Here at the Daily Runner, we have an Opinion section, but what we don’t have is an Unpopular Opinion section. Consider this the advent of that section.
‘Tis the season and we’ve all heard one-thousand plays of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas,” as well as Michael Bublé’s ever nauseating rendition of Santa Baby – “Santa, Pally,” really? Currently in the Barnes and Noble, the white-haired ladies are bopping their knitting needles to a jazzy take on “Silver Bells.” You’ve heard the one.
You have the people who listen to Christmas music in July. You have the absolute haters. What about the in-between? Those of us who aren’t going to put the Christmas music station on while driving alone and think studying to Christmas music is akin to a baby eating alternating bites of cake and mashed peas. Yet we’re not the Christmas haters; we just think there’s better music out there with less bells and more unpredictability.
Yours truly has scoured the internet for the best (and the weirdest) that Christmas originals have to offer. The following are songs that range from cynical Christmas-hating to a deeper understanding of the complexity of the season to fun music for your Christmas party that is NOT bogged down by sleigh bells. Happy thirteen days of non-traditional Christmas music! Click on each song to go straight to it, or read until the end for a Spotify playlist link – complete with the runner-ups.
Alright, I’ll be upfront with you: this one has definite jingle bells in it, but stick with it it’s a bop. “Father Christmas” shows up on many Christmas rock albums and rightfully so; it’s everything you want from a Christmas rock classic. Also in good 70’s protest fashion, there are subtle political messages and a nice healthy dose of Christmas cynicism.
Sufjan Stevens is basically the king of unconventional Christmas music. If you are an experienced “Jingle Bells”-dissenter, you’ve probably heard the Silver & Gold album more times than you can count. If not, your homework begins here. When searching for the perfect Sufjan song for this article, his take on “Do You Hear What I Hear” got horrified looks from family members and the blue swirl of confusion from Alexa. “Sister Winter” is the perfect song for gazing out the window at the white sky, daydreaming about 2019. The bittersweet swelling of the strings sounds like clouds moving slowly in front of the sun. Enjoy.
Low hanging fruit at this point, yes. In a focus group of eight Regent students, ALL of them suggested this song at some point. Especially after the Pentatonix cover (side note: PLEASE listen to the original, thank you), this song has become a near Christmas-staple. Alas, consider this the sing-a-long classic of the list, our very own “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” If you never want to hear this song again, listen to “Icicle Tusk” – less popular, yet still Christmas-y (warning: there are bells.)
While Coldplay making Christmas music sounds like a nightmare, “Christmas Lights” is surprisingly self-aware. It fits nicely into our cynical Christmas narrative, resting somewhere in the middle of the cynical-to-spirited scale. The beautiful lyrics perfectly capture the hopefulness in the midst of a difficult Christmas. The turn at the end will surely lift you from your contemplative window-staring back into the holiday spirit. The music video is classic Coldplay, featuring strange angles of Chris Martin’s face that make him look oddly like Mark Zuckerberg.
Definitely the strangest to make the list (trust me, there’s some weird Christmas music out there). What makes this one interesting is the dialogue between the lead singer and Santa himself. It’s kind of a journey you have to experience yourself, but look out for background choruses and changes in the song like “in the sweet Mojave rain.” Though Christmas-y, the song will keep you listening with The Killers melodies that stick in your head for weeks.
This song is straight-up fun. You’ll wish you were invited to the gang’s party. Vaguely reminiscent of 50’s sock-hop music with a touch of western, this song will make you want to dance. Completely free of political messages and somber reflection, just enjoy this one. Unfortunately, this one’s not on Spotify, so you won’t find it on the playlist. Click above for the link.
Completely absent the usual twinkling Christmas sounds, this simple acoustic melody features soothing guitar plucking by Alex Brenchly. With relatable lyrics like “a pair of socks was all you gave to me,” the message of the song is wholesome and cute. Play this song in the car driving back from visiting family and feel transported to the English country-side.
Originally I choose “Christmastide,” but I couldn’t get past how the opening vocals sounds like a Death Cab for a Cutie song, so “Show Us the King” it is. Honestly, the whole Advent Vol. 1 album is worth the listen. This track brings the throne-room side of the advent season into mind with a moody piano melody, haunting strings, and angelic backing vocals. Gorgeous song that even Grandma will like.
No singer quite says “Regent” like Sleeping At Last. Did you know he even has songs for each enneagram type? Yeah. “Snow” originally appeared in his Yearbook album, but last year made a comeback alongside beautiful covers in Christmas Collection Vol. 1. Ryan O’Neal’s soothing voice is as Christmas cozy as your hot cocoa and fuzzy socks. Put this song on by the fire, and if you’re lucky enough to get snow, watch the flurries fall.
This one follows the Christmas song formula: minimal lyrics, message of reconciliation, catchy tune, something that resembles sleigh-sound in the back. But it does so in a rock’n’roll cool kids way.
I think we all know why this one made the list. Initially, the focus group’s response was, Fall Out Boy? Really? But once they heard the title, all complaints were silenced. A fun, not-so-Christmas-y riff, cheesy, harmonizing chorus, and a confusing radio-talk ending are just a few things this track has to offer.
12. This Christmas Eve – Nathan Colberg
Originally a UVa a cappella singer, Colberg launched his solo career with his debut EP Barricade, which he gave as a Christmas gift to friends and family in 2016. His single “This Christmas Eve,” is an endearing, crooning love song – the perfect soundtrack for your own holiday rom-com. It’s available on Spotify, so make sure to give this song a listen from our playlist!
Originally by gospel singer Thomas A. Dorsey, “Peace in the Valley” is a soulful song that somehow feels very end-of-year in its weariness. A pre-“Auld Lang Syne,” if you will. Elvis singing it makes it oddly Christmas-y. Good song to chill or jam out to while prepping the house for a small, inner-circle-only Christmas party.
So there you go, thirteen unique songs to get you out of the end-of-December slump and back into the Christmas spirit – just in time for the twelve days of Christmas! Listen to all thirteen (and other great tracks that didn’t make the final list) on Spotify here.
P.S. The author rediscovered Queen’s “Thank God It’s Christmas” and is therefore adding a fourteenth to the list. Listen to this one first thing in the morning Christmas day!
Renée Hogan is a department head for the Daily Runner.