Trendy holiday music that will spook the Ghost of Christmas Past

Illustration by Sammy Newman

Nick Alfano, Contributing Writer

Radio stations throughout the country transitioned from their regularly scheduled slate of music to nothing but tunes about the upcoming holiday season after Black Friday last week. 

As the decades have passed, the sounds of Christmas music have strayed further away from the sounds of modern music. 

The songs of Christmases past have been remixed, rearranged and re-recorded into oblivion, yet artists in the current soundscape have had an inexplicably difficult time bringing an original holiday song to the limelight.

The last artist to break the Billboard Hot 100 chart with an original Christmas song was Ariana Grande with her 2014 single “Santa Tell Me,” which peaked at No. 42. 

Until 2014, Mariah Carey was one of two other 2000s artists to have an original holiday track chart with “All I Want for Christmas Is You” peaking at No. 86 in 2010.

Even then, it was a remix of her original 1994 song — which peaked at third on the Billboard Hot 100 — this time featuring Justin Bieber. His 2011 “Mistletoe” also spent time on the Hot 100, peaking at No. 11.

Yet this absence of modern artists carving their own paths alongside Christmas royalty isn’t for lack of trying. 

In 2018, musician Katy Perry released the original “Cozy Little Christmas,” which garnered a less-than-stellar reception with under 225,000 Spotify streams to show for it.

Simply put: Americans have rested on their laurels and allowed the sounds of the past to define a timeless holiday.

In 2014, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers conducted a study to determine which Christmas song was America’s favorite of all time. 

Of the songs that made the top ten, Bobby Helms’ 1957 recording of “Jingle Bell Rock” was the most modern song represented, and Eddie Cantor’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” released in 1934, not only was the oldest song on the list but also took the number one spot.

With the current decade coming to a close this December, looking back at the music that dominated airwaves for the past 10 years has never made this issue more glaringly true. 

Instead of resorting back to the same tired tunes your great-grandparents thought were earth-shattering, here are three Christmas tracks that exemplify the current age of music.

 

“Lights On” by Tyler, The Creator, Ryan Beatty and Santigold (2018)

Featured on Tyler, the Creator’s original soundtrack for the 2018 remake of Dr. Seuss’s “The Grinch,” this song masterfully blends the wintertime wonder of traditional Christmas music with the production of a modern hit.

Upon its release, Tyler said on Twitter that he wanted to make a Christmas song that would be appropriate to play at any time of the year, and the song’s easy-going nature paired with Beatty’s catchy vocals dutifully accomplishes just that.

“Christmas in Harlem” by Kanye West, CyHi The Prynce and Teyana Taylor (2010)

Originally a part of West’s 2010 “G.O.O.D. Fridays” promotional cycle leading up to the release of his fifth album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” this song sees the decade’s most polarizing figure combining his expert production with holiday jargon. 

Bringing along two of his frequent collaborators and members of his G.O.O.D. Music label, “Christmas in Harlem” finds a way to be filled to the brim with Kanye’s notorious braggadocio while still having room to stay in the Christmas spirit. Despite flying relatively under the radar, this track will please fans of Kanye and the holidays alike.

“Snowed In” by Jeremih and Chance the Rapper (2017)

The second track on the duo’s Christmas collaboration mixtape “Merry Christmas Lil Mama,” “Snowed In” serves as a modern-day “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Both Jeremih and Chance are longing for their special someone to spend a December night with them in a manner that matches the almost pleading-like nature of the Homer and Jethro 1953 classic. 

It also includes autotune layered vocals and features lines like “pull up on you in a sleigh,” and “know you on my list, shawty.” Chance the Rapper was undoubtedly one of the breakout stars of the 2010s, so his contribution to a modern Christmas playlist is a must.

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