What makes a good Christmas song?
Is it just a song's ability to spread seasonal cheer? Or is it simply its ability to keep you from taking a cheese grater to your ears after hearing it 500 times?
Personally, I think the truth is somewhere in between, but given the limited supply of popular holiday songs, it's a difficult balance to achieve.
Some of the classics are still great — "This Christmas" by Donny Hathaway and the work of the Vince Guaraldi Trio stand out as consistent Christmas playlist highlights. But there are certainly others that lean more into "cheese grater" territory.
Maybe the Christmas standards aren't to blame for holiday music woes. Maybe, just maybe, the Scrooges and Grinches of the world should be blaming the lack of new songs for that humbuggery.
Sure, there was that new R.Kelly Christmas album, but for those of us who want new X-mas music NOT about bangin', here are some Christmas albums by today's favorite artists that we would love to see in the future.
All I want for Christmas is new tunes.
1. Chance the Rapper
One of my favorite Christmas songs, as mentioned before, is Donny Hathaway's holiday classic "This Christmas." Given the song's international popularity, it's easy to forget where it came from. But Hathaway was from Chicago, and it's easy to see the city's rich soul heritage today in Chance the Rapper's music. Using the religious leanings and gospel influence of Chance's recent music, a collection of Christmas songs in that vein could make for an excellent seasonal experiment, especially with Chano's unconventional warble of a voice. And, of course, a "This Christmas" cover is essential.
2. Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift actually did release a Christmas album, The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection, back in 2007. But since then, she's gone from country music good girl to legitimate pop sensation, all but shedding the acoustic strumming and soft love songs that once defined Tay Tay's music. But Swift is as sharp a songwriter as ever, so it would be, at the very least, intriguing to hear some original Christmas songs that take advantage of her newfound, bombastic pop stylings. God knows my brother (Taylor Swift fan extraordinaire) would buy it.
3. Bon Iver
Christmas, but barely audible. That's how a Bon Iver Christmas album would likely go, and it would probably get an 11.6 from Pitchfork. Singer-songwriter Justin Vernon certainly possesses the subtlety and emotional depth to make a Christmas album work — after all, he's already used to recording in snowy cabins, which is ideal for crafting melancholy holiday music. In execution, a Bon Iver Christmas record would probably be a more haunting, beautiful version of Mark Kozelek Sings Christmas Carols but with less douchebaggery. Plus the potential for a Kanye feature has me oh-so-excited!
In December 2014, Virginia rapper D.R.A.M. released a goofy, lopsided grin of a Christmas carol called "#1HappyHoliday." Part love song, part holiday cheer, it shouldn't have been as good as it was. But something about D.R.A.M.'s joyfulness is infectious year round, and doubly so during the most wonderful time of the year. His music, like Chance's, is soulful and catchy, and his pop leaning could lead to some spectacular renditions of traditional songs. I'm not sure he could carry a full length Christmas album himself, but with a short runtime and plenty of features, I wouldn't count against Big Baby D.R.A.M. And if it culminates in you "making love this Christmas," then hey, so be it.