Every year, Mariah Carey decides when it’s time for holiday music season to begin. It’s kinda true, but hey, no matter what the Billboard Hot 100 chart tells us, it’s not all about Mariah Carey at Christmastime (right?) There is in fact other new holiday music from artists who have never had children with Nick Cannon (shocking!) and many of them you’ll actually want to listen to. So check out our picks for the best new holiday music from the 2022 season below (And we promise, there’s only one Wham! cover in the mix)
The Linda Lindas – “Groovy Xmas”
Is there anything these kids can’t do? Teenage punks The Linda Lindas were inspired by holiday songs from some of their classic punk faves like Alice Bag, Redd Kross, and Shonen Knife, and “Groovy Xmas” definitely doesn’t take itself seriously. They hop around generational yuletide pop culture references from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown, to PSL’s and yes, even Mariah Carey for a song that does its best to assure that the holidays are fun. (They even played it on Kimmel!)
Phoebe Bridgers – “So Much Wine”
Another year and another wonderful holiday cover to benefit a nonprofit by Phoebe Bridgers. This time, Bridgers takes on “So Much Wine” by alt-country duo The Handsome Family and is donating proceeds to the Los Angeles LGBT Center. It’s a sad song about having a loved one with a drinking problem, and trying your best to talk some sense into them around holiday time. A gentle acoustic guitar nestles up to a violin, and if that whistling sounds familiar, it’s because Andrew Bird joins Bridgers on this one.
David Byrne – “Fat Man’s Comin’”
After more than 50 years in the business, this is somehow the former Talking Heads leader’s first-ever holiday song. The horns sound like the opening to a sinister holiday villain flick. And Byrne said he had a different type of…err…villain, in mind for this one. “I wouldn’t call it a Christmas song, as the visitation of Santa (formerly known as St. Nicholas, who mainly did punishing) seems to have evolved to be a more secular consumer moment than a religious or spiritual affair.” Funny enough, Byrne actually wrote this song around the time when he was working with St. Vincent on Love This Giant, but thought it wasn’t right for that project (even though horns feel very much of that era.) The song is also a benefit for Byrne’s mental health-focused non-profit publication, Reasons To Be Cheerful.
Kurt Vile – “Must Be Santa”
It’s a Vile family Christmas! Kurt Vile was joined by his two young daughters for this cover of Bob Dylan’s cover (you following along?) of “Must Be Santa.” Gone is Dylan’s punk party accordion and in its place is a balmy, upbeat synth with the wee Viles joining pops on the hook.
Tkay Maidza – “Nights In December”
On “Nights In December,” the Zimbabwe-born, Aussie electro rapper shoots to recreate the feeling of wintertime in New York City (see: beautiful, but cold as heck!) The best part about this one is how it doesn’t really sound much like your typical holiday song, as much as an uptempo love song about capturing a year-end moment. She does it well.
Los Bitchos – “Los Chrismos”
The London instrumental foursome’s new internationally-inspired holiday tune is a blend of South American cumbia with Turkish psych and wavy Dick Dale-style guitars. And while it’s a largely lyricless tune (besides a “Christmas time! Sexy times!” chant), it feels decidedly of the holiday period; like what Santa might be playing in his sleigh as he races to deliver presents around the world.
Kadhja Bonet – “California Holiday”
Part of the new California Holiday EP of mostly covers that Bonet calls “a modern take on the typical magical Christmas story,” the title track represents the elegant singer’s first original holiday tune. This represents a milestone for her, as Bonet’s never been much of a fan of the holidays until recently. But with its warm strings, retro soul drums, and choral backing vocals, “California Holiday” shows that she’s very much on the other side of the Ebenezer Scrooge transformation.
Future Islands – “Last Christmas”
We promised you a Wham! cover and now you’ve got it. And look, there are once again a lot of covers of “Last Christmas” this year, but it’s Future Islands’ spin that does it best this time around. Maybe it’s because they don’t try to mess with George Michael timeless formula too much? Because it truly sounds like the soundtrack to an ’80s teen holiday movie. But perhaps it’s because Samuel T. Herring is one of the most engaging singers on the planet. And it’s not just an homage to the classic, it’s one that’s very much in the shape of the original.
Sam Smith – “Night Before Christmas”
Sam Smith can do no wrong. The LGBTQ+ icon just melted hearts with their subtle-but-powerful lyric tweak to “Stay With Me” at a Respect For Marriage Act celebratory performance on the wintery White House lawn. Now on this original holiday tune, Smith sings over a lush guitar and peaceful organ about a romantic evening in a fireplace-warmed living room. “Night Before Christmas” is also a part of Smith’s ongoing The Holly And The Ivy holiday compilation series, so we can expect more gems like this for years to come.
Remi Wolf – “Winter Wonderland”
Remi Wolf actually put out two holiday singles this year. But since we’ve already filled our quota of covers of Wham!’s “Last Christmas,” it’s her take on “Winter Wonderland” that we’ll highlight here. Wolf is clearly having a grand ol’ time on this classic, letting her vocal punctuations fly in elated space as she turns your speakers into a very cool holiday cabaret.
Emily King – “This Year”
If there were a theme to King’s new year-end tune, it’d be “treat yo-self!” The indie pop singer says that she, “…Wrote ‘This Year’ last New Year’s Eve after realizing I’d spent most of my time vying for the attention of someone who couldn’t love me back.” It celebrates getting comfortable with yourself and unapologetically thinking about your psyche first and foremost. It has a killer bridge as King sings, “This year gonna hit my stride, I’m livin in my best life, this year.”
Dave Grohl & Greg Kurstin – “Spinning Wheel” (featuring Judd Apatow)
The first song of Grohl & Kurstin’s yearly “The Hanukkah Sessions” for 2022 sees them being led by Apatow in a cover of Blood, Sweat & Tears’ 1968 flower child jam, “Spinning Wheel.” This was a live performance that took place at a full-on The Hanukkah Sessions event in Los Angeles earlier this month that’ll yield collabs with Beck, Pink, Karen O, and others for each of Hanukkah’s eight nights. Apatow was a gregarious vocalist, coming across like the beloved Krusty the Klown kicking off a holiday special. It’s a swell way to once again begin the delightful annual series.
Greeensleeves – “This Could Be Christmas (Slow)”
Back for its second year, Slow Xmas is a holiday comp produced by Blank Check with Griffin and David podcast producer Ben Hosley, where the prompt for the compilation had one demand: “Gotta be slow.” The artists take a range of interpretations on those directions: From Electric Santa’s krampus-slowcore “We Three Slow Kings,” or a very slowed-down Christmas tale by 99% Invisible podcast host Roman Mars, “A Slow Visit From St. Nicholas.” But it’s Greeensleeves’ “This Could Be Christmas” that drives slowly without feeling altered. A buzzing synth and heartbeat-like thump make the song feel like snuggling on a couch with a mulled wine in hand after a big meal.
Some of the artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.