1980s, List, Holiday, Broadcaster, Broadcasting, Programming

Best 80s Holiday Songs

December is finally here. You know what that means...it's time for Live365 to roll out our holiday content! We love covering all the best holiday songs and radio tips during the most wonderful time of the year. Today, we're tackling a topic that is long overdue on the blog: the best 80s holiday songs.

There truly is no sound more distinctive than an 80s tune. The high production levels and iconic singers of the generation fit so nicely with the holiday season. It's a time of energy and joy, after all. And with cool synths, accomplished soloists, and a mix of popular genres like pop, rock, and hip-hop, 80s music has an abundance of energy and joy. There's no naughty 80s holiday tune...only nice ones! We hope you recognize some of the holiday bops on our list below. And if not, we hope you find your new favorite yuletide jam!

"Last Christmas" - Wham!

Probably the first song people think of when they hear the term "80s Christmas Songs." Wham! never fails to disappoint, and this is the kind of holiday tune that's required listening in order to get into the holiday spirit. The even mix of soft vocals, bouncy synths, and punchy percussion make for a sweet-yet-spicy listening experience. We can only compare this song to the feel of drinking a mug of peppermint hot chocolate: cozy with a kick.

"Hard Candy Christmas" - Dolly Parton

This is a Dolly Parton classic that was made for the motion picture The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. The phrase “hard candy Christmas” refers to a time when families who did not have much money could only afford to give hard candy or penny candy (bulk confectionery) to their children on December 25. The hard candy metaphor Dolly uses suggests that life can simultaneously be hard and sweet. This gorgeous ballad isn't just a song about the holiday season: it's a song about everyday life.

"Christmas In Hollis" - Run DMC

The 80s was the beginning of the hip-hop craze, and who ran that craze? Why, none other than Run DMC! If you're looking for a different kind of song to throw onto your holiday playlist, we highly recommend their boom-bap 1988 hit "Christmas In Hollis." The song appeared in the Bruce Willis film Die Hard but was not included on the Michael Kamen soundtrack album, though it was added as a bonus track on the 2011 reissue. Hollis, Queens is the home soil of Run-DMC. MSNBC producer Willie Geist, a regular on Morning Joe, called “Christmas in Hollis” his favorite holiday classic.

"Jingle Bell Rock" – Daryl Hall & John Oates

There are countless versions of this classic holiday song, but this version by Daryl Hall & John Oates is up there with the best of them. It may even be one of the best holiday songs of all time. "Jingle Bell Rock" has the perfect sound for vinyl record plays and Christmas tree decorating. From the swift piano work, riding percussion, and fun vocals, this song is nothing short of a bop. The track is a little over two minutes and feels relatively short, but it has a fitting end to close out the record.

"Merry Christmas Everyone" - Shakin' Stevens

One of many perennial Christmas classics in the United Kingdom. This underrated holiday track features heartfelt vocals and a full band with banging percussion and an outstanding saxophone solo. “Merry Christmas Everyone” actually had its original 1984 release delayed by 12 months in order to avoid clashing with the Band Aid song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, which Shakin’ Stevens contributed to.

"Do They Know It's Christmas?" - Band Aid

Speaking of "Do They Know It's Christmas?", it would be a crime not to include this song on our nice list! It's not very naughty, as it was written to raise money to help relief efforts for the famine raging in Ethiopia in the mid-80s. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, sung by supergroup Band Aid, broke several chart records and has been re-recorded many times, most recently in 2014 to help with the Ebola crisis. Featuring the vocal talents of Boy George, George Michael (then a member of Wham!), Sting, Bono, and more British stars, “Do They Know” went on to be a massive success, raising $10 million.

With its excessive synths, gated reverb drums, and a very catchy chorus, "Do They Know" is as 80s as it gets. While Boy George's lyrics about Africa are pretty outdated (why is it such a bad thing there's no snow in Africa, anyway?), this cheery song has remained a holiday standard thanks to its good intentions about helping the less fortunate during the season of giving.

"Do You Hear What I Hear?" - Whitney Houston

Many have covered "Do You Hear What I Hear?", but none have covered it quite like Whitney Houston, queen of pop. This will give you more chills than a winter wind. Whitney's rendition of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" has a slow-jam tempo, and the background vocals add to its dramatic energy. The percussion is stirring and has the perfect amount of reverb to support Whitney's belts. You can never go wrong with her undeniable talent – even if it's just a holiday song.

"Thank God It's Christmas" - Queen

Need a dose of Freddie Mercury's angelic vocals this holiday season? Look no further than Queen's 1984 song "Thank God It's Christmas." It was written by guitarist Brian May & drummer Roger Taylor. They both had ideas for a Christmas single around July 1984, and made demos for each of their visions. After listening to them back, they decided that Roger’s song – this song – was better. Brian May's creation later became his wife Anita Dobson’s song, “I Dream Of Christmas.”

"Wonderful Christmastime" - Paul McCartney

A holiday song that simply never fails to get you in the spirit. And of course, it's written by legendary singer-songwriter Paul McCartney! With those iconic warped synths, the record starts off with that classic 80s sound so many people love. This feel-good song effortlessly fits the theme of Christmas thanks to its jolly message, cutesy vocals, and intricate instrumental bits.

"It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"- Johnny Mathis

What sets apart Johnny Mathis' version of "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" from others is its whimsy. Y'know – that nostalgic 80s whimsy that comes along with being a kid wishing to explore. There's so many earwormy sounds to hear in the production, including beautiful flute melodies, sparkling bells, subtle well-placed synths, and a chorus of cheery carolers. This holiday staple is sweeter than a gingerbread cookie!

"Merry, Merry Christmas" – New Kids On The Block

C'mon – we're not going to make an 80s list without some New Kids On The Block! With vocal layers that can serenade anyone, this is one of the best 80s Christmas songs. And definitely the best Christmas song to come from a boy band. It offers a solid message that’s meant to unite people, and the song’s mix is crisp. This 1988 song will warm anyone's heart.

"2000 Miles" - Pretenders

This is a holiday song cool hipster kids listen to. The origin of this hidden gem is actually quite sad. From 1978 until 1982, Pretenders were Chrissie Hynde (vocals/rhythm guitar), James Honeyman-Scott (lead guitar/keyboard), Pete Farndon (bass), and Martin Chambers (percussion). In June 1982, Hynde and Chambers fired Farndon because he was refusing to treat his drug addiction. Honeyman-Scott went along with the decision, but a few days later died in an apparent overdose suicide. Then Farndon died of an overdose a few months later. "2000 Miles" was written for the dead friends Hynde missed. Additionally, some interpret this song to be about Christ, as the "He" could refer to Jesus, and the number 2000 is about the same amount of years since "B.C.", or "Before Christ." Either way, this is a tune about spirit and those who have passed on. It will make you fondly remember those who you used to spend the holidays with.

"Christmas Wrapping" – The Waitresses

Maybe the funkiest 80s holiday song ever made, "Christmas Wrapping" is a Christmas bop full of moxie. The Waitresses released this in 1982, and although it was initially dismissed as a Blondie-rip off and met with minimal chart success, "Christmas Wrapping" has grown in popularity to the point where it is now a seasonal staple. People love it for its quirky sound. With the coolest bassline ever put in a Christmas song, rockin' guitar melody, and Patty Donahue's cute vocals, you'll probably find yourself tapping your toes or singing along.

"Driving Home For Christmas" - Chris Rea

This snazzy, sleigh bell-heavy 1988 song may not be too well known, but it will definitely put you in a merry and bright mood as you drive home to your family for the holidays. Originally failing to hit the U.K. top 40, this song has since become a Christmas classic, reaching the Top 10 in many countries only recently. Its highest U.K. chart placing was #11 in December 2018. We love Rea's smoother-than-butter crooning, the riveting melody, and how excited it makes you feel for holiday gatherings.

"Merry Christmas Baby" – Bruce Springsteen

Last but not least, we're ending this list with a song from The Boss. "Merry Christmas Baby" is for the rockers looking for yuletide romance – or some old 80s Bruce. It's got a playful piano opening, strong saxophone, and some laid-back guitar that will make you feel as cool as Springsteen himself. Also, his vocals are scrumptious. We just wanna say..."Merry Christmas Baby" is the best!

We hope our 80s list has left you feeling holly and jolly. Have a happy holiday season, and keep tuning in to the blog for more holiday playlists and radio tips. Happy broadcasting!

Looking for some holiday music? We've got you covered! Head to Live365.com for a selection of holiday stations.

Ready to start your own station? Contact one of our Product Consultants or visit our website today. Keep up with the latest news by following us on Facebook (Live365 (Official) and Live365 Broadcasting) and Twitter (@Live365 and @Broadcast365)!

Article Image: In front of a red background, a puffed sleeve and white glove (similar to Santa Clause's costume) holds up a white cassette tape. (Ink Drop via Shutterstock.)

Author image

About Kathryn Milewski

  • New Jersey