The Best Christmas Rock Songs

The energy and aggression of rock music wouldn’t seem to be a good fit for the solemnity of Christmas songs, but as this list demonstrates, sometimes it turns out to be a winning combination. Whether it’s a band covering a classic or an artist expressing his own sentiments about the season, here are some songs that will make your yuletide memorable.

10
U2: 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)'

u2 christmas baby please come home
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

With tongue slightly in cheek, U2 turns the ‘60s girl-group song “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” into an arena-rock sing-along. Bono croons the lyrics about being stuck alone during the holidays while holding out hope that your special someone will be arriving soon. Their version was released in 1987 around the time that U2 was beginning its worldwide domination thanks to "The Joshua Tree," and this song was a rare moment of lightheartedness from the very-serious-at-the-time rockers. Buy from Amazon »

9
The Killers: 'A Great Big Sled'

killers a great big sled
Photo: Scott Gries/Getty Images.

One of the giddiest salutes to holding onto your childhood holiday spirit well into adulthood, the Killers’ “A Great Big Sled” is pure happiness. “I wanna roll around like a kid in the snow,” proclaims singer Brandon Flowers, and the euphoric music never lets up behind him.  Buy from Amazon »

8
Smashing Pumpkins: 'Christmastime'

smashing pumpkins christmas song
Photo courtesy Total Assault.

The Smashing Pumpkins were one of the ‘90s’ most ethereal bands, so it makes sense that frontman Billy Corgan would be able to write a really pretty Christmas song. And also since his band always valued the importance of sincerity, its “Christmastime” is as heartwarming as you might expect. You can practically hear the snow falling as Corgan pulls out the flutes, bells and strings for this majestic song. Buy from Amazon »

7
Hootie & the Blowfish: 'The Christmas Song'

hootie blowfish christmas song
Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

For a brief period in the mid-‘90s, Hootie & the Blowfish provided feel-good rock to the masses. Giving this Christmas perennial a typically laid-back presentation, the band turns the tune into a cozy, back-porch ode to being close to those you love during the holidays. This band deserved a lot of the criticism it received during its career for being a lightweight, but it's well-equipped for a comforting song like this. Plus, singer Darius Rucker really does have some nice pipes. Buy from Amazon »

6
Phantom Planet: 'Winter Wonderland'

phantom planet winter wonderland
Photo: Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images.

How do you retain the spirit of a done-to-death Christmas tune while giving it a fresh take? Phantom Planet comes up with a pretty good answer to that question with its version of “Winter Wonderland.” The Los Angeles indie-rock group adds some groove to one of the season’s most tranquil tunes, and the result is a sprightly, sunny rendition of an old favorite. The rare, hard-to-find track can be heard on YouTube here.

5
Linkin Park: 'My December'

linkin park christmas songs
Photo: James Minchin.

A B-side on the band’s “One Step Closer” single, “My December” is one of the sadder rock songs about the pronounced loneliness people can feel during the holidays. Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington laments that he has no one to share his December with as he sits in his big, empty house and the snow falls outside. The music matches his desolation – the skeletal drum beat and forlorn keyboards embody weariness in a way that’s hard to shake. The track can be heard on YouTube here and purchased on iTunes here.

4
Red Hot Chili Peppers: 'Deck the Halls'

red hot chili peppers deck the halls
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers decided to have some fun with their rendition of the classic ditty “Deck the Halls.” Goofing around and singing horribly off key, the band members do their impersonation of a holiday choir even though they realize they don’t actually know all the words to the song they’re singing. The rare 1994 "Out in L.A." compilation album bonus track can be heard on YouTube here.

3
Eels: 'Going to Stop Pretending That I Didn't Break Your Heart'

eels im going to stop pretending
Photo courtesy Vagrant.

What does this sad, slow ballad have to do with Christmas? Eels’ “I’m Going to Stop Pretending” introduces us to a reflective narrator addressing a former lover who he left behind long ago. Now he wants to make amends even though it’s been several years since they spoke and he doesn’t even know where she lives. But the aching melancholy cuts even deeper when we realize that it’s Christmas Eve, hinting that maybe the loneliness of the holidays finally made the narrator see the error of his ways. Buy from Amazon »

2
Dave Matthews Band: 'Christmas Song'

dave matthews christmas songs
Photo courtesy RCA.

Not to be confused with the traditional holiday ballad “The Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” etc.), the Dave Matthews Band’s “Christmas Song” is a straightforward account of the life and death of Jesus, encompassing Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men, the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. Backed by a soulful acoustic guitar, Matthews sings in a warm, hushed voice that personalizes the "greatest story ever told." Buy from Amazon »

1
Extreme: 'Christmas Time Again'

extreme christmas time again
Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images.

Extreme, led by the pyrotechnics of guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, conquered the charts with the saccharine 1991 ballad “More Than Words.” A year later the band members wrote one of the sappiest, gushiest Christmas songs of all time. Strident piano, soaring backup vocals, lyrics about wanting the warmth of the Christmas season to last all year – “Christmas Time Again” has all the epic self-importance of a celebrity charity record. But even if the track makes you roll your eyes, its overpowering sentimentality can hit you just right when you’re swept up in the Christmas spirit. Buy from Amazon »