Christmas music has a special magic. Whether you're cozying up by a crackling fire or hosting a holiday gathering, putting on a Christmas album adds instant cheer. You probably even have favorite albums you return to year after year, but maybe you're looking for fresh tunes for a holiday party or just want to see what else is out there. The world of Christmas music is wide and wonderful, and it's never a bad time to expand your collection.
Our number one pick is the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Full of jazzy Christmas standards and original songs, this album is warm, energetic, and comforting. It can take you on a wintry adventure or easily meld into the background to create a festive ambiance. See our other picks below for some more classic (and not-so-classic) picks. And if you're having trouble choosing an album, check out our buying guide for tips!
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There's a huge range of Christmas music, from classical songs to modern pop tunes. While the music you choose is ultimately up to personal preference, deciding what type of music you want to hear can help narrow down the playing field. Here are some things to consider when choosing a Christmas album.
Do you like the nostalgia of traditional Christmas tunes, or are you craving something new and different? Or maybe you want a mix of both!
When we think of Christmas music, our mind often goes to classic tunes like “White Christmas” or “Little Drummer Boy.” If you like the nostalgic feeling of familiar songs, look for an album that contains traditional Christmas music.
This type of music can remind us of all of the Christmases past and make us feel safe, peaceful, and joyful. And classic Christmas music doesn’t have to be limiting! Within the realm of traditional Christmas songs, there are many different genres, including jazz, pop, and country.
If you want some tunes to set the Christmas mood but are tired of hearing the same songs over and over, consider checking out some original Christmas music. Plenty of artists are writing new songs that embody the spirit of the holidays.
New Christmas songs can spice up your holiday gatherings and even serve as a conversation starter. If you’re curious about hearing some original Christmas music but don’t want to fully commit, many artists have Christmas albums that include a mix of standards and original songs.
Think about the mood you want to set with your Christmas album. Are you decorating the tree? Curling up by the fire? Baking batch upon batch of gingerbread cookies?
The fire is crackling, the Christmas lights are twinkling, and snow is falling outside your window. On chilly winter nights, the soothing sounds of jazz and classical can turn your home into a cozy den. For peaceful tunes, less is more. Think slow melodies, lush instrumentals, and understated arrangements.
If you like jazz, look for albums featuring soft sounds like piano or saxophone. For classical Christmas music, you could go orchestral with suites like Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” Or you could opt for a more minimal feel with piano or string renditions of popular Christmas songs.
Jazz and classical music can include singers too. If you like vocals with your instruments, look for albums that include a jazz singer or a classical choir. Often, jazz and classical albums will feature a specific orchestra or group and may include songs from just one composer or multiple composers.
If you prefer vocal-focused music but still want a relaxed vibe, easy listening and soul music feature slow tempos and smooth-as-honey vocals. Travel back in time with Christmas classics by crooners like Frank Sinatra or go for more recent singers like Michael Bublé.
If you prefer your Christmas tunes to be a tad funkier, albums by soul music greats like Aretha Franklin or Sam Cooke can be laid back but still catchy. You can also find many modern R&B Christmas albums, which typically feature more rhythmic beats than their old soul relatives.
Easy listening and soul albums usually focus on a single vocalist, who may perform standards as well as their own original holiday songs.
Sometimes you just want to rock around the Christmas tree. Whether you’re throwing a holiday party or want a boost of yuletide joy, rock or pop Christmas music can create an energetic and cheerful mood. Well-known pop singers will often create their own Christmas albums so you can hear their take on the holiday’s hottest hits.
Pop Christmas albums typically focus heavily on the vocals and include a mix of traditional and original songs. If you prefer rock music, look for a Christmas album by one of your favorite bands. These albums will usually feature electric guitars and heavier drums and may take more creative liberties with classic songs.
If a genre exists, there’s very likely a Christmas album for it! Aside from the more traditional options, you can find Christmas albums for kids, comedy Christmas albums, and albums made by artists who you would never expect to make a Christmas album (like Snoop Dogg and MxPx).
These can be a fun option for parties or just to shake things up. These types of albums are often made with a sense of humor and can be a great conversation starter. If you want to check them out, look for an album made by an artist you’re familiar with or in a genre you already like.
You can find Christmas albums made by a single artist or albums that are a compilation of Christmas songs by different artists. Both are excellent options!
If you’re looking for an album made by a single artist, it helps to have a specific singer or musician in mind. You can then search to see if they’ve put out a Christmas album. If you’re a fan of the artist, it can be fun to hear their take on Christmas standards. Some artists also include their own original songs.
If you have a specific genre or theme in mind, a compilation album will let you explore music by multiple singers and musicians. Compilations are often organized based on genre or record label; some are curated by a well-known figure. Compilations are perfect for parties since there's no need to put together a playlist!
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Vince Guaraldi Trio
A Charlie Brown Christmas
A Jazzy Christmas Classic for Cozy Winter Nights
Nat King Cole
The Christmas Song (Expanded Edition)
Smooth Holiday Standards for All Activities
A Motown Christmas
Upbeat Motown Renditions of Christmas Favorites
A Modern Classic With Pop and Gospel Influences
A Christmas Festival
A Festive Collection of Standards and Classical Compositions
A Bundle of Songs to Bring the Christmas Cheer
A Legendary Christmas
An Album of Updated Classics and New Sounds
A Pentatonix Christmas Deluxe
Holiday Favorites Done A Cappella
The Ventures' Christmas Album
A Soundtrack for Christmas at the Beach
Home For Christmas
A Catchy Christmas Album for Pop Music Lovers
Nostalgic without being cloying and classic without the kitsch, A Charlie Brown Christmas perfectly encapsulates the feeling of a holiday that's both festive and cozy. Recorded by jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, this album is the soundtrack to the 1965 Charlie Brown television special, but it easily stands on its own.
The album contains original compositions by Guaraldi as well as renditions of traditional tunes like "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing." Guaraldi's expressive piano playing is at the forefront, grounded by minimal instrumentation including bass, drums, and an occasional choir. Pair this album with hot cocoa and a crackling fire.
Reviewers called this album a true Christmas classic. They praised Guaraldi's elegant style and ability to create music that's both joyous and melancholy. They said this album works well as engaging background music. And it's great for listeners of all ages, from children to adults who want to take a trip down memory lane.
Christmas has become almost synonymous with the opening lines of this album's title song. "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire," Nat King Cole croons, and we're immediately transported to a winter wonderland full of festive cheer and tranquil meditation.
Backed by lush strings, Cole makes his way through 19 classic Christmas carols, including peaceful ballads like "Silent Night" as well as jubilant tunes like "Deck the Hall." This album is sure to bring on the warm fuzzy feelings, and it's the perfect backdrop to a quiet winter evening or a gathering of friends and family.
Reviewers loved this album from start to finish, praising Cole's velvety baritone and Ralph Carmichael's arrangements of traditional tunes. Many reviewers said this album carries emotional weight for them; all they need to do is press play, and everything feels like Christmas.
Christmas is a time for joy, and A Motown Christmas brings the festive cheer with bright renditions of classic favorites. This compilation album features 25 songs by Motown Records' greatest, including "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" by The Jackson 5 and the shimmering "Silver Bells" sung by The Supremes.
Tinkling bells, delicate strings, and backup vocals feature heavily in this collection, infusing each song with wintry magic. But don't mistake these songs for traditional carols. Each song is spiced up - a groovy bassline here, a shuffling drumbeat there - to create an addictive sound that will have you tapping your toes to the beat.
Some reviewers wished that this compilation included a wider variety of artists. However, most of them thought that this was a wonderful collection of holiday music with a Motown sound. They said it immediately put them in a festive mood and was the perfect soundtrack for parties.
It's notoriously difficult to write a modern Christmas song. After all, classics are classics because they've been part of the canon for so long. But in Merry Christmas, Mariah Carey achieved the near-impossible with the much loved "All I Want for Christmas Is You," now one of the best selling singles of all time.
The rest of the album is a contemporary take on holiday classics, drawing on gospel and R&B influences and supported by Carey's soaring vocals. Between the Motown groove of "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" and the exuberant gospel of "Joy to the World," this is an album you'll want to hear all the way through.
Some reviewers only liked a few songs on this album and weren't fans of the gospel style. However, most reviewers praised this album, saying that it was beautifully designed, performed, and recorded.
In addition to the hit single, they loved Carey's renditions of Christmas standards, saying they were full of joy, beauty, and well-considered vocal flourishes. Many called this album a Christmas must-have!
If you love the drama of a full symphony, look no further than A Christmas Festival with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. Through 17 tracks, they explore jaunty Christmas carols like "Winter Wonderland" and well known classical pieces like "Greensleeves" and "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy."
This is a vivid and varied album that moves easily between triumph and melancholy. The horns blare out, the strings sing, and the woodwinds dance. A choir joins in to lend soaring vocals to winter hymns. Even if classical music isn't your thing, you'll likely be surprised by how many of these songs you recognize!
Reviewers loved this album's range, noting vigorous, gentle, elegant, and sentimental tones from song to song. They found the arrangements to be clever while still staying true to the spirit of the originals. And they thought this album was great for nearly any Christmas activity.
Christmas music often feels timeless, and that's the case with The Carpenters' Christmas Collection. A re-release of two previous Christmas albums, this collection combines Karen Carpenter's heartfelt vocals with fifties harmonies and orchestral flourishes to create an album that's an instant classic.
The albums move between upbeat carols like "Sleigh Ride," hymnals like "Silent Night," and jazzy standards like "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve," interspersed with instrumental songs. This makes for an engaging album that can create a backdrop for festive activities or function as the centerpiece for listening.
Some reviewers were disappointed that this collection didn't contain more songs with Karen singing. Others felt that the album was unnecessarily long and could have included fewer songs.
However, many reviewers thought the addition of an orchestra and choir was a beautiful way to round out the sound. They also found Richard's piano arrangements to be striking. And of course, everyone praised Karen's beautifully clear and emotive voice.
Add a little soul to your Christmas celebrations with John Legend's A Legendary Christmas. One of the more recent albums on our list, it contains a delightful combination of holiday standards, like the joyful take on "Silver Bells," and original songs, featuring artists like Stevie Wonder and Kelly Clarkson.
The album merges classical instruments, like strings and piano, with neo-soul rhythms to create an upbeat and groovy sound. Legend's honeyed vocals bring new life to old classics, aided by punchy horns and funky basslines. Throw this on at a party for a fun and cheerful vibe.
Some reviewers weren't fans of the style of these songs, saying that the covers veered too much into pop territory. Some wished that they had been done in a more traditional style. Others didn't like the original songs.
However, most reviewers loved Legend's unique take on classic songs, saying this album was refreshing and original. Many liked the fun, dancey spirit of the album and thought Legend's vocals were lively and beautiful. For those who were already fans of John Legend, this album was a home run.
A cappella meets pop in A Pentatonix Christmas, an upbeat exploration of Christmas music sans instruments. Pentatonix got their start in 2011, creating a cappella covers of modern pop songs. In this album, they use their vocal talents and creative arranging techniques to take on several Christmas classics.
Beatboxed rhythms add a kick to traditionally sober songs like "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and "Away In a Manger." Dense harmonies and layered vocals lift up familiar melodies. Pentatonix fearlessly takes on all genres, from a doo-wop rendition of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" to a haunting cover of Kanye West's "Coldest Winter."
Some reviewers found this album to veer too far from their expectations of Christmas music, saying that they wished for more traditional arrangements of the classic songs. Others thought that the group tried to do too much with their sound and would have preferred something simpler.
However, many reviewers thought this was the best Pentatonix Christmas album. They praised the ingenious arrangements and the eclectic vocal style of the singers. They appreciated that the group wasn't afraid to take risks and make something unique. And many found this album to be common ground for listeners of all ages.
Hang ten for the holidays with the surf sounds of The Ventures' Christmas Album. The Ventures are well known for popularizing the use of the electric guitar in the sixties, and in this album, they apply their fuzz pedals and flangers to some of the most common Christmas classics.
They stick mostly to jolly holiday songs like "Jingle Bells" and "Frosty the Snowman," augmenting familiar melodies with guitar licks that will make you feel more like surfing than sleighing. Like all Ventures albums, this one is heavy on the guitar and fully instrumental.
Reviewers raved about this sunny album and The Ventures' unique take on traditional holiday tunes. Many were already fans of the band, but new listeners were equally as enchanted. They loved that this album isn't like most other Christmas albums and even incorporates pieces of famous rock songs.
You might be on team *NSYNC or team Backstreet Boys, but only one of these iconic boy bands made a Christmas album. And of course, we have to include it on this list! In Home for Christmas, the band turns to holiday themes - joy, gratitude, and love - while retaining their signature catchy melodies and pop rhythms.
Home for Christmas contains largely original songs with just a few traditional tunes like a beautiful a cappella version of "O Holy Night." There's the upbeat pop of "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" and the wistful balladry of "In Love on Christmas." It's not a subtle album, but has Christmas ever been a subtle holiday?
Some reviewers thought this album missed the mark. They said that the highlights were few and far between and thought the original songs were cheesy. Others weren't fans of the overall sound and instrumentation.
However, most reviewers had a soft spot in their heart for this album. They loved the boy band vocals and said the harmonies were beautiful. They enjoyed the mix of traditional, original, slow, and upbeat songs. And some reviewers who listened out of nostalgia found that their own children loved these songs too!
Don't forget the cookies and the Christmas lights! Get holiday-ready and check out some of our other favorite Christmas products.
No. 1: Vince Guaraldi Trio | A Charlie Brown Christmas | Remastered & Expanded Edition
No. 2: Nat King Cole | The Christmas Song (Expanded Edition)
No. 3: Various Artists | A Motown Christmas
No. 4: Mariah Carey | Merry Christmas
No. 5: Arthur Fiedler | A Christmas Festival
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