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The holiday music playlist you need, want, and deserve

Featuring Kurt Vile, Alicia Keys, Chris Isaak, and, of course, the Eagles.

Alicia Keys performing in Tampa, Florida in September. The singer's new holiday album is "Santa Baby."
Alicia Keys performing in Tampa, Florida in September. The singer's new holiday album is "Santa Baby."Read moreLuis Santana / MCT

Holiday music is a big business that generates $170 million a year, according to Billboard.

The rulers of the season are Mariah Carey (whose 1994 “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is again topping the charts), Michael Bublé (whose 2011 Christmas is the biggest selling holiday album of 2022), and the vocal group Pentatonix, who have released their sixth seasonal album, Holidays Around the World.

Holiday music has also become a streaming service battleground. Which means if you want to hear Lizzo’s new take on Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas,” you’ll need Amazon Music. Alicia Keys’ complete Santa Baby album is only available on Apple Music.

The playlist annotated here includes songs that are available on Spotify (and, in most cases, other streaming services). It highlights the best and most notable holiday songs released in 2022. Everything is new, with the exception of songs by Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles that have been reissued this year.

Philly is repped by Kurt Vile, Vivian Green, Kevin Bacon, Alexis Cunningham with Eric Bazilian, and, of course, A Philly Special Christmas, the holiday album featuring Philadelphia Eagles offensive linemen due Dec. 23.

Sleigh bells ring, start listening!

1. Chris Isaak, “Christmas Comes But Once a Year.”

The “Wicked Game” singer’s Everybody Knows It’s Christmas is a terrific evocation of Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley-style vintage rock on Sun Records, full of cleverly crafted originals like this lighthearted exercise in self-pity.

2. Samara Joy, “Warm In December.”

The Gen Z jazz singer with a lustrous voice, who’s nominated for two Grammys, cozies up to Julie London’s 1956 hit. She plays a holiday show with her Philadelphia relatives the McClendon Family at Ardmore Music Hall on Wednesday.

3. Alicia Keys, “December Back 2 June.”

Keys’ first holiday album, Santa Baby, named after the flirtatious Eartha Kitt classic, is an Apple Music exclusive, but this single about a love that spans the seasons is widely available.

4. Kurt Vile, “Must Be Santa.”

Philadelphia rock hero Vile’s first ever Christmas cut is a song first recorded by Mitch Miller in 1960 and made famous by Bob Dylan’s polka version. Recorded at OKV Central studio in Mount Airy, Vile reworks it with a spooky synth vibe, with backup vocals by daughters Delphine and Awilda.

5. The Linda Lindas, “Groovy Xmas.”

The all-girl Los Angeles pop-punk band, whose members range in age from 12 to 18, released one of the most charming albums of the year with Growing Up. This single keeps the fun coming.

6. Vivian Green, “Spread the Love (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza).”

The Philly neo-soul singer’s five-song EP revels in multiple holiday traditions, and this is the title track to an EP with four impressive originals.

7. Rosie Thomas feat. Sufjan Stevens, “We Should Be Together.”

Nashville singer Rosie Thomas has frequently collaborated with indie Christmas king Sufjan Stevens, and they shine together on this breathy duet.

8. Norah Jones, “Christmas In My Soul / Christmastime.”

Live bonus tracks from the new deluxe edition of Jones’ 2021 album I Dream of Christmas.

9. Davis Causey and Jay Smith, “What Child Is This?”

In 1998, guitarist Davis Causey recorded jazz-tinged carols with guitarist Jay Smith and pressed them on a CD for friends. Smith died shortly thereafter. Strolling Bones Records has now released the set as Pickin’ On Christmas, the best instrumental album of the season.

10. Pentatonix feat. La Santa Cecilia, “Feliz Navidad.”

Marisol “La Marisoul” Hernandez, the lead singer for the Los Angeles band La Santa Cecilia, takes the lead on this lively Jose Feliciano cover, on Holidays Around The World.

11. The Vamps, “Seat At The Table.”

The British pop band’s song could easily become a holiday perennial. It’s about keeping a space for lost loved ones at holiday gatherings.

12. Grentperez, “When Christmas Comes Again”

A bedroom bossa nova holiday charmer from Filipino-Australian YouTube star, Grent Perez.

13. Thomas Rhett, “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.”

The country singing son of Rhett Akins does much mistletoe-ing in his cheery take on the song written for The Andy Williams Show in 1963.

14. Jody Watley, “Christmas Time Is Here.”

The 1990s R&B star delivers a sultry understated version of the Charlie Brown mood piece.

15. Stars, “Christmas Anyway.”

Canadian indie band Stars strikes a similar chord to “Blocking It Out For Christmas, Cold Open” from Saturday Night Live last weekend. “Let’s pretend we’ll all be friends,” Torquil Campbell sings, “and we’ll have Christmas anyway.”

16. Old 97′s, “I Don’t Know What Christmas Is (But Christmas Time Is Here)”

Roots-rock band Old 97′s have a hit in this delightful rocker for The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special on Disney+. It’s sung from the perspective of aliens trying to make sense of Earthly traditions.

17. Los Bitchos, “Los Chrismos.”

The women of London instrumental quartet Los Bitchos describe their music as “instrumental psychedelic sunshine cumbia.”

18. Kadhja Bonet, “Someday at Christmas.”

Los Angeles alt-R&B guitarist sings a hopeful prayerlike version of Stevie Wonder’s 1967 gem.

19. The Surfrajettes, “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

Mariah gets a surf rock treatment by the four women of this Toronto instrumental band, on their Marshmallow World EP.

20. Kevin Bacon, “Here It Is Christmastime.”

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special revolves around aliens kidnapping Kevin Bacon. This gives the actor — who recently worked with his brother, Michael, on “It’s A Philly Thing” — an opportunity to sing an Old 97′s Christmas song.

21. Phoebe Bridgers, “So Much Wine.”

Phoebe Bridgers reliably releases a cover of a sad not-quite-a-Christmas song every year. Here, she wrings the pathos out of The Handsome Family’s “So Much Wine,” a gorgeous, not cheerful song about alcoholism over the holidays.

22. Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Jordan Mailata, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

The Eagles’ offensive linemen do justice to the Darlene Love classic, with an assist from Sun Ra Arkestra’s Marshall Allen on alto sax.

23. Alexis Cunningham with Eric Bazilian, “Let It Feel Like Christmas.”

Philadelphia-based, West Virginia native Alexis Cunningham teams with The Hooters’ Eric Bazilian and searches for that special holiday je ne sais quoi.

24. Ray Charles, “This Time Of The Year.”

The Genius of Soul put his stamp on this Brooke Benton holiday song on his The Spirit of Christmas album in 1985, reissued this year.

25. Dougie Poole, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Brooklyn cowboy Dougie Poole follows up last year’s clever “Cancun Christmas Morning” with a touching take on the melancholy classic, sung by Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis.

26. Regina Belle, “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

A traditional carol rendered with soul and jazz overtones, from the R&B singer’s My Colorful Christmas.

27. Backstreet Boys, “Winter Wonderland.”

The boy band harmonize on the 1934 standard. Richard Bernard Smith wrote the words while being treated for tuberculosis in Scranton. From A Very Backstreet Christmas.

28. Debbie Gibson, “The Candy Man.”

A super-sweetened cover of the Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory song that was a hit for Sammy Davis Jr. in 1972. The 1980s teen star’s first holiday album is Winterlicious.

29. Hailey Whitters, “New Baby For Christmas.”

The rising star is asking for a new paramour, not a child. Whitters calls the George Jones cover “a honky tonky heartbreak cheating song disguised as a Christmas song.”

30. Joss Stone, “Snow.”

This Irving Berlin song on Stone’s Merry Christmas, Love will be familiar to White Christmas fans: It’s sung by Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, and Danny Kaye on the train to Vermont.

31. Donny Hathaway and Lalah Hathaway, “This Christmas.”

In the tradition of Natalie Cole singing with Nat King Cole, Lalah Hathaway joins her late father on his 1970 song that’s become a treasured standard.

32. Louis Armstrong and Benny Carter, “Moments To Remember.”

From the new Armstrong holiday compilation Louis Wishes You A Cool Yule, a sentimental New Year’s Eve song Armstrong recorded in 1956. “Summers turn to winter, and the present disappears,” Satchmo sings, bidding farewell to the year gone by. “We’ll have these moments to remember.”