Year after year, the same holiday standards come pouring through our speakers when the calendar flips to December (or before Halloween in recent years). While these often become ubiquitous, there are several artists who deliver original renditions of these holiday standards, in addition to offering new classics of their own.
The women featured below deliver a mix of original songs and covers that uniquely shine, whether it’s three superstars uniting for an iconic holiday number or a burgeoning superstar penning one of the saddest Christmas songs you’ve ever heard. Check out Audiofemme’s pick of five Christmas songs by the women of country music.
Kelly Clarkson, Trisha Yearwood and Reba McEntire – “Silent Night”
When Clarkson, Yearwood and McEntire took the stage during Clarkson’s 2013 special, Kelly Clarkson’s Cautionary Christmas Music Tale, they delivered one of the most beautiful renditions of the holiday standard regarded as “the most beautiful song ever written.” The trio defines the word “perfection” with their performance, as Yearwood’s powerful voice reaches new heights, while Clarkson provides enchanting harmonies. And when McEntire joins in, her voice adds even more magical layers. When they end the performance a capella, their harmonies knock the wind right out of you.
Kacey Musgraves – “Christmas Makes Me Cry”
Challenge: Try not to tear up when listening to “Christmas Makes Me Cry.” Between singing about broken hearts and those who couldn’t make it home for the holidays, Musgraves doesn’t try to disguise the fact that there’s a somber side to Christmas that’s often forgotten. “I wonder if I’m the only one/Whose broken heart still has broken parts/Just wrapped in pretty paper/And it’s always sad/Seeing mom and dad getting a little grayer,” she sings. What I appreciate most about the track is how Musgraves extends a hand to those experiencing grief during the Christmas season, and this compelling country queen recognizes them with this gem. “Christmas Makes Me Cry” is poignant, emotional and beautiful, reflecting the intense emotions of the Christmas season and the foundation that Musgraves builds her artistry on.
Loretta Lynn – “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas”
Before Musgraves, Loretta Lynn set the precedent for melancholy Christmas tunes, and “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas” has all the makings of a Christmas classic. Penned solely by the country icon, Lynn turns tear-in-my-beer mainstay country lyrics into her own Christmas original. Between the twinkling of the piano keys and her timeless voice, she paints a peaceful scene of decorative Christmas trees and flying snowflakes. But the pain inside her is anything but peaceful as she sings of missing the person she loves. “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas” is a highlight on her 1966 Country Christmas album that features six original numbers, including heartbreaker “Gift of the Blues” and sassy “To Heck With Ole Santa Claus.”
Cam – “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”
Get ready to be stunned when you press “play” on Cam’s cover of this holiday classic. With a voice that’s timeless and modern at the same time, Cam truly captures the sadness and longing expressed in the song in a way that resonates. While I’ve heard the track countless times during the holiday season, Cam’s version made me realize how heartbreaking this standard is, written from the perspective of a solider who hopes, but ultimately doesn’t make it home for the holiday, making for one of the most powerful renditions of the popular hit I’ve heard.
Katie Pruitt – “Merry Christmas, Mary Jane”
If you want a Christmas song that’s original and modern with a dash of humor, then look no further than Katie Pruitt’s “Merry Christtmas, Mary Jane.” With a soulful voice that cuts like a knife, Pruitt tips a cheetah-print Santa hat to the one thing that’ll take her spirits high: marijuana. Her voice is so striking you almost miss the humorous little gems she sprinkles in (“All these Christmas lights would look twice as good/As we hotbox around your neighborhood”), all of which she expresses in the midst of bluesy guitar riffs. This unique holiday tribute demands a spot on your playlist.