12 Modern Christmas Songs That Are Better Than Mariah Carey

Want to tell the Little Drummer Boy where he can stick his drumsticks?

Hoping that if Michael Buble lets it snow, he’ll be covered by an avalanche?

Is Mariah Carey the last thing you want for Christmas?

Personally, we like James Brown’s Clean for Christmas from his album Funked Up Christmas because why wait until the new year to detox?

If the festive muzak has you wanting to strangle the nearest red-nosed reindeer too, put the headphones on and listen up.

Here are 12 songs to save your sanity, but still keep the festive mood.

How to Make Gravy by Paul Kelly

The Australian national bard’s bittersweet song of yearning, family, love and misadventure has an anthemic quality, as well as a sense of cicadas in the summer heat. Get the guitar out on Christmas arvo and sing along.

White Wine In The Sun by Tim Minchin

As usual the Australian comic and musician doesn’t hold back, with sharp observations about “the Westernisation of a dead Palestinian press-ganged into selling Playstations and beer”, plus a serious dig at organised religion, but in between it’s a sweetly gentle song about family and how he really likes Christmas.

2000 Miles by KT Tunstall

As KT Tunstall says: “Here’s a song good enough to not be a Christmas song”. Originally by The Pretenders – Chrissie Hynde gives good heartache, longing and joy – it’s simply a beautiful song, full stop.

Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis by Tom Waits

Worth it for Tom’s husky rendition of Silent Night in the lead up to this amusing, melancholic, brilliant down-and-out love story. It’s the American How to Make Gravy.

The Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth by Bing Crosby & David Bowie

How’s this for a strange pairing? Listen for the lead up jokes, like Bing asking if the Thin White Duke likes old music and he says yeah, John Lennon…
A great little duet that shows you can rework a classic with style.

Fairytale of New York by The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl

Lilting, brutal, funny, melancholic- “Happy christmas your arse I pray god it´s our last” – this otherwise rollicking and fine duet of addiction, lost hope and opportunity has the ability to make you both smile and tear up.
And miss the late MacColl’s fine voice.
WARNING: Some NSFW lyrics that may cause offence

Carol Of The Bells by The Bird And The Bee

This Californian indie pop duo give a shimmering, Cocteau Twins-like feel to an old four-note Ukrainian folk chant that’s been adapted countless times over the last 90 years.

Su la cetra amorosa by Tarquinio Merula

Merula was a 17th century early Baroque Italian composer of dubious morality when it came to his students. Yet this jaunty madrigal skips with a joy that’s an antidote to the sombre, cheesy carol crooners. The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra performs a fine version on its A Brandenburg Christmas album.

Driving home for Christmas by Saint Etienne

Older readers may recognise this song was originally by husky-voiced Chris Rea. This sweet makeover by this English pop trio, features on the cheekily titled A Glimpse of Stocking, a Christmas album released three years ago for fans only. Thankfully, the digital version is now for sale (or hear it on MySpace).

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Johnny Cash

Look, if we’re going to go there, the Man in Black is the guy I want to follow, especially with the “best Christmas present I ever had – June Carter Cash” in a duet. From the good ol’ days of TV Christmas specials. And for the religiously inclined, that’s Rev Billy Graham on the lounge chair.

Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto by Snoop Dogg

The artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg captures the Snoopgeist with his rapping medley of classic Christmas lines mingled with his funked up references to life in the ghetto. (Thanks to @merz22 for suggesting it).
Everyone sing along now: “On the first day of Christmas my homeboys gave to me…”

Christmas Song by Tinavie

With its Cafe del Mar-chilled beats, simple melody and Kate Bush-esque vocals, this Russian band’s song doesn’t have much to do with the season except for its regular plugs for December 25. Chillax and enjoy.

What would you add to this list?

Merry Christmas all.

* Originally published in 2013 as 12 Christmas songs to save you running screaming from the room.

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