Press play on the holiday

A collection of notable covers of classic holiday songs


Sophia Scheller

The holidays are quite the hot spot for the music industry. From replaying holiday classics to modern artists covering those classics, the holidays are a time to be brought together by music.

Jack Daws, Opinions Editor

The holiday season is known for its music. Though many of the songs typically played are classic hits from many years ago, current artists continue to contribute to the genre, sometimes writing their own songs, but often releasing covers of the classics. Some of these covers have become notable in their own right.

Run Run Rudolph, Luke Bryan (2008)

(Originally sung by Chuck Berry in 1958)

Luke Bryan’s country cover sticks to the original throughout the song, making an effort to match its energy. It leans heavier to the country style with Bryan’s crisp accent emphasized throughout, providing a distinct energy. The instrumental music is essentially the same, with the main distinction of the cover and the original being the voice of the singer. For full-on country music fans, this cover will fit great on any holiday playlist.

Holly Jolly Christmas, Michael Bublé (2011)

(Originally sung by Burl Ives in 1964)

Bublé’s cover of this Christmas classic is arguably more popular than the original. Bublé’s softer voice creates the cozy atmosphere of the song, with calming instrumentalism in the background. This cover is quite distinctive from the original, with the tempo changing throughout the song, unlike in the original.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Whitney Houston (2003)

(Originally sung by Judy Garland in 1944)

It is difficult to improve on Judy Garland’s iconic song, originally sung in her 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis. However, Houston’s has its own charm. The 2003 version is completely unlike the original, in the vocals, instrumental aspects, tempo, and overall style. Houston’s cover certainly belongs on any holiday hip-hop playlists.

Jingle Bell Rock, Rascal Flatts (2008)

(Originally sung by Bobby Helms in 1970)

Rascal Flatts’ cover is completely unique compared to the original. Even from the first second, the songs are barely comparable. Still, both are exciting and full of spirit, just with separately distinct styles.  

Santa Baby, Ariana Grande and Liz Gillies (2013)

(Originally sung by Eartha Kitt in 1953)

The original song is certainly a classic in its own right, mostly thanks to Kitt’s stellar vocals. That being said, Victorious co-stars, Grande and Gillies have incredible vocals to offer the track as well. While the original features the simplistic style of its time, the 2013 version is much more hip-hop and arguably the better option for dancing.

Last Christmas, Ariana Grande (2013)

(Originally sung by Wham! in 1984)

The original Last Christmas is objectively one of the greatest Christmas songs of all time, so it is hard for covers to measure up. However, in her cover, Grande makes the song her own, adding in some of her own lyrics with a totally different beat.

Last Christmas, Jimmy Eat World (2001)

(Originally sung by Wham! in 1984)

This cover speeds things up, with a much quicker tempo than the original. This cover also has a distinctive sound to it. With that being said, the two songs are also very similar, so it is simply up to personal choice to decide which to put on your personal holiday playlist.

Holly Jolly Christmas, Dolly Parton (2020)

(Originally sung by Burl Ives in 1964)

Dolly Parton’s cover makes use of her signature charm. Released in the singer’s A Holly Dolly Christmas album. Parton uses singing, humming, and spoken words to fill the song. It is hard to imagine any criticism of this song; after all, it is Dolly Parton.

Baby It’s Cold Outside, Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone (2003)

(Originally sung by John Mercer and Margaret Whiting in 1949)

The original, slow-jazz version of the song is a classic, though somewhat controversial. The cover, originally featured in the classic Christmas movie, Elf, keeps the slow-jazz style (and the controversial lyrics). The key difference is the vocals of the two duos. The original singers were more reserved but still elegant. The cover is campier, with Deschanel’s softer voice contrasting against Redbone’s deep, heavy voice.

The song Do They Know it’s Christmas? was originally recorded in 1984 to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief. It was sung by Band Aid, a group made up of some of the most popular musical artists of the time, including Bono, Boy George, Simon Le Bon, George Michael and Paul Young.

Since then, it has been re-recorded three times, each version also benefiting charities.

Do They Know It’s Christmas? Band Aid II (1989)

Released once again to aid relief efforts in the ongoing Ethiopian famine, this version included various artists of the time. This version has a more pop style, which sets it apart from the original, even while the similarities are very clear. This version also makes better use of its various artists, as it re-organized the song to showcase the vocal talents of so many artists.

Do They Know It’s Christmas? Band Aid 20 (2004)

The 2004 version once again aided famine relief. Twenty years after the original Band Aid, Band Aid 20 included Chris Martin (Coldplay), Paul McCartney and more. This version feels more heartfelt and soulful. The tempo is much slower, especially compared to the 1989 version. This version also overlaps more vocals, which allows for a more constant flow of voices, rather than short, fleeting bits of different voices.

Do They Know It’s Christmas? Band Aid 30 (2014)

The latest version of the song, recorded in 2014, raised money to help fight the Ebola Crisis in West Africa. Band Aid 30 included Elle Goulding, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and more. Unlike the previous versions, the lyrics were changed to fit the cause the song supported that year, the Ebola Crisis. The slightly darker lyrics combined with the even slower tempo creates a somber tone that reflects the seriousness of the crisis.