Minnesota has a storied history of producing timeless seasonal tunes, with classics from the Andrews Sisters, Judy Garland, and Prince of course. Here are the holiday hits and lesser-known local gems to play if you get passed the aux cord this year.
Photo by Brian Shuel/Redferns
Bob Dylan performing at the Singers Club Christmas party on his first visit to Britain, December 22, 1962.
Judy Garland, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Written for the 1944 musical Meet Me in St. Louis, Judy Garland’s tender voice comforting little Tootie solidified the song as an instant classic.
Lizzo, “Never Felt Like Christmas”
“I’ve always loved Christmas music. Working in retail deferred my love for it, but time heals all wounds,” a pre-global Lizzo said about her 2015 Christmas anthem. “Ricky Reed and I really enjoyed ourselves in the studio trying to reimagine the modern-day Christmas love story. Not everybody’s in the Christmas spirit these days, but love can give even the biggest Scrooge a little holiday cheer.”
Low’s Christmas EP is seven solid tracks comprised of holiday standards and originals.
Bob Dylan, Christmas in the Heart
It took Bobby D until 2009 to record an album of Christmas songs, his thirty-fourth studio record, but he still manages to hit all the holiday high notes.
Prince, “Another Lonely Christmas”
Released as a B-side to the “I Would Die 4 U” single, “Another Lonely Christmas” is the only holiday song Prince ever released, and he performed it live just once on December 26 at the St. Paul Civic Center Arena in 1984.
Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”
Before John Legend and Kelly Clarkson rewrote “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” local crooners Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski made the duet less predatory for the #MeToo era.
The Andrews Sisters with Bing Crosby
The Minneapolis-born Andrews Sisters recorded dozens of Christmas songs both with and without Bing Crosby that have stood the test of time, giving you hours of boogie-woogie potential.
Mark Mallman and Lazerbeak, “Peace on Earth”
“I believe in peace on Earth, a day where nobody gets hurt,” Mark Mallman sings on the heavenly “Peace on Earth.”
J.S. Ondara, “Mother Christmas”
“Oh I want my mother here for Christmas,” J.S. Ondara sings as his ode to the spirit of the holiday invokes maternal love.
Tom Waits, “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis”
Released on the 1978 album Blue Valentine, legend has it that Tom Waits, walking through Minneapolis dressed in “just a bra and a slip and a kind of dead squirrel around my neck,” was inspired to write the song after getting caught in a “pimp war” in the street during subzero temperatures
Hüsker Dü, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”
Hüsker Dü’s ramshackled version of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” sounds straight out of the garage.
Bob Mould and Craig Kilborn, “Little Drummer Boy”
Bob Mould paid a visit to Craig Kilborn on a 1996 Christmas special of The Daily Show to duet some pa-rum-pum-pum-pums. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
The Trashmen, “Dancing With Santa”
The 1950s band The Trashmen used their surf-rock vibe to make holiday cheer seemingly more groovy on “Dancing With Santa.”
Alexander O’Neal, “Our First Christmas”
Here for the icy 80s synths and “I walked into the mall and saw ya / doing your Christmas shopping.”
The Hold Steady, “Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You“
Led by the Edina-raised Craig Finn, the indie-rock band took on this Billy Squier tune from 1981.
Trip Shakespeare, “Snow Days”
Trip Shakespeare, formed in the ’80s, included Dan Wilson and John Munson before they went on to create Semisonic. The New Standards play the song at their holiday show every year. The booming singalong chorus (“It’s coming down!”), has the words us office-bound Minnesotans all want to hear in the middle of a storm: “Go home and take a snow day!”
Sounds of Blackness, “Soul Holidays”
Your heart will grow three times as big with Sounds of Blackness’s irresistibly warm “Soul Holidays.”
The Replacements, “Beer for Breakfast”
“I am dreaming of a white Christmas,” the Mats’ frontman Paul Westerberg sings on this rare B-side. “All I want to do is drink beer for breakfast.” Gross, but okay!
Atmosphere, “If I Was Santa Claus”
Socially-conscious hip hop duo Atmosphere make it a point to talk about the hypocrisy of commercialized festivities on “If I Was Santa Claus” from the album Lucy Ford, capturing the true spirit of the giving season.
Now, Now, “Lonely Christmas”
The pop band Now, Now make a modern Christmas love story in “Lonely Christmas,” with pluckish synths emulating a strobe-lit miracle. “I’ll do anything baby to make you believe,” vocalist Cacie Dalager sings. “Baby, I don’t want no presents I just need your love.”
“How the Grouch Stole Christmas” feat. Brother Ali
Minneapolis rapper Brother Ali is featured on this Christmas-rap cypher from a 2010 winter tour.
The Jets, Christmas with The Jets
Seek refuge in The Jets’ “Christmas in My Heart,” a slowed-down anthem off their Christmas album that sounds housed within a snow globe.
Information Society, “Xmas at Our House” / “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”
If your holiday traditions are decidedly new age, Information Society’s industrial take on two Christmas classics will be right up your alley.
Mint Condition, Healing Season
Released in 2015, Mint Condition’s ninth record and first Christmas album earned them a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album.
Faux Jean, “My Gift for You”
Peak early-aughts group Faux Jean spread the love with “My Gift for You.”
The New Standards Holiday Show
A Twin Cities tradition, each year the jazz trio The New Standards perform a vibrant and eclectic holiday show that will make you leave feeling as enthusiatic as Buddy the Elf.
The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Boogie Woogie Christmas
The ’50s are alive with rockabilly guitarist Brian Setzer.
Matthew Compton, Josiah Steinbrick, and Har Mar Superstar, “All I Want for Christmas is You”
The Mariah Carey power ballad finally hit number one on the charts, but before that happened, Har Mar gave us a sincere rendition.
Limited Warranty, “Santa Claus Is Missing Christmas”
The pop-rock band Limited Warranty was one of many Minneapolis acts to break out in the ’80s.
Bad Bad Hats, “Last Christmas”
The local trio take on Wham’s forlorn hit that defines the winter blues.
Bonus: Weird Al once parodied Soul Asylum’s “Black Gold” with “The Night Santa Went Crazy.”