Family gatherings, reconnecting with old friends, celebrating beloved traditions — the holiday season is always a time of nostalgia. This sentimentality extends to our playlists. Holiday music has a long and varied history, and Christmas albums in particular have been made in just about every genre imaginable. Recently, Debbie Gibson — who burst onto the musical scene as a precocious teen singer-songwriter back in 1987, and is now 52 — released her first holiday album, which got us thinking about how much joy our favorite singers from the ’80s and ’90s have brought us. To honor their gifts, we made a list of seasonal sounds from six of our favorite 80’s and 90’s pop divas (who are all still going strong!).
Debbie Gibson, Winterlicious
The “Only in My Dreams” singer’s new holiday album features a mix of original songs and covers of classics like “Let It Snow” and “Sleigh Ride.” There’s a song for Hanukkah titled “Illuminate,” and a duet titled “Heartbreak Holiday” that’s co-written with fellow ’80s star, Joey McIntyre (of New Kids on the Block). In the spirit of the season, Gibson pays tribute to her family by singing a lovely rendition of “White Christmas” with her father, who she affectionately refers to as “Daddy Joe” on the album’s song list. If you remember Gibson’s time as a teen pop star, you’ll be happy to hear she hasn’t lost any of her cheerful spirit.
Mariah Carey, Merry Christmas
Mariah Carey’s 1994 song “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is inescapable after Thanksgiving. You’ll hear it in drugstores, at the dentist, and in commercials. The poppy tune, which Carey co-wrote with her writing partner Walter Afanasieff, showcases her powerhouse vocals and has a feel that Carey described in a 1994 video interview as “very retro, kind of ’60s.” The song also holds the distinction of being the only holiday song to be certified Diamond (meaning it’s sold at least 10 million copies) by the Recording Industry Association of America. The album on which the song appears, Merry Christmas, features covers of Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” as well as more the more traditional “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night.”
Annie Lennox, A Christmas Cornucopia
Annie Lennox rose to stardom as the cool frontwoman of the new wave duo Eurythmics, and went on to have global success as a solo artist. In 2010, she released a holiday album titled A Christmas Cornucopia. It features a selection of traditional carols, such as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” plus 19th-century-inspired cover art and music videos to match. Lennox’s strong vocals make traditional carols urgent and powerful. The Scottish musician even has a special connection to Christmas: She was born on Christmas Day. In an interview with The Daily Record, she shared, “As a child I used to wait all year for my birthday, so I’d have birthday presents and Christmas presents at the same time.”
Cyndi Lauper, Merry Christmas… Have a Nice Life
Cyndi Lauper’s colorful style and catchy tunes helped define ’80s culture. The cover of her 1998 Christmas album, cheekily titled Merry Christmas… Have a Nice Life, shows Lauper, clad in red sweater, stockings, and stilettos, sitting on Santa’s lap with a playful grin. The “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” singer mixed originals and classics on the record, and her song “Early Christmas Morning,” which she co-wrote with the album’s producer, Jan Pulsford, is an upbeat track that’s guaranteed to take your Christmas party to the next level.
Kylie Minogue, Kylie Christmas
Pop star Kylie Minogue released a Christmas album, Kylie Christmas, in 2015. The album features covers of Holiday classics like “Santa Baby,” “Let It Snow,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” as well as more modern Christmas jams like “Christmas Wrapping” (originally performed by ’80s new wave band The Waitresses), “Every Day’s Like Christmas” (co-written by Coldplay frontman Chris Martin), and “White December” (which Minogue co-wrote). Minogue, who is Australian, has been a global icon for decades, and her Christmas offering has something for every fan. There’s traditional, new wave, and a variety of guest artists — including punk rocker Iggy Pop, late night host James Corden, and Kylie’s sister, Dannii Minogue. There’s even a posthumous duet with none other than Frank Sinatra. Minogue’s positive energy and eternal willingness to embrace the dance floor spirit makes Kylie Christmas a sparkling addition to any holiday playlist.
Vanessa Williams, Star Bright
Star Bright, Vanessa Williams’ 1996 Christmas album, was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. With the exception of the title track, it’s comprised exclusively of covers of classic holiday tunes, including “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” But Star Bright isn’t the “Save the Best for Last” singer’s only Christmas-themed project; in 2000, she starred in the TV movie A Diva’s Christmas Carol as the amusingly named Ebony Scrooge.
Any one of these albums will instantly put you in the holiday spirit. So, fire up the six-disc CD changer, channel the confidence of these nostalgic divas, and embrace the season and ensuing festivities with enthusiasm.
First For Women aims to feature only the best products and services. We update when possible, but deals expire and prices can change. If you buy something via one of our links, we may earn a commission.
Questions? Reach us at email@example.com