This year’s best picks come from an eclectic bunch, from rock stars to pop stars, Idol cast-offs to global icons. Here are ten tracks worth downloading this season.
Mariah Carey: “Oh Santa”
Sixteen years after releasing the best-selling Christmas album of all time, Merry Christmas, it looks like the diva has done it again. Her new release, Merry Christmas II You packs a serious seasonal punch with beautiful renditions of old classics along with some new ones too. Her single, “Oh Santa” holds court with the holiday heartbreaker, “I Miss You Most (At Christmastime)”. The mom-to-be has lots to celebrate this year, and we’re glad she invited us along for the ride.
Jessica Simpson: “My Only Wish”
While Simpson’s new Christmas album, Happy Christmas, isn’t a best seller, this new track is fun, festive, and reminiscent of Jess’ better days. It’s obvious she has maintained her vocal prowess and her knack for subtle sex appeal shows up even in a holiday song. The album is Simpson’s first release from Ellen Degeneres’ ElevenEleven Records and features an unexpected R&B/ pop vibe, compliments of producers Tricky Stewart and The Dream.
Coldplay: “Christmas Lights”
Not so much a feel-good holiday song, Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights” is an unconventional Christmas tune that evokes a quiet sadness, spawned from watching everyone else be merry and cheerful. The band also released a music video for the track, featuring Chris Martin and pals rockin’ out in front of a paper moon stage.
Katherine McPhee: “It’s Not Christmas Without You”
The dough-eyed Idol alum hit the mark with her new album, Christmas Is The Time (To Say I Love You). Full of silky-smooth, jazz-tinged renditions of old favorites like “Jingle Bells” and “O’ Holy Night” she offers an effortless update to the tunes. Her single, “It’s Not Christmas Without You,” may very well become a new holiday classic for those who are young and in love over the holidays.
Rihanna: “A Child Is Born”
The sexy siren released this track on Now That’s What I Call Christmas! (Volume 4) and stamped the Christian classic with her island style. The bouncing beat and reggae/pop sound offer a refreshing twist to the old favorite.
Train: “Shake Up Christmas”
The “Soul Sister” singers cooked up this ditty for Coca-Cola’s holiday campaign. In an effort to boost spirits in tough economic times, the upbeat track reminds us what this time is all about; not the cash we spend, but the company we keep and the happiness we feel.
Kelly Rowland: “Wonderful Christmastime”
Kelly’s cover of Paul McCartney’s classic receives an R&B makeover from the former child of destiny. Featured on the Now That’s What I Call Christmas, (Volume 4) compilation, Rowland’s performance is fun, fresh, and certainly enough to revive the track for a new generation.
Hurts: “All I Want For Christmas Is New Year’s Day”
If you’re heartbroken for the holidays this year, Hurts got you covered. The British-born duo created a Christmas carol that acknowledges how painful the holidays can be when you’re longing for a loved one at Christmastime. While it may not be the most festive track on the list, it’s real as can be for so many of us.
Kara DioGuardi & Jason Reeves: “New York in Wintertime”
The former American Idol judge and prolific songwriter, Kara DioGuardi has teamed up with Jason Reeves for a truly unique take on Christmas in the city. While we expected DioGuardi to pen great lyrics, it was her standout vocal performance that was the real surprise. We can’t help but wonder if the track, featured on the holiday compilation, Gift Wrapped II: Snowed In, will lead to an album from the unlikely duo.
Lady Antebellum: “On This Winter’s Night”
The country crooners lend their signature style to holiday classics in their six-track holiday album, A Merry Little Christmas. The single, “On This Winter’s Night” is the only original track they recorded, and it’s on its way to becoming a family favorite. Featuring a child’s chorus in the background, the ballad strikes a perfect balance of reverence and gratitude, two sentiments many of us can appreciate this year.
Cortney Wills is a pop culture journalist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has lived in LA, Chicago and NYC and enjoys all things entertainment.