when I first heard it. Jovi’s version has a memorable video clip, featuring Jon cozying up to Cindy Crawford for 2 minutes 20. Jon had the better clip, but Brown’s original is the better song.





  1. Grandma got run over by a Reindeer – Poe

All the elements of a Christmas song are present here, a suspicious death and intrigue. Was it the Reindeer or do we look closer to home? “We’re all so proud of Grandpa, he’s been taking this so well, sitting there watching football, drinking beer and playing cards with cousin Mel….”. Originally performed by Elmo and Patsy, this Jazz version by Poe is murkier.


  1. It’s Christmas all over again – Tom Petty



  1. All I want for Christmas is you – Dave Barnes

I know what you’re thinking – Mariah! – Or the end of ‘Love Actually’. Dave Barnes gives it a soulful rendering on his 2010 Christmas album.


‘Bowling For Soup’ also had a crack on 2009’s, ‘Merry Flippin’ Christmas’.


  1. Frosty the Snowman – Willie Nelson

It’s Willie … but for something different, Zee Avi on ‘This Warm December, brushfire holidays’.


  1. Someday at Christmas (Steve Wonder), Peace of Earth/Little Drummer Boy (Bing Crosby and David Bowie), Happy Xmas-War Is Over (John Lennon).

Any of these may raise your playlist’s cred, but be a potential buzzkill.


  1. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – (1) Jack Johnson and (2) Los Lonely Boys.

Two very different versions of an old favorite; Jack Johnson’s laid back, acoustic minimalism on ‘This Warm December, Brushfire holidays’, includes a lesser known verse (Rudolph’s rebuke).


“But Rudolph he didn’t go for that.

He said, ‘I see through your silly games’.

How can you look me in the face,

when only yesterday you called me names?

All of the other Reindeer, man, they sure did feel ashamed.

‘Rudolph you know we’re sorry,

we’re truly going to try to change’.”


Texans, Los Lonely Boys rock Rudolph and you can hear influences of Santana, Los Lobos and Stevie Ray Vaughan.


  1. Santa Claus is coming to town – Bruce Springsteen.

I know there are Springsteen fans among the Almanackers, so I’d better not leave this out… or pout or cry.


  1. Merry Christmas Baby – Elvis Presley

Originally recorded by Chuck Berry, Elvis covered it in 1971 and is as the top of his game. If you prefer the King of the Blues, try B.B. King’s version.


  1. Run, Run Rudolph – Chuck Berry.

Berry rocking it. “Out of all the Reindeer, you know you’re the mastermind…”


  1. Jingle Bells – Diana Krall.

The honeyed voice of Diana Krall and Jazz, I could listen from Christmas through to Round One. It’s from Krall’s ‘Christmas Songs’ (2005).



  1. (1) Xmas Baby – Riff Ruffin / (2) All I ask for Christmas is my baby – Mighty Blue Kings

Both of these are on the ‘Putumayo presents: A Jazz and Blues Christmas’ album. Riff belts out ‘Xmas Baby’ and recalls Luis Jordan (not Jordan Lewis) on ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ in the vivid scene at Elwood’s train track-side apartment, in ‘The Blues Brothers’.


The Mighty Blue Kings evoke Ray Charles, singing “All I ask for Christmas is my baby and some holiday cheer. All I ask for Christmas is my baby, Santa bring her near.”


  1. White Christmas – (1) Bad Religion, (2) Sheryl Crow

It will always be Bing’s, but Bad Religion gave it a punk rock change of pace in 2013.


Sheryl Crow’s cover is on ‘Home for Christmas’ (2008). I’ve been a fan going back to ‘Tuesday Night Music Club’ and will give Sheryl the decision, as she is preferred under the tree.


  1. (1) Christmas on T.V. / (2) Mele Kalikimaka / (3) Hey Santa! /(4) Have Yourself A Very Merry Christmas – Chris Isaak.

I’ve always liked Chris Isaak, particularly his (2011) tribute to the roots of Rock ‘n Roll, with songs that came out of Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios in the mid-’50s.


Regrettably, on Grand Final day 2015, I missed him entirely. He was either on at 9:30 in the morning or I was gently rocking in a pre-match fetal position.


Back in 2004, Isaak released an album of Christmas songs, including these four that sound uncommonly summery. I grew up with Australian Christmas while watching the ‘White Christmas’ on T.V. The dichotomy was resolved when I experienced a couple of North American Christmases for myself – magical but rekindling an appreciation for warm and prawns.


Mele Kalikimaka is the Hawaiian-themed Christmas song, ‘Here Christmas will be green and bright, sun shines all day with all those stars at night’. ‘Christmas on T.V.’ has a feel of late at night, the spike of sentimentality before reality washes over; “But you’re really not that far, in our old house, with his new car. Merry Christmas from one million miles away.”



  1. Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms

This is another perennial favorite, released back in 1957. It’s a classic mix of Christmas rockabilly country and the Helms voice is so distinctive.


  1. F*ck Christmas, I’ve got the blues – The Legendary Tiger Man

Beginning with a recitation of Christmases past (“25th of December 1971, got me some homemade beautiful shoes. 11 years later baby 1982, I was 12 years old and still I had the blues…”), the Legendary Tiger man pitches into mournful licks, pent-up frustration and the infectious hook.

For another world-weary view, Dropkick Murphys’ “The Season’s Upon Us”.


  1. Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley

One of the first picked. In the 1968 comeback special, Blue Christmas is stripped back to guitars and small drum. Scotty Moore plays under the vocals, putting Elvis’ voice up front, where it always belonged (for this reason, it is superior to the ‘57 version, when he was backed by the Jordanaires). In the video Elvis is otherworldly cool, enjoying sitting around and playing with the guys.




For a good country version: ‘Lady Antebellum’ from Nashville, Tennessee.


  1. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer – Ray Charles

It’s Ray. No cooler Christmas song than this. It can be found on ‘Putumayo presents: a jazz and Blues Christmas’.




There it is. If you can’t be bothered (understandably), you can’t go wrong with ‘Putumayo presents: a jazz and Blues Christmas’, ‘This Warm December, Brushfire holidays’ and Crow, Isaak or Krall.



About Paul Campbell

Lawyer, left footer. Loves the Hawks and follows a few U.S sports.


  1. could not more strongly disagree – they are all disgraceful.

  2. prefer Keith doing Run, Run Rudolph. It was for charity, after all.

  3. Andrew Weiss says

    Not sure whether this would make your top 20 or even your top 100 but how about when live aid got together to sing “Do they know its Christmas Time (Feed the world)” to raise money for the drought in Ethiopia back in the ’80’s. Always a good one to put on as everyone is sitting down to Christmas lunch with a smorgasbord of food in front of them.

  4. Some great calls PC and here’s a couple more … Darlene Love ‘Deck the Halls’, Elvis ‘Why Can’t Every Day Be Like Christmas’ and of course the Phil Spector Christmas album. James Brown?

    Onya and merry everything to everyone

  5. Anything not sung by the Bethlehem Children’s Choir.
    Tim Minchin’s – :Drinking White Wine in the Sun” for mine

  6. Way Back in 1976 locals, Ol 55, released I’ want a Rocking Christmas’ backed with a cover of the Beach Boys, “Little Saint Nick.” It rocketed to Number one here in Melbourne. A forgotten Aussie classic.


  7. Mental as Anything ‘Apocalypso’

  8. Nothing tops “Silent Night” performed by anyone – the true Christmas song.

    Next – “Fairytale of New York” – The Pogues with Kirsty McColl.

  9. Christmas in Prison by John Prine

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