Black Christmas Songs That Just Slap

Black Christmas Songs That Just Slap

Illustration for article titled Black Christmas Songs That Just Slap
Photo: Mat Hayward / Stringer (Getty Images)

Growing up, I knew the minute the Christmas tree was dragged into the house that Christmas songs would soon follow. And Christmas originals sung by Black artists are more than just fun yuletide ditties. They are immersive musical experiences that make it close to impossible to not get up and dance.

These following 10 songs go hard for a variety of reasons. Each one elicits a different emotion through the lyrics, music, and the degree to which I could personally belt this song out in my auntie’s living room. Christmas songs are not easy to write and that is doubly so for becoming hits. But these catchy and fun holiday songs have rhythm and melodies behind them that could expand beyond the Christmas season, which is what makes them so damn good.

So while Christmas 2020 may be full of some not-so-jolly times, the only real cure to the winter blues is to put on some of these dope-ass songs and do whatever makes you happy.

Advertisement

2 / 12

“This Christmas,” Donny Hathaway

“This Christmas,” Donny Hathaway

So this one is just a really great Christmas original. Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” feels like classic soul-era music that somehow captures the specific Tin Pan Alley essence that we all know and love. His mix of strings, horns, and piano makes it, in my mind, one of the best. To me, this song embodies what it means to be a kid on Christmas Eve. Something about the slightly delayed lyrics and punctuated “This Christ...mas” of the bridge reminds me of anticipating the next morning.

Advertisement

3 / 12

“What Christmas Means To Me,” Stevie Wonder

“What Christmas Means To Me,” Stevie Wonder

Wonder’s “What Christmas Means To Me” is exactly what you would expect a Stevie Wonder Christmas song to be. It’s full of big, brass sounds and his distinct voice singing about candles burning and mistletoe. His lyrics are what really make the song. For me, the repeated lyric, “all these things and more,” feels like a love letter to the holiday and the subject. Like Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” Wonder’s music blends soul and sleigh bells and blends it into the perfect holiday song.

Advertisement

4 / 12

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” Darlene Love

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” Darlene Love

This song brings me an immense amount of joy. The first time I heard it was in an episode of Fox’s New Girl where Darlene Love guest stars and sings this song to the cast. Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” will make you smile no matter how many times you listen to it. This song also reminds me of the feeling of trying to fall asleep the night before Christmas. There’s a nostalgia that the backup vocals have that not only reminds me of childhood, but of a time when we could all just… go home for Christmas.

Advertisement

5 / 12

“Back Door Santa,” Clarence Carter

“Back Door Santa,” Clarence Carter

I think we can all agree that even though Carter’s “Back Door Santa” has some questionable lyrics (“I make all the little girls happy while the boys are out to play”), it’s completely undeniable that you wouldn’t throw it back seconds after it was put on. In my opinion, it has one of the best basslines of all Christmas songs, second only to the song that samples it, Run-D.M.C’s “Christmas In Hollis.” But really, those lyrics are less than PC, but what good song doesn’t have controversial lyrics?

Advertisement

6 / 12

“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” The Jackson 5

“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” The Jackson 5

What do you think was going through Michael Jackson’s head when he first sang “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus?” I’d like to imagine he was standing there in the booth, swaying and snapping, with a look of slight horror on his little face. This song is the perfect example of a good storytelling song. If it started playing behind the scene of a Hallmark movie where the kids sneak down the stairs and the father figure was dressed as Santa, kissing all over the mom, I wouldn’t at all be surprised.

Advertisement

7 / 12

“Let It Snow,” Boyz II Men and Brian McKnight

“Let It Snow,” Boyz II Men and Brian McKnight

If you’re looking for that slow jam to get you in the Christmas mood, “Let It Snow,” by Boyz II Men and Brian McKnight, is that song. This song screams mulled wine and red velvet. This is one of the first songs I’ve come across that doesn’t utilize sleigh bells, but I think that works for this one. This isn’t a song that you’re going to dance to like “Back Door Santa,” but you’ll definitely be doing something.

Advertisement

8 / 12

“Christmas In Hollis,” Run-D.M.C

“Christmas In Hollis,” Run-D.M.C

Before I go into the childhood memories, we have to pay respect to this song and the amazing hook that has kept the Christmas spirit—and “Back Door Santa”—alive. “Christmas In Hollis” reminds me of my dad. For context, my dad only listens to music three ways: Amazon Music, Pandora Radio (with the ads), and his collection of 3,000 records. Growing up, he’d plug some iteration of “Black Christmas songs” into Pandora, and at some point, this would come up. Three long minutes of the running man later, he would walk over to where his laptop was and put it on again.

Advertisement

9 / 12

“Sleigh Ride,” TLC

“Sleigh Ride,” TLC

TLC can do no wrong. Even writing this, I’m dancing in my seat. Though this technically is a cover, it deserves recognition as a partial original because of the chorus. This song is a really good example of covering something with a spin. This is a song that you can’t help singing to because even if it’s your first time hearing it you know some of it from jump. And, “’Cause Santa’s tryin’ to mack in his (Cadillac)” is just an iconic line.

Advertisement

10 / 12

“8 Days of Christmas,” Destiny’s Child

“8 Days of Christmas,” Destiny’s Child

It’s the “a gift certificate to get my favorite CDs” on the third day of Christmas, for me. “8 Days of Christmas,” by Destiny’s Child, screams “rich auntie energy” and I am so here for it. It sets the bar high for what men should be doing for their girls. The only thing more iconic than the look on the white guy’s face when they bust into the toy store is the opener of, “Christmas is made for the children/Destiny’s Child.”

Advertisement

11 / 12

“All I Want For Christmas Is You,” Mariah Carey

“All I Want For Christmas Is You,” Mariah Carey

You didn’t think I’d forgot. I mean…c’mon.

Advertisement

12 / 12

DISCUSSION