Back to Pentatonix
Christmas playlist

Posted: December 19, 2012 - 6:00pm

By - Chip Chandler

As sure as Santa’s readying his sleigh and silver bells are pealing everywhere, singers of all stripes, either eager to spread cheer or cash in, release Christmas albums in droves every year.

2012’s no different, but this year may boast the most eminently mockable one of the millennium: Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta’s “This Christmas.”

Since the era of the album is fast declining, we won’t take time to recommend any of this year’s full albums. Instead, enjoy this playlist of the year’s top holiday tracks.


“Merry Christmas Baby” by Colbie Caillat and Brad Paisley, “Christmas in the Sand”: Caillat and Paisley find a nice groove on this bluesy classic.

“Carol of the Drum” by Polyphonic Spree, “Holidaydream”: Dreamy and, occasionally odd, but this reworking of “Little Drummer Boy” is a must.

“Go Tell It on the Mountain” by Francesca Battistelli, “Christmas”: The Christian artist’s soulful work on this classic hymn is a standout.

“Sleigh Ride” by fun., “Christmas Rules”: One of the year’s biggest new bands contributes a catchy, electronica-tinged arrangement of this standard to an album filled with indie rock giants.

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta and Barbra Streisand / “This Christmas” Travolta’s at his least weird on this track, which automatically makes it the album’s
standout, even without the still-glorious sound of Streisand’s voice.

“Hard Candy Christmas” by Tracey Thorn, “Tinsel and Lights”: Thorn’s entire album is recommended for fans of warmly melancholy Christmas songs, but this version of Dolly Parton’s holiday work is impeccable.

“Angels We Have Heard on High” by Jewel, “A Very Special Christmas 25”: A whispery, spare take on a lovely hymn.

“Joy to the World” by The Oak Ridge Boy, “Christmas Time’s a-Comin’”: The Boys aren’t kids anymore, but their harmonies are still tight and, despite the album’s over-reliance on cheese, they can still turn out a good song.

“This Christmas” by CeeLo Green, “CeeLo’s Magic Moment”: Green’s album is a little spotty, but this Motown-influenced take on Donny Hathaway’s modern classic is an easy highlight.

“The Christmas Song” by Paul McCartney, “Christmas Rules”: Sir Paul’s the oldest artist, by far, to be featured on this indie collection, but his buttery take on this standard sets a high bar to clear.

“O Holy Night” by Pentatonix, “PTXmas”: “The Sing-Off” winners have plenty of highlights on their a cappella EP (including an inventive “Carol of the Bells”), but this rich take on the beloved hymn is tops.

“Blue Christmas” by Blake Shelton, “Cheers, It’s Christmas”: Shelton gives good Elvis on this track, featuring background vocals by the Pistol Annies.

“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” by Sufjan Stevens, “Silver & Gold”: The indie idol’s love of Christmas music is expansive. His takes won’t be for everyone, but this track brings to mind a family singalong.

“All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Lady Antebellum, “On This Winter’s Night”: With all due respect to Mariah Carey’s buoyant original, the country band’s tight harmonies transform this song into a gorgeously beseeching ballad.

“Marshmallow World” by Francesca Battistelli, “Christmas”: A bubbly, “Wall of Sound”-influenced arrangement of a sweet favorite.

“The First Noel” by Lady Antebellum, “On This Winter’s Night”: A simple, heartfelt arrangement that lets the classic hymn stand on its own.

“I Want You for Christmas” by Cheap Trick, “A Very Special Christmas 25”: Gotta have at least one shameless money-grab on the list, and this one — which reworks the band’s big hit in a jaw-droppingly crass manner — really has to be heard.

“Do You Hear What I Hear” by Steven Curtis Chapman, “Joy”: Christian icon Chapman’s album definitely lives up to its name, and this one is no exception, with its build to a huge finish.

“Oklahoma Christmas” by Blake Shelton and Reba McEntire, “Cheers, It’s Christmas”: The good buddies and fellow Okies merge well on this new track, perfect for a two-steppin’ time around the tree.

“Bethlehem Skies” by Dara Maclean and Dave Barnes, “A Very Special Christmas”: Here’s one from an artist just recently featured in Get Out!, a catchy, evocative original about the birth of Jesus.

“River” by Tracey Thorn, “Tinsel and Lights”: Because you have to have one version of this Joni Mitchell classic, and Thorn’s is just heartbreaking. (See also: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”)

“All I Need Is Love” by CeeLo Green and The Muppets, “CeeLo’s Magic Moment”: This one’s a bit of a hot mess — OK, more than a bit — but it’s got the Muppets, so who can resist?

“Let It Snow” by Scotty McCreery, “Christmas with Scotty McCreery”: This recent “American Idol” winner’s deep country croon pairs well with the swinging arrangement of this holiday love song.

“Auld Lang Syne” by Rod Stewart, “Merry Christmas, Baby”: The decline of Stewart continues apace with his first Christmas album, but this anthemic, bagpipe-laden New Year’s song somehow works.