Is there a more tired playlist than your family’s annual holiday music sampler? For many of us, traveling home for the holidays ensures that we’ll not only endure some passive-aggressive familial exchanges we normally spend the rest of the year avoiding; it also means having our ears filled with a list of songs that probably haven’t changed much, if at all, since childhood. And while this can be a warm, welcome blanket of nostalgia at times (hello, A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, old friend), it can also feel a bit calcified. Sure, no one will probably ever surpass Bing Crosby’s original version of “White Christmas” when it comes to pure aural iconography, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like to hear someone try.
And so, we here at The A.V Club have once more dug through the voluminous onslaught of holiday-themed music released over the past year (most of it in the past two months, understandably), in order to find the songs we think you might enjoy adding to the annual rotation. We’ve striven to provide a sampler platter of different genres, styles, and sounds, in hopes that you might find a few keepers—if one track doesn’t suit your mood, hopefully the next one will. These range in spirit from new interpretations of Christmas standards to music that you might not even realize had anything to do with the holidays, unless you listened to the lyrics.
There was only one real condition for inclusion on the following playlist: The song had to be released in 2021. That means we had to pass on a few very recent classics (sorry, Alessia Cara’s “Make It To Christmas”), as well as some songs that were spawned from the pandemic but were technically from 2020, no matter how unfortunately apt they may still be for some. (Wallis’ “Lonely Christmas” might not be a holiday staple yet, but given she’s only 16 years old, it’s safe to say she’s got plenty of time.) Here are the newest holiday tracks to liven your seasonal mood—whether you’re gathering around the tree with loved ones, or just hitting the eggnog hard and looking forward to the year being over.
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