Christmas music has come a long way throughout the course of its history. According to Billboard, the details around what the first Christmas song was are hazy. However, Christmas-themed music can be traced back to the fourth century but it wasn’t used in religious services until the 12th century.
Obviously, it has undergone lots of changes since then and has become a massive industry. Today, there is a never ending supply of Christmas tunes you can listen to, but there are some songs that have changed the way you think about and listen to Christmas music. These songs are a must for every Christmas music playlist. Everyone’s Christmas musical tastes are going to be different and everyone’s playlists will be different, but here’s a list of 10 Christmas songs that changed the genre.
- “Silent Night” – The Temptations
The Temptations’ 1980 recording of “Silent Night” is the only “Silent Night” we acknowledge; do not debate this! Seriously, if it doesn’t start with “In my mind…” we don’t want to hear it.
- “All I Want For Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey’s record-breaking Christmas song has become the Christmas song of the century. It came out in 1994 and has endured even in the digital age. These days, it’s fun for Mariah fans to tune in to Mariah Carey’s social media accounts on November 1 to watch her creative unveiling of the Christmas music season, with this song as the lead.
- “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” – James Brown
It’s not surprising that James Brown has a Christmas album, but what’s amazing about this 1968 song is that he managed to inject some social consciousness into what people often may think of as a genre that contains nothing but fluff and consumerism. On the surface, it’s easy to get lost in the melodious groove but it’s beautiful to listen to the lyrics. He’s singing about underserved children and how they deserve nice things too.
- “This Christmas” – Dru Hill
It’s hard to take on Donny Hathaway’s classic but at the same time, there are some versions that are really good. Enter Dru Hill. They took on this song and made it their own. They added Sisqo’s riffs and boosted the vocals with some ooh’s, aah’s and harmonies signature to their specific style and it worked. Once you hear this version, it’s hard to hear any other version without hearing Dru Hill’s extra vocal arrangements.
- “Christmas Rapping” – Kurtis Blow
This 1980 track appears to be the first documented Christmas song with a hip-hop twist, but it opened the door for other rappers like Run DMC, and more to get in on the fun.
- “Sleigh Ride”- TLC
Girl groups like the Ronettes, the Supremes and more had been making pop Christmas songs since the 60s and 70s. However, TLC came along in 1992 with a hip-hop style twist on Christmas caroling. “Sleigh Ride” is the perfect example of that.
- “Run Rudolph Run” – Chuck Berry
Rock and roll legend Chuck Berry changed the game with “Run Rudolph Run.” You cannot get through the Christmas season without hearing this song, whether it’s Berry’s original version or someone’s remake; this is the blueprint that set the tone for Christmas music with a rock and roll twist.
- “Christmas in the City” – Mary J. Blige ft. Angie Martinez
In 1997, Mary J teamed up with Angie Martinez for this ode to New York around Christmas time. What’s the Christmas music genre without the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul?
- “White Christmas” – The Drifters
Bing Crosby’s version got popular in 1942, but then The Drifters came along 12 years later and knocked it even further out of the park. The Drifters’ version is a quicker tempo, has extra vocal arrangements, falsetto and bass leads to die for.
- “8 Days of Christmas” – Destiny’s Child
Destiny’s Child took the tradition of 12 Days of Christmas and flipped it on its head with a poppy twist.