Some of us have been listening to Christmas music since September (with some of us being me, myself, and I), so I’ve been curating the perfect playlist of the best holiday songs to listen to.

These 10 songs will be rated by three specific criteria:

  • Jolliness: how joyful and merry does the song sound?
  • Theme: how creative and fun is the aspect of the holidays that this song is covering?

And finally,

  • Christmas Drive Material: can I picture myself driving through the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights listening to these songs?

Whether you’re looking forward to the snow or have been anxiously waiting for Thanksgiving to pass, here are the best songs you could be listening to during this holiday season, going in order from the lowest to highest ratings.

1. “Fa La La” by Justin Bieber and Boyz II Men

Everyone who grew up listening to Justin Bieber’s Christmas music can side with me when I say this era was peak-Bieber, and the inclusion of Boyz II Men was just genius. A rhythm and blues Christmas song will always come on top. Though the sound is lacking in jolliness, this song takes Christmas love songs to a whole new level. A modern, rhythmic song like this, while perfect for a Christmas party, isn’t exactly the mood for a Christmas drive; keep it on your playlist, though!

Jolliness: 6/10

Theme: 9/10

Christmas Drive Material: 3/10

Overall Rating: 18/30

2. “Sleigh Ride” by Miley Cyrus

When I saw Miley Cyrus in July, the most embarrassing part of me was waiting for her to perform this song. Seriously, what could make a song more jolly than singing “jing-a-ling-a-ling-a-ding-dong-ding”? The sleigh bells, and Cyrus’ interaction with the listeners throughout the song brings a joyful merriness to the song. I can’t say I’m a big fan of the theme. Even though it’s not the original, I promise, I am not paying much attention to lyrics about a sleigh when two minutes in we get Miley Cyrus herself asking us to sing along. When it comes to driveability, this song gets a rating on the lower side because of its lack of peacefulness—a drive with this song would be more like a concert than a lights viewing.

Jolliness: 10/10

Theme: 5/10 

Christmas Drive Material: 4/10

Overall Rating: 19/30

3. “I Am the Grinch” by Tyler, The Creator and Fletcher Jones

Who knew we needed a Christmas song from Tyler? He made an entire EP for Illumination’s “The Grinch,” and his take on the character was super creative. By no means do I think Tyler, the Creator is ever supposed to sound jolly, but it is a Christmas song, so of course there are bells to make up for that. What really impresses me about this song is Tyler’s interpretation and use of his signature sound for the Grinch; he’s known for pitching his voice when singing as he dislikes his singing voice, but he uses it in this song for some quotes representing the Grinch himself, and it’s accompanied by his usual synth and heavy bass. In my eyes (or ears?), the instrumental is literally perfect for cruising to see the Christmas lights.

Jolliness: 4/10

Theme: 8/10 

Christmas Drive Material: 10/10

Overall Rating: 22/30

4. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas” by Michael Buble

What a Christmas drive classic. This is another one you can expect to hear on one of those poster radio stations, and just hearing the title name and seeing the lights will make you think about how it is looking a lot like Christmas! The theme of the song is nothing too special, even though it’s a wonderful feeling when the season changes. It’s jolliness is docked a little bit because of how slow it is, but by no means does that take down its holiday cheer.

Jolliness: 7/10

Theme: 5/10

Christmas Drive Material: 10/10

Overall Rating: 22/30

5. “A Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives

Hello, this song says jolly in the name. Obviously, I’m gonna give it the highest possible jolliness rating. This song has by far the highest energy out of my selection. Burl Ives is practically yelling at us, but it’s in the most positive, uplifting way possible. Though the theme is nothing special—he’s just wishing us a Merry Christmas—the little instrumentals between the verses make the perfect viewing time during a Christmas drive.

Jolliness: 10/10 

Theme: 4/10

Christmas Drive Material: 10/10

Overall Rating: 24/30

6. “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey

I mean, is this not the jolliest song you’ve heard? I don’t know anyone who doesn’t know all the words to this song, and on a Christmas lights drive, I have no doubt that everyone in the car would be singing along and even doing the backing vocals. Even though we’ve all heard this song, the theme never gets old; there’s nothing more romantic than rejecting presents under the tree just to have a bae. Sign me up!

Jolliness: 10/10

Theme: 8/10

Christmas Drive Material: 7/10

Overall Rating: 25/30

7. “Like It’s Christmas” by Jonas Brothers

This pop hit held a No.1 spot on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Chart when it was first released, and rightfully so! The Jonas Brothers have never missed when it comes to new releases, and a Christmas release was a special addition to their recent discography. I love this song because while its lyrics are super romance-y, it doesn’t sound corny at all—however, while there’s no way the Jonas Brothers could stray from their signature pop sound, it’s a little too pop-y to be jolly. Still, the brass and bells make this song perfect Christmas lights drive material! It’d be a super happy drive through the neighborhood with this song.

Jolliness: 6/10

Theme: 10/10

Christmas Drive Material: 9/10

Overall Rating: 25/30

8. “Mele Kalikimaka – From The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show” by Kacey Musgraves and Zooey Deschanel

This cover of Bing Crosby’s appreciation for the holiday season in Hawaii was featured in Kacey Musgraves’ Christmas Show, where she had multiple celebrity appearances in performing multiple Christmas songs. The western swing Musgraves adds to this song makes it even more merry than it was before, and a duet between her and Zooey Deschanel is something I never knew I needed. Their tones suit each other perfectly, and the little dialogue they have in between is too cute. While this isn’t the original, the theme of this song is my favorite—showing and sharing appreciation for another culture’s celebration of a common holiday is something that everyone needs to hear. When it comes to the Christmas drive material, it’s a little hard to picture driving through the lights listening to it with all of the dialogue and breaks in between, but the singing parts are solid and jolly.

Jolliness: 10/10

Theme: 10/10

Christmas Drive Material: 6/10

Overall Rating: 26/30

9. “Not Just On Christmas” by Ariana Grande

In 2015, Ariana Grande invented Christmas with her six-track EP “Christmas & Chill.” While the entire extended play has some of the best Christmas songs I’ve ever heard, “Not Just On Christmas” always comes up as number one for me. Not only is it adorable to have a song about being in love all year round, but the strings and bells curate the most beautiful, relaxed melody—if only it was a bit longer than a short two minutes! While the merry song is lovely for a drive, an extra verse would make it perfect.

Jolliness: 9/10

Theme: 10/10

Christmas Drive Material: 8/10

Overall Rating: 27/30

10. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams

For my family and me, when we’re setting up our Christmas tree and other decorations, this is a personal favorite. And yes, it ranks perfect in every category! The song is joyous and jolly with its brass instruments and choir, and there’s nothing more positive than lyrics emphasizing what a great time of year the holidays are. This classic is cheery and simple, and there’s no better song to cruise around to while watching the house decorations. If any of the houses you see have a radio station posted outside for you to see their lights sync up, I guarantee you will hear this song.

Jolliness: 10/10

Theme: 10/10

Christmas Drive Material: 10/10

Overall Rating: 30/30

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My name is Tori Trevino, and this is my second year being a part of the 42Fifty staff. This is my senior year of high school, and I am involved in school activities like Speech Team, NHS, Mu Alpha Theta, and Democracy School. My love for music and film made my role as Arts and Entertainment editor last year so much fun, and I am beyond excited to be Editor-in-Chief for 42Fifty this year!

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