The most wonderful time of the year calls for a wonderful holiday party—and finally, the time has come. You’ve cleaned your house and gotten the food squared away in the kitchen, and now all you need is a solid, holiday-themed playlist.
Whether you’re an annual party host or cutting the crudité for the first time, anyone can use a hand when making a playlist fit for an evening of holiday cheer. Check out our five recommendations for a party playlist that will liven up the party until it’s time to leave.
Think outside the (gift) box
While every store you wander into this time of year may be blasting Mariah Carey, Michael Bublé, or Bing Crosby, that doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Outside the popular classics, there are some great—and slightly more subtle—options. Consider famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s album “Songs of Joy and Peace,” which includes a really cool version of “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” with ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro. She & Him’s “The Christmas Song” is irresistibly slow and bluesy, while Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal” is a popular offbeat choice. Then there’s Rufus Wainwright’s folky “Spotlight on Christmas.” Go exploring—there’s as much holiday music out there as there are presents in Santa’s workshop.
Consider your audience
Your guest list should determine the tone of your playlist. If your friends are more rock-leaning, look to harder-edge Christmas songs like The Killers’ “A Great Big Sled” and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Christmas All Over Again.” (Shameless plug: We’re pretty satisfied with Joan Jett’s cover of “Little Drummer Boy,” which she recorded for our Spotify Singles: Christmas Collection). There’s an abundance of awesome country music holiday tracks, too, Lady Antebellum’s “Holly Jolly Christmas” and Kacey Musgraves’ “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” among them. And if you’re hosting a sophisticated cocktail bash, you can’t go wrong with Jane Monheit’s “Moonlight in Vermont” or Frank Sinatra’s “Jingle Bells.”
It’s always fun to work in some tracks that will appeal to specific party guests. If one of your friends is nuts about Bruce Springsteen, why not add The Boss’s version of “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town”? Or if you have some Ariana Grande fans in the room (and what room doesn’t have at least three?), there are plenty of tracks to choose from on her 2015 album “Christmas and Chill.”
If kids will be at the party, be sure to include some favorites like “Frosty the Snowman,” and maybe skip any adult-themed tracks, like Albert King’s “Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’” (great jam, though).
Get on the a cappella train
While it’s always a good idea to mix up genres and eras in a party playlist, if you do plan to group songs a certain way—holiday classics, rocking Christmas, Bublé ballads—a good strategy for creating a transition is to pop in an a cappella track. There’s a crisp, layered feel to this type of vocal music, and it serves as a good palate cleanser before a shift in tone. Pentatonix’s “Mary Did You Know” and “Winter Wonderland/Don’t Worry Be Happy” are popular holiday-themed a cappella tracks with Spotify listeners. Also check out Straight No Chaser’s cheeky “Text Me Merry Christmas” (featuring Kristen Bell).
And finally …
Don’t overthink it
Holiday parties are supposed to be lighthearted. Just as a guest showing up in a deliberately awful Christmas sweater shouldn’t be mocked, nor should you be for grabbing a hairbrush and jumping on the couch to sing along to Wham’s “Last Christmas.” If fun is what you’re after, don’t shy away from the fun songs! If in doubt, position the “cheesier” selections further down so they coincide when the eggnog has truly kicked in.