As a lover of holiday music, I am often saddened when others do not share the same sentiment. I can certainly see how the endless rotation of songs like “Last Christmas,” “Baby, It's Cold Outside” and “Jingle Bell Rock” played by festively scented and decorated department stores can quickly become monotonous and aggravating. For this reason, I have prepared a list of underplayed and underappreciated holiday songs that, when inserted in a stale lineup of holiday tracks, will enhance (rather than extinguish) holiday spirit.
5. “Comin Home” by Trey Songz
“Comin Home” is a single released in 2016 by R&B singer/songwriter Trey Songz. Though it takes place during the holiday season, the song is not quite as Christmas-y as other songs in the seasonal category and is instead more of a love song. It is the perfect song for cuffing season, whether or not you have a significant other to “come home” to.
Trey Songz has some of the best vocals in his genre, and “Comin Home” is no exception. He sounds warm and buttery like sugar cookies fresh out of the oven. Your playlist likely already contains modern Christmas anthems like Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me” and Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe” (which are delightful but overplayed), and would benefit from the addition of this soulful track.
4. “One Little Christmas Tree” by Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder is undoubtedly one of the kings of Christmas music. With songs like “Someday at Christmas,” “What Christmas Means to Me,” and a myriad of amazing covers of classics, like “The Christmas Song” and “Silver Bells,” Wonder is by no means an underrated artist, especially in the world of holiday music. However, his song “One Little Christmas Tree” is lesser-known than some of his other tracks and has yet to receive the recognition and air time it deserves. The song provides imagery similar to that of the sad, little Christmas tree from A Charlie Brown Christmas and delivers a similar message to the 1965 television special. I strongly recommend giving it a listen, especially if you are already a fan of Wonder and his work.
3. “Give Love On Christmas Day” by Ledisi
“Give Love On Christmas Day” is an underrated holiday classic that is often overlooked in the category. Though it was first recorded by The Jackson 5 for their Christmas album, the song has been covered by many, including artists like The Temptations and Johnny Gill. However, the most underrated version of the ballad is a cover by R&B artist Ledisi, from her Christmas album It’s Christmas, which was released in 2008. If a venn diagram with the labels “holiday” and “2000’s R&B” existed, Ledisi’s rendition of “Give Love On Christmas Day” would lie dead center, as it both perfectly fits and excels in both categories. As it hits the ear, the song imitates the sensation of a snowflake melting on the tongue and goes down smoother than advent calendar chocolate. For these reasons, it is the perfect addition to any holiday playlist.
2. “Joy” by Jeremih & Chance the Rapper
I am so sorry if your ears have never been blessed with the sweet sound of Jeremih and Chance the Rapper’s holiday mixtape, Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama. It was difficult to include just one song from the tape on this list, as it is challenging to listen to only one without making my way through all of them. “Joy,” however, is an indisputable highlight of the mixtape. Jeremih’s vocals will give you goosebumps and Chance’s verse will warm your insides more effectively than the hottest cup of cocoa. Far less upbeat than most of the other tracks on the tape, “Joy” invites listeners to recall the true meaning of Christmas and remember that the holidays are, as Jeremih puts it in the song, “a time for joy.” It is a must-have on any Christmas playlist.
1. “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway
“This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway, my all-time favorite Christmas song, is a masterpiece. Though you may have heard it before, you likely do not have it in your holiday playlist. Though the song has been covered by artists like The Whispers, Chris Brown, Diana Ross and Christina Aguilera, Hathaway’s original version remains unmatched. The song’s instrumental, coupled with Hathaway’s vocals and performance, simply cannot be topped. If you have never heard this song (specifically the original version), I suggest you exit out of whatever browser you’re viewing this on and open Spotify, Apple Music or whatever streaming service you prefer and listen to it immediately. Despite not being played as frequently on the radio or in stores as some other Christmas songs, “This Christmas” is a classic that deserves its place on both your holiday playlist and the overall list of the best holiday songs.
If you ever find yourself in charge of the AUX cord at a holiday gathering, a varied and engaging tracklist of seasonal songs will prove incredibly useful and lead to a significant increase in clout. I strongly urge you to utilize these songs to either curate the perfect holiday playlist from scratch or spruce up (pun intended) a pre-existing one. Happy holidays and happy listening, Northwestern!