6 Coolest Holiday Songs for People Who Hate Holiday Songs
Posted on November 17, 2023
by Eric S
Few things in contemporary society are as divisive as holiday music. For some, it is a warm reminder of happy times with family, while for others it is the soundtrack to a season filled with massive amounts of stress and expense. If you’re in the latter category, you probably want to run as far away from anything that remotely resembles holiday music, but would you be open to the possibility that there are some holiday (and holiday-adjacent) songs that deviate from your typical radio Christmas standards? The songs below, while perhaps not as overwhelmingly cheerful as “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” or “All I Want for Christmas is You,” are some of the strongest arguments that there are cool songs to go with whatever end-of-the-year festivities you observe.
It should be noted that for the purposes of this list, all the songs below are originals, not covers (that would be a separate list). Also, while the beautifully cynical “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues is still a classic to many, it has been excluded from this list for some problematic lyrics and the fact that it’s sort of the cliché go-to for cool anti-Christmas-song Christmas songs.
Maybe you know Kurtis Blow from the trailblazing hip hop classic, “The Breaks,” but before that, he released this delightful holiday jam (which predated Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” by almost a decade). It definitely sounds like an old-school hip-hop song, but there’s beauty in its simplicity. Perhaps most importantly, it set a precedent that no occasion was off limits to rap—just as Santa intended.
Best Lyrics:Bout a red-suited dude with a friendly attitude/ And a sleigh full of goodies for the people on the block/ Got a long white beard, maybe looks kind a weird/ And if you ever see him, he could give you quite a shock
Between the speed of hardcore punk, a commitment to both melody and humor, and singer Milo Aukerman’s nerdy, self-deprecating persona, The Descendents’ influence cannot be overstated. In many ways, they codified many of the elements of ‘90s skate punk and turn-of-the-century pop punk. While The Descendents are often remembered for snotty, ironic anthems like “Suburban Home,” it’s worth remembering that they also have a snotty, ironic Christmas song. With “Christmas Vacation,” Milo and the gang take us on a wild ride that’s one part Christmas, fifteen parts misery.
Best Lyrics:You took a vacation into oblivion/ You were so low and I felt like I didn’t know you/ Christmas vacation, you took a vacation from me, oh-oh-oh/ From me, oh-oh-oh
After reuniting the classic lineup in 2022 and releasing their best album in over a decade, now is the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with the pop punk legends. Luckily for us, they have several holiday songs. It’s worth checking out “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” and the underrated “Boxing Day,” but for the purposes of this list, we’re going with “Not Another Christmas Song” from 2019. Fun fact: this was the last song recorded by the band with guitarist Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio before founding member Tom DeLonge rejoined for their recent album and tour.
Best Lyrics:I’m burned out like lights on a tree/ Old songs, can’t listen to these/ Fake a smile, but all I can see/ Is empty boxes and trees
Firstly, R.I.P. Adam Schlesinger, the brilliant songwriter from Fountains of Wayne who we lost at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Secondly, Fountains of Wayne tends to get labeled as a One Hit Wonder (I mean, “Stacy’s Mom” is a great song, if you can overlook the creepiness), but they have a rather impressive collection of power pop albums that wouldn’t be out of place on a shelf next to one’s Weezer CDs. If you just bought Welcome Interstate Managers in 2003 for “Stacy’s Mom,” keep listening until you get to “Valley Winter Song.” Somehow, the feeling of late December malaise isn’t so bad when it’s being addressed by Fountains of Wayne.
Best Lyrics:And the snow is coming down/On our New England town/And it’s been falling all day long/What else is new?
These days, Jenny Lewis is selling out reunion shows with electropop all-stars, The Postal Service, but her musical output with her former band, Rilo Kiley, isn’t too shabby either. Recorded in 2007 as part of the sessions for Under the Blacklight, “I Remember You” captures how a fleeting encounter on New Year’s Eve can follow you well after the clock strikes midnight.
Best Lyrics:At a party last New Year’s Eve somewhere downtown/ We started talking about how we wanted someone to kiss after the countdown/ I went to get a smoke and drink at the bar and when I came back you were gone/ I didn’t think I’d ever see you again
No stranger to Christmas music, indie rock veterans Low are perhaps best known for their spacey, dreamy cover of “The Little Drummer Boy,” but “Just Like Christmas” is far more interesting. The song starts off familiarly enough with some bouncy sleigh bells, but Low takes a minimalist approach to lyrics (and music, for that matter) that seems to use the idea of Christmas as a jumping off point to…something else. This song lulls you in with its holiday vibe, then leaves you to ponder questions of your own.
Best Lyrics: It was just like Christmas/ It was just like Christmas/ It was just like Christmas/ It was just like Christmas/ It was just like Christmas/ It was just like Christmas
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