Ceramic Santa figurine. The joy in many Christmas songs allows for an escape. NIKOS KOUTOULAS/FLICKR VIA CC BY-SA 2.0

‘Tis the season to hear the Wham! classic “Last Christmas” every time you turn on the car radio.

Christmas music is an often-polarizing topic, with the enthusiasts making their playlists Nov. 1 and the purists insisting on leaving Thanksgiving untainted. Whether you believe Michael Bublé should start defrosting before or after the turkey, there’s one important question that needs to be answered: is Christmas music actually good? 

According to a 2017 survey by SoundtrackYour Brand, around 75% of people enjoy Christmas music, with the rest of listeners Scrooge-ily avoiding the genre. The idea of nostalgia plays a major role in society’s love of seasonal songs, particularly among the millennial population, who favor Christmas music more than any of their generational counterparts. In a duo of years that have ranged from pandemic apocalypse to political hellscape, the idea of classic Americana has offered a rare sense of comfort to those who need it most. The joy in many Christmas songs allows for an escape from what can often be a disheartening reality, and a gentle reminder that the simpler times of the past will arrive once again, giving spirit to the dispirited. 

Yet, for those who detest holiday tunes, Christmas music can feel sickeningly unvaried, bearing similarities to the ever-so-contentious country genre. Southern songs are often lambasted for their repetitive vocabulary atop monotonous guitar chords, as humorously expressed in Bo Burnham’s “Country Song (Pandering).” Likewise, many Christmas songs revolve around the same subset of topics — love, snow and of course Santa’s shimmy down the chimney — making them all incredibly similar in nature, as they use many of the same words to inspire that jolly feeling. Thus, listeners can tire of the tracks, as proven by the 43% of people who dislike Christmas songs simply because of their repetitiveness. 

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So, is Christmas music good, or do radio DJs deserve coal in their stockings? It’s a truly individual answer. For the hopeless romanticizers and nostalgia junkies, the so-called songs of the season are joyous audible additions to holiday prep, whereas the Ebenezer’s of the world sneak earplugs under their earmuffs. Like most things, it’s all a matter of perspective. It’s important to remember that no matter how you feel about the holiday classics, the world is fragile these days and so are its people. Let everyone enjoy what they enjoy, musically or otherwise; no food fights over “Jingle Bells” at Christmas dinner. 

Whether you’re a Cindy Lou Who or a Grinch this holiday season, here are the top five songs to jam out to as you gear up for Santa’s annual sleigh ride. 

  1. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey

How could we not include the crème de la crème of the holiday season on this list? Carey’s pop tune is one of the most iconic Christmas songs of all time, with over 16 million copies sold. The upbeat track is guaranteed to combat the winter blues, and is a perfect backing track to motivate you through a finals week full of studying, exams and papers.

2. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Darlene Love

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Love’s pop-rock hit has been a classic since its release in 1963, and quickly became a staple of holiday playlists. “Christmas” is the perfect song for belting on the car ride home from Stony Brook University this winter break as a cathartic end of semester release, especially for those of us in the dreaded college long distance relationships. 

3. “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)” – Nat King Cole 

Though I doubt any of us have ever roasted chestnuts over an open fire, we all know the great Nat King Cole has. Cole’s croon in this jazzy holiday tune is perfect for curling up on the couch with a cup of cocoa and inspires the warm and cozy feeling we all crave during our treks across campus. 

4. “Last Christmas” – Wham!

Despite becoming a TikTok trend in recent years, no one can deny the power of a George Michael love ballad, especially during the holiday season. “Last Christmas” is a synth-induced trip to the ‘80s for any nostalgics, and should be everyone’s first choice for a round of Christmas karaoke. 

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5. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” – Michael Bublé

The millennial Christmas anthem couldn’t NOT make an appearance on this list. Bublé’s song, along with the aforementioned Carey classic, is one of the top choices to usher in the season, ranking number five on Glamour’s list of the best Christmas songs. The track is an excellent soundtrack for trimming the tree, and an apropo addition to home decorating, real or gingerbread. 

Seawolves, enjoy these tracks — and a plethora of others — and remember to show both your holiday and Stony Brook spirit this winter break!

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