It’s the most wonderful time of the year—Capricorn season! Just kidding, it’s the holiday season: a time for joy, reflection, rest and some of the indisputably BEST music ever made. Winter queen Mariah Carey’s smash hit “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is topping the Billboard Hot 100 for a 10th consecutive week. It’s got all the makings of a great holiday song: catchy lyrics, an earworm of a beat and vocality that makes you want to sing along. But there’s even more holiday cheer to go around with these queer holiday songs that will make any yuletide gay.
Here are the best holiday songs by queer artists, perfect for however you celebrate.
“Holiday”—Lil Nas X (2020)
Lil Nas X has a song for every occasion, including holiday festivities. The 2020 single was his first since the height of his “Rodeo” era, showing that his creativity and ability as an artist was more than being a one-hit wonder. While many original holiday songs tend to lean heavily on classic carols, Lil Nas X teamed up with producer Tay Keith and duo Take a Daytrip to create something truly fresh and new. The festive braggadocious track pairs well with decking the halls and magnificent eggnog.
“Make It Jingle”—Big Freedia (2016)
Look no further if you are looking for a fun holiday anthem that will get you twerking under the mistletoe. This holiday season, jingle it all the way with the Louisiana bounce supreme, Big Freedia. This track flips the classic “Jingle Bells,” making it a club anthem that works well while decorating your tree or baking delicious gingerbread cookies.
“Last Christmas”—Wham! (1984)
No holiday season is complete without this classic from Wham! The iconic U.K. pop duo of Andrew Ridgeley and the late George Michael released this holiday anthem in 1984. Although the song is about a failed relationship, there’s a hopeful message for new beginnings and lessons learned. While heartbreak overshadowed Christmas the previous year, they’ll give their heart to someone truly special and worth it this year. The ’80s synth-pop track has been covered numerous times, but nothing beats the original.
“Naughty”—Kidd Kenn & Pap Chanel (2022)
Naughty or nice, this holiday-themed, booty-popping track gives us the gift of music from Kidd Kenn & Pap Chanel. Released this year for the Def Jam holiday album, Def the Halls, with an accompanying lyric video of the two rappers having holiday fun while recording the track. The duo trade off sweet 16s and double entendres over a flipped beat of “Deck the Halls,” proving that being naughty can be oh-so fun.
“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”—Tyler, The Creator (2018)
The classics are meant to be respected, and Tyler, The Creator does the green humbug himself justice. Initially released in 2018 for the soundtrack of the Illumination animated feature The Grinch, it’s become a staple holiday song for all ages.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”—Sam Smith (2014)
Sam Smith released their rendition of the classic carol “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in 2014, and it’s been a standing go-to on each of my holiday playlists ever since. Smith glides over a piano melody of the carol that compliments their whimsical vibrato. It’s perfect for cozying up next to the fire or lounging around with loved ones.
“Make You Mine This Season”—Tegan and Sara (2020)
The perfect queer holiday playlist isn’t packed with jams without the Canadian duo Tegan and Sara. “Make You Mine This Season” was released in 2020 on the Happiest Season soundtrack. Tegan and Sara are known for creating lesbian anthems, making them a perfect choice for the theme of the first mainstream lesbian Christmas rom-com—and your holiday playlist.
“Stopped Believing in Santa”—MNEK (2018)
Yes, it’s another failed-relationship holiday song—but who can deny MNEK’s infectious vocals? The song works perfectly for platonic or romantic relationships that we may miss this time of year. Because sometimes not having the right people around can suck the holly-jolly right out of the air. Still, we can make new traditions—and the way MNEK wraps heartbreak in a pretty musical bow all but makes up for the song’s undertones just enough to keep you singing along.
“The Heartache Can Wait” – Brandi Carlile (2007)
Brandi Carlile’s “The Heartache Can Wait” is a melodic and hopeful outlook to make the best of December after a long tiring year, even if it may not last. This is a great message for anyone not feeling the holiday spirit this year. Facing that truth and being open to love, joy, rest, relief and inspiration in the winter season is the more profound message of this track. And I believe that captures the true magic of the holidays.
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”—Demi Lovato (2017)
I admit, I’m a long-standing member of the Lovatic fan club, and as such, the Disney Channel alum lands at the final spot for this holiday musical treat. Lovato’s rendition of the Bing Crosby classic, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” is the perfect tree topper to wrap up this queer holiday playlist. Demi’s sultry vocals take centre stage with the cover they recorded at Spotify studios, immediately putting listeners into the holiday mood. Let the warmth of this track fill your home, and indulge in however you celebrate.