Year three of holly jolly hits and diverse yuletide spirit? Sign us up!
Stephen King has said, “Sooner or later, everything old is new again.” 2023 is no exception when it comes to Christmas music. Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” has just topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart… 65 years after its release. Mariah Carey continues to spread (or haunt) us with Christmas cheer at the stroke of midnight the first of every November, and many beloved recording artists have gifted us with their brand of merry and bright.
Let’s start close to home. The Smithereeens reissued their holiday-themed album Christmas With The Smithereens on November 18, 2022. Consider yourself lucky if you were able to pick up the limited edition green vinyl last year as only 1,000 copies were produced.
However, “Run Rudolph Run,” “Santa, Bring My Baby Back To Me,” “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” and “Waking Up On Christmas Morning” from the aforementioned record were released as singles thisyear. Smithereens drummer and esteemed rock historian Dennis Diken said, “We’ve taken what we’ve learned from some of our favorite Christmas records and did our best to make these numbers our own…it is our hope that we’ll be seeing you again and again at the end of every year.” It reminds me why I adore The Smithereens so much and miss the great Pat DiNizio every day.
The Grip Weeds have also reissued and remastered the 11-track Under The Influence of Christmas. It features appearances by Mark Lindsay (former lead singer of Paul Revere & The Raiders), members of The Smithereens, The Left Banke, The Anderson Council, and more. The Grip Weeds own and operate The House of Vibes Studio in Highland Park, New Jersey, and have worked with many acts. Producer Kurt Reil, who is also the band’s singer and drummer, said, “Good holiday music puts the listener in that warm happy holiday mood. With this album, we’ve managed to drag that joyful holiday feeling through the prisms of psychedelic and garage rock. You won’t know whether to stand under the mistletoe or stare at it for hours.” The album is a personal favorite and I find myself listening to it throughout the entire year. “2000 Miles,” “Christmas, Bring Us,” “Santa Make Me Good,” and “Christmas Dream” are sure standouts.
Another building block in the foundation of New Jersey music, Bon Jovi, has released their first original music since 2020 with “Christmas Isn’t Christmas.” Jon Bon Jovi penned the song two years ago as a gift to his parents and children. Ultimately, it’s about bringing people together. (The band celebrates their 40th anniversary in 2024 and we can’t wait to see what they have planned.)
Cher has gifted us with Christmas, her first full-length holiday album. It has a mix of traditional carols and original songs. She has star-power collaborators such as Stevie Wonder, Cyndi Lauper, Darlene Love, Michael Bublé, and Tyga. Cher’s new single, “DJ Play a Christmas Song,” is a straight banger and will become a favorite season after season.
Last month, Alanis Morissette released Last Christmas. The four-song EP contains three of the alt queen’s past releases: 2020’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” 2021’s “What Child Is This,” and last year’s rendition of “Little Drummer Boy.” This year, she opted for a wonderful cover of Wham!’s classic “Last Christmas.”
RuPaul’s Essential Christmas is a compilation album of personal favorites from his past three Christmas projects with the addition of “Baby Doll,” an elegant and classy doo wop bop with a drum pattern similar to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies. ” RuPaul told Billboard, “I think people want to conjure up nostalgia and memories of their childhood or memories of joy. There’s so much darkness in the world, and we get this little window of joy and happiness and color and lights and love and gift-giving and happiness. And I think everybody wants a piece of that – I know I do. I never set out to put out any Christmas records. But somehow it’s happened that way. And really do love it.” Essential Christmas put a smile on my face for 37 minutes and 31 seconds. It’s joyful and will make everyone boogie off the extra holiday calories.
Wheatus gave a yuletide spin to “Teenage Dirtbag’ and threw in three more festive songs for Just A Dirtbag Christmas. It offers something for almost every musical taste. The animated music video for “Christmas Dirtbag” is hilarious – it finds Buddy the Wheatus Dog, who is featured on the EP’s cover, struggling for attention during the merriest time of the year. Thankfully, there’s a happy, rocking ending. While the real Buddy passed away, the video serves as a funny, moving tribute to his can-do spirit. It was directed by Jaime Restrepo of production studio Dreambear, and his credits include work for Eminem, Lil Wayne, Justin Bieber, Amazon Music, and Adult Swim.
Theory of a Deadman released their first holiday single called “Missing You This Christmas.” Frontman Tyler Connolly said, “We’ve never done an original holiday track, and for some reason the timing seemed right. Maybe it was all the years of hearing Mariah Carey in Target that sparked the idea.” Buckcherry released their second Christmas song, “Tell ‘Em It’s Christmas,” complete with their signature swagger.
Pop-punk powerhouses The Dollyrots have blessed us with their spunky and spirited take of “Auld Lang Syne.” The Dollyrots’ latest offering, Night Owls is pretty awesome, too. They will have you dancing in the dark, so do yourself a favor and get both!
The new solo venture of Caveboy’s synth-bassist Isabelle Banos, called Ballsy, dropped a holiday ditty titled “omg it’s xmas.” It channels grunge and pop-punk with perfection. Veterans of the Orange County ska scene, Half Past Two, teamed up with Reade Wolcott to present their first original holiday song, “Breakdown For Christmas.” The multi-platinum recording artist Fefe Dobson has treated us to the upbeat and ridiculously fun single “SANTA CLAUS IS BACK IN TOWN,” and Geoff Palmer’s “Lonely Christmas Call” and “Christmas and Candy Canes” are instant classics, as well.
More notable releases to consider are: Vista Blue’s Christmas Every Day, Fitz and The Tantrums’ Perfect Holiday EP, The Krayolas’ Santa Is On Her Way, The Cowsills’ A Christmas Offering From The Cowsills, Blue Man Group’s Overjoy to the World EP, Hannah Waddingham’s Home For Christmas (Soundtrack from the Apple Original), Stax Christmas, compilation My Morning Jacket’s Happy Holiday!, Mark Tremonti’s Mark Tremonti Christmas Classics New & Old, and Gregory Porter’s Christmas Wish.
I compiled a playlist of Christmas tunes for your enjoyment with more than 20 hours of holiday fun. Put it on shuffle and enjoy! Hopefully, it will give you more music to fill your homes and hearts with those you love.