What is Christmastime without music? Holiday music allows families and friends a chance to relax and enjoy "the most wonderful time of the year.” Below I have compiled a list of 10 underrated Christmas songs, both original and covered, that may exceed your expectations just in time for the holidays. If you are looking for the Queen of Christmas herself, Mrs. Mariah Carey, you will not find her on this list. Instead, I have opted to share the spotlight with tunes that have missed their kiss under the mistletoe.
1. Boyz II Men ft. Brian McKnight — “Let It Snow”
In 1993, powerhouse R&B legends came together to create something enchanting. Co-written by Brian McKnight and Wanya Morris it has become a staple Christmas tune in my rotation throughout December. Morris leads the charge alongside McKnight’s high tenor which does not go unnoticed in this simple but classic 90s R&B production. If you enjoy this, check out McKnight’s stripped-down version performed in 2018 on Sirus XM.
2. Stevie Wonder — “Twinkle Twinkle Little Me”
A 17-year-old Stevie Wonder remastered the original song, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Me, ”by The Supremes featured on their 1965 album Merry Christmas, giving it a new, slow and sultry edge. This musical prodigy used his divine melisma and classic phrasing to make the listener feel every word intensely. This holiday anthem uses personification to give insight into the star’s perspective atop our Christmas trees.
3. Mindless Behavior — “Christmas With My Girl”
Most boy bands try their hand at Christmas music but aren’t always successful in their attempts. In 2011, Mindless Behavior covered New Edition’s 1985, “All I Want For Christmas (Is My Girl).” This Christmas bop is light-hearted, fun, and cringey. It adds personal preteen nostalgia to go along with your jolly spirit.
4. Kenny Loggins — “Celebrate Me Home”
This underrated Christmas song appears on Kenny Loggins’ 1977 debut album Celebrate Me Home. Loggins’ voice warms your heart with his saccharine falsetto and songwriting abilities. This amazing folk-rock arrangement gifts listeners with a round at the end of the song which satisfies like a perfectly wrapped present. This incredible polyphonic music composition between Loggins and his background vocalists is an ethereal showcase of pure flair.
5. Pentatonix ft. Jazmine Sullivan — “Joyful Joyful”
This Christian hymn is arranged similarly to the last musical number, “Joyful, Joyful” in the movie Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit starring Whoopi Goldberg and Lauryn Hill. Jazmine Sullivan, aka the modern run/riff queen, opens the song with a soul-bearing choir solo. Pentatonix takes it from there, doing what they do best: creating a festive acapella extravaganza.
6. Tyler the Creator ft. Ryan Beatty and Santigold — “Lights On”
Tyler, the Creator has recently decided to stretch his career into other areas of entertainment. He composed and produced the score for Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney’s animated film, Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch. On this fan-favorite track, Santigold’s backing vocals on the hook and Ryan Beatty’s vocals on the verse steal the spotlight. It is a song that is so good you’ll want to play it all year long.
7. Kurtis Blow — “Christmas Rappin”
This hip-hop luminary shows fans he can put together a yuletide special. Released in 1979, “Christmas Rappin” set a precedent for future rappers to write about this special season. Get ready to hear some of the funniest and most pompous rudimentary bars ever written.
8. beabadoobee — “Winter Wonderland”
“Winter Wonderland'' is a song that has been covered numerous times. beabadoobee treats this classic like a figure skating performance, forging a path on an ice rink for her voice to spin around the song’s whimsical chord progression and trills of the woodwind instruments. This cover is perfect. Her cloudy and calming voice traces a distinct snowy portrait.
9. DMX — “Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer”
Since the passing of this rap legend in April, many fans have shared videos across social media trying to fill a missing hole of his presence. In that same vein, let’s revisit his infectious personality through his acapella version of this definitive children’s Christmas carol, “Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer.”
10. Kanye West ft. CyHi The Prynce and Teyana Taylor — “Christmas in Harlem”
Anything Kanye West undertakes is rarely underrated. But this G.O.O.D Music lead track is forgotten around the holidays. It is not a Ye song without a soul sample, hence 23-year-old Hit-Boy interpolated The Brothers Johnson’s “Strawberry Letter #23," Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing,” and “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” to create a merry masterpiece. CyHi The Prynce's cadences paired with Teyana Taylor’s hook fits like a glove that’s needed to brace against this New York neighborhood’s cold weather.
Featured Image: Matt Ho