Reigning CMA duo of the year Dan + Shay’s two originals this year serve as flip sides of the same coin: one spritely, the other sad. The upbeat “Take Me Home For Christmas” is a bouncy ode to going home with your beloved to their hometown for the holidays, so you can go caroling and relive her childhood memories. “Christmas Isn’t Christmas” is a lush piano and string ballad that plays on the pair’s gorgeous harmonies about how Christmas is “just a day at the end of December” if you’re apart from the one you love—though Jesus may agree to differ.
Carrie Underwood & John Legend, “Hallelujah”
Not to be confused with the Leonard Cohen classic, the new tune featured on Underwood’s chart-topping holiday album “My Gift” combines both romance, the meaning of the holiday, and hope. In lesser hands, it would seem a mighty task to mix all three, but for Underwood and Legend and their heavenly voices, it’s a glorious testament to all three.
Gary LeVox feat. Stephan Moccio, “Christmas Will Be Different This Year”
Truer words were never spoken. For so many of us, the holiday will be nothing like we’re used to. In this somber ballad, Rascal Flatts' frontman LeVox sings about maintaining Christmas traditions even in the absence of loved ones. While it seems pandemic inspired--especially the line about the empty church pews-- the sad fact is it is just as impactful for anyone who has lost someone as we head into the holiday season for whatever reason.
Florida Georgia Line, “Lit This Year”
Sure, FGL's Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley plug their own whiskey line in this ditty, but the twangy song is so silly and good-natured that it’s hard to protest the blatant advertising. “That Christmas tree ain’t the only thing getting lit this year,” they sing as they even endorse getting drunk with Santa. Hey, it’s 2020. Anything goes.
Kelly Clarkson feat. Brett Eldredge, “Under the Mistletoe”
Clarkson takes it back to the ‘60s with this frolicky track about trying to woo your crush under the mistletoe. Clarkson and Eldredge have a fun back and forth on a tune filled with sweet anticipation.
Dolly Parton with Michael Buble, "Cuddle Up, Cozy Down Christmas"
This original from Parton’s recent No. 1 album, A Holly Dolly Christmas, is reminiscent of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with all the sexiness and none of the now-perceived tone-deafness of the ‘40s track. Parton and Buble coo aplenty as they trade lines about their intimate plans for the holiday.
Jimmie Allen with Louis York feat. The Shindellas, “What Does Christmas Mean”
Allen and friends have created a jubilant tune that sounds straight out of the classic A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector, which is about as good as it gets. Between the toe-tapping melody, and deceptively longing lyrics and the backing girl vocals, this sounds like a new perennial
Ingrid Andress, “Christmas Always Finds Me”
Triple Grammy nominee Andress shines on this elegant piano and strings ballad about no matter how many times she moves, no matter how old she gets, Christmas still finds her. Moving and simply lovely, this one is likely to start getting covered by other artists in the years to come and could become a classic.
Runaway June, “When I Think About Christmas” and “Christmas on the Radio”
Two originals from Runaway June's five-track EP are sure to bring the festive cheer, especially the peppy “Christmas on the Radio,” which salutes holiday songs of years past, while the pedal-steel and harmony-filled “When I Think About Christmas” feels like the perfect tune for a quick whirl around the dance floor with a glass of eggnog at the ready.
Mitchell Tenpenny, "Neon Christmas”
The one original and title track on Tenpenny’s holiday EP released earlier this year is a jaunty tune about his plane grounded on the way to his girlfriend’s parent’s hour for Christmas. But there’s always a silver lining: the bar down the street is open where the cold beer is flowing and there’s great tunes on the jukebox as they find a new way to deck the halls.
Maddie & Tae, “We Need Christmas” and “Merry Married Christmas”
The title track from Maddie & Tae’s 6-song holiday EP looks at what we need to soothe our souls this holiday, whether it be such totems of years past as a Charlie Brown Christmas or the Salvation Army bell or grandpa reading from the Book of Luke. “Merry Married Christmas” is an uplifting journey of a married couple’s first Christmas together after tying the knot as they start to create new memories.
RaeLynn, “Jingle Bell Drunk”
Pair with the FGL’s “Lit This Year” and you’ve got yourself a party. The line “Uncle Santa polished off the 100 proof,” sums up the sassy sentiment here where RaeLynn has also received everything she wants for Christmas in the form of her man, so she’s good, There’s nothing left to do but coin a new catch phrase for getting tipsy during the holidays: “Jingle Bell Drunk.”
T.G. Sheppard & Kelly Lang, “Christmas in Mexico”
Eighties’ hitmaker Sheppard and his wife Lang are spending the holidays south of the border, where the warm tropical winds make is a safe bet to leave the winter coat behind. Mariachi trumpets and steel drums lift the breezy tune that sounds like wish fulfillment in the winter of lockdown.
Dani Taylor, “Does It Snow in Nashville”
Celebrate the holidays with a little western swing on this toe-tapping twirler as new artist Taylor surrounds herself with fiddles, pedal steel and good will as she questions if it snows in Music City like she used to dream. The question is a guise for her man to ask her out to see if it does and if “the same snow falls on you as it does to me.”
Rascal Flatts on Cancelled Farewell Tour and How They Want to Be Remembered | Billboard's 5-Minute Interview