5 Alternative Holiday Songs

5 Alternative Holiday Songs

December 09, 2019 | Blog

1.  Billie Eilish: “Come Out and Play”

The enigmatic, brooding teenage sensation Billie Eilish is not someone you would expect to release a song for the holidays. But last year, she released a calming ballad called “Come Out and Play” as part of Apple’s “Share Your Gifts” holiday campaign. It retains some of Eilish’s signature dark elements, with haunting vocals that sound like she’s whispering in your ear. With little lines like “Wake up and smell the coffee” and “Look up, out of your window, see snow,” the beautiful track feels fitting for the season

2.  Lizzo: “Never Felt Like Christmas” 

Lizzo’s unique charisma has made her an icon in the worlds of hip-hop, soul, R & B, and pop. Three years ago, before she’d climbed the charts to fame, she released “Never Felt Like Christmas.” The song includes modern production, with percussive snaps, and a soulful, attitudinal singing style that’s rare in holiday music. Lizzo makes classic holiday references to “The Nutcracker” and “Miracle on 34th street,” but puts her own spin on things, with lyrics like “Never cared for jingle bells or picking out a tree. I would rather paint my nails and watch some bad TV.” At the same time, she does lean into the holiday spirit: “But now I’m singing, bells are ringing, everything is new.” This track makes a fun addition to your holiday listening. 

3.  The Flaming Lips: “Peace on Earth / Little Drummer Boy”

The Flaming Lips created their own version of the holiday medley originally recorded in 1977 by Bing Crosby and David Bowie for a Christmas special. The Lips’ version includes the classic percussions and harmonies you would expect, but with their own alternative tone. The falsetto notes give the song a nontraditional feel, as does the voice distortion that appears halfway through the track. This song is great to play for people who like their Christmas standards, while also pleasing music-lovers who want something with a bit of edge. Streaming the music video, full of trippy colors and Roman soldier outfits, is also sure to get a conversation going. 

4.  James Blake: “Vincent

English singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, and producer James Blake releases highly produced songs one minute and stripped-down piano ballads the next. Two years ago, on Christmas Eve, he released a cover of Don McLean’s “Vincent” and wished fans happy holidays. The cover features beautiful piano chords and a vocal take that is animated at times, hushed at others, and full of bluesy riffs and alternate notes. Some of the song’s lyrics are not exactly cheery and bright: “Now I understand what you tried to say to me. How you suffered for your sanity.” But something about the song’s opening words, “Starry starry night,” as well as its warmth, make the tribute to Vincent van Gogh a fitting track to spin for the season. 

5.  Jack Johnson: “New Axe”

Releasing music for nearly 20 years, Jack Johnson is known for his soft rock style. This month, he released a song for the holidays that’s folky, bouncy, and also sort of serene. The song opens with the lyrics, “I got myself a new axe for chopping all this wood that’s going in that fire.” It immediately evokes sitting around with family and friends in a cozy home in a way that makes your heart feel warm. Soft bells come in during the chorus while he sings “and all our loved ones all around us.” To keep the song feeling somewhat modern and alternative, he layers in little guitar riffs that cut through the folksiness. Throw it on your holiday playlist and give it a listen while curled up with a blanket and some hot chocolate.

Jason Lee Menard
Jason Lee Menard

The attraction is only natural.

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