Modern Christmas music is considered by some (including myself) as perhaps of a lesser quality than the odes from the twentieth century, but they aren’t all bad. Sure, there are a lot of covers of classics, and it is true that lots of covers just haven’t got the magic of the originals, but there are plenty that put their own excellent spin on the track, as well as some brilliant originals. Here are my top ten picks for Christmas tunes from 2000 onwards.
- The Darkness, ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)‘ (2003)
I’m starting this list off on a strong point with this example of British rock excellence, which also pays homage to the sounds of the 70s and 80s. I was stunned to find that The Darkness wasn’t actually from that era, their sound is so authentic, and here they really lean into it while still creating a stand-out track.
- MNEK – ‘Stopped Believing in Santa‘ (2018)
A new tune from one of my favourite up-and-coming artists, MNEK blows it out of the park with ‘Stopped Believing in Santa’. It’s a mellow R&B tune and MNEK’s vocals are seriously good all the way through, and makes it an easy track to listen to.
- The Lumineers – ‘Blue Christmas’ (2016)
This 1948 song has been covered by The Beach Boys and famously by Elvis Presley, but The Lumineers also released a cover in a few years back which puts a distinct country twang to it, without making you feel like you’re in Tennessee. It is faintly melancholic and yet relaxing, and overall a great cover.
- Britney Spears – ‘My Only Wish (This Year)’ (2000)
Britney has hardly put a foot wrong in her long and influential career, and every 90’s/early 2000s child will know at least one of her songs. Her Christmas original from 2000 is the perfect mix between her own style and other pop icons like Mariah Carey.
- Vaults – ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ (2016)
A cover of Randy Crawford’s 1980 jazz single, this song was featured in the 2016 John Lewis Christmas ad (and was also sang by Nicole Kidman in 2001’s Moulin Rouge!). Although Vaults split a year later, their cover is testament to their immense talent, with lead Blythe Pepino’s voice enough to take your breath away.
- Tom Odell – ‘Real Love’ (2014)
John Lewis has snatched up yet another modern Christmas track, but this Odell rendition of the original John Lennon song captured our hearts just as the advert’s adorable penguins did. A soulful, passionate cover, it is one of my favourite Odell tracks.
- Ariana Grande – ‘Winter Things (2015)
You’re probably sick of hearing her name after the insane year she’s had, but I for one am not tired of hearing her voice. ‘Winter Things’ is a cheerful, ukulele-filled, R&B contribution to the modern Christmas canon, and sweet without being sickly. Her Christmas & Chill EP is seriously worth paying a little attention to, and I think ‘Winter Things’ is actually better than ‘Santa Tell Me’
- Fetty Wap ft. Monty – ‘Merry Xmas’ (2015)
I was surprised that Fetty Wap had a Christmas song in the first place, and then even more surprised to learn that it was actually… kind of a bop? It has cheesy lyrics and a solid beat and makes me think that perhaps we need more Christmas rap if it can all be as charming as this.
- John Legend – ‘Under the Stars’ (2015)
Adverts seem to be the place to look if you want to find some brilliant modern Christmas music, with Legend’s single being made for a Stella Artois campaign. Legend’s smooth vocals and thoughtful lyrics make it a perfect song for feeling classy as you wrap presents or drive through the snow.
- Tom Chaplin – ‘Walking in the Air’ (2017)
Chaplin’s cover of the high, warbling classic famously featured in The Snowman is one I can see being used in some future Christmas film, its dark electric guitar chords perfectly balanced against Chaplin’s buttery vocals and leading into a swelling choral melody. His entire Twelve Tales of Christmas album is deserving of way more attention, and I would dare say it is the best cover on this list.
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