The Top 5 Christmas songs of all time, from Bowie to Bing - Reverb

I Might Be Wrong: The 5 best Christmas classics

All you need to do to spoil your Christmas faster than leaving a quart of egg nog in the sun is to take a look at the cover of “A Very She & Him Christmas.” It’s just about everything that’s wrong with music: A.) There’s a smack-you-in-the-face retro-hipster stylization from the LP-like top to the quirky clothes and hair 2.) M. Ward is on it D.) It doesn’t reference Buzz from “Home Alone” like this list just did.

There has simply been a dearth of solid Christmas tunes to come out of the woodwork in recent years. The 2000s and early 2010s have seen tons of great albums, skyrocketing raw talent and even fantastic radio hits. But, the holiday tunes have blown. And, no, Michael Buble’s Sinatra rip-offs do not count. You have to go all the way back to 1987 when Run-DMC busted out “Christmas in Hollis” and the Pogues released “Fairytale of New York” for original Christmas songs that brought the house down. Sure, hindsight is 20/20 but you don’t have to wait 10 years to know that Mariah Carey isn’t playing the same kind of ball as Bing Crosby.

So, it’s left to the classics. The originals. And even solid takes on the originals. (For the record, I still can’t stand Bruce Springsteen’s version of John Frederick Coots’ “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and I love the Boss. Even legends can’t always beat the Christmas curse.) So, here are the five best Christmas songs of all time and their best versions, to boot. These are songs that can reverberate on their own, without an awesome movie scene to bolster them (I’m looking at you “Mele Kalikimaka” in “Christmas Vacation”) or an Ol’ Blue Eyes bailout (even Frank couldn’t save “O Little Town of Bethlehem).

5. “Adeste Fideles,” Luciano Pavarotti

All the good ones can’t be secular, can they? This particularly arresting homage to Jesus’s birth finds Pavarotti in no need of Domingo or the Other Guy as he harnesses the choirs of angels for John Francis Wade’s tune.

4. “White Christmas,” Bing Crosby

The King of Christmas ain’t messin’ around: According to the Guinness Book of World Records this is the best-selling single of all time. I wonder how many checks per day Crosby’s kids receive for 12 cents. (More “Seinfeld,” I know.)

3. “Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth,” David Bowie and Bing Crosby

Some do not prefer this particular take on Katherine Kennicott Davis by B&C Music Factory, but the harmonies are crisp and moving. “Do you like modern music?” Bowie asks. “Oh, I think it’s marvelous. Some of it really fine,” Crosby responds. (A nod to Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly for their take.)

2. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” Frank Sinatra

The ultimate holiday heartbreaker. Bing and Elvis both have fantastic recordings of the song, but Sinatra adds an extra tear to the overwhelming yearning.

1. “The Christmas Song,” Nat King Cole

Music, in general, doesn’t get better than this.

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Colin St. John is a Denver-based writer and merrymaker. Follow him on Twitter and check out his blog.

  • jc

    what about the fairy tale of new york?