Music

Fefe Dobson's Elvis cover, and 6 more new holiday songs you need to hear

Add songs by Glenn Lewis, Fefe Dobson, Lauren Spencer-Smith and more to your holiday playlists.

Add songs by Glenn Lewis, Fefe Dobson, Lauren Spencer-Smith and more to your holiday playlists

A close up image of Fefe Dobson wearing a red mesh shirt, red eyeliner and silver jewellery, in front of a red background.
Fefe Dobson's new Christmas tune, ‘Santa Claus is Back in Town,’ is a song you need to hear. (Submitted by the artist; graphic by CBC Music)

Songs you need to hear is CBC Music's weekly list of hot new Canadian tracks.

This week is dedicated to holiday music. Scroll down to find out what new songs our producers have on repeat. 


'Last Christmas,' The Matinee; Terra Lightfoot; Virginia to Vegas, Tyler Shaw, LØLØ, New Friends, Noelle and Shawn Hook

Love it or hate it, "Last Christmas" is everywhere this holiday season. And thanks to the ubiquity of this year's offerings, I'm now officially convinced it is one of those secretly perfect songs, because even a lump-of-coal cover of "Last Christmas" is still better than many other holiday tunes. But this is all about songs you need to hear, so let's focus on the standouts.

The Matinee's folk-roots spin on "Last Christmas" is so cozy and homey you can feel the golden glow of the fireplace flickering in the dance between the two guitars. It's forlorn without being mournful, intimate and sad yet still warm and hopeful. Rock-and-blues singer-songwriter Terra Lightfoot's rum-and-eggnog voice — rich and intoxicating — is the perfect vessel to tease out the song's emotional heft, barbed camp, and cathartic resolve. Virginia to Vegas, Tyler Shaw, LØLØ, New Friends, Noelle and Shawn Hook have teamed up to offer their own unique update on the '80s classic. Think frenetic-pop-party-with-a-spin-class-twist and just try to catch your breath as they bounce through their rousing revamp. — Andrea Warner


'Santa Claus is Back in Town,' Fefe Dobson

Fefe Dobson's cover song choice and the sonic inspiration behind her rendition perfectly illustrate the intersection of her sounds. By choosing to perform Elvis Presley's "Santa Claus is Back in Town," she's paying homage to one of pop's biggest forces. But in order to put her own spin on the track, which originally leaned into Presley's blues-inspired sound, Dobson looked to the Christmas stylings of the Sex Pistols, who brought an edge to their version of "Jingle Bells." Add a dash of Joan Jett in the way Dobson stutters through the phrase "turn off the light" in the style of "Cherry Bomb," and we have a pop-rock banger that will have you headbanging through the holidays.  — Melody Lau


Will Todd's 'My Lord Has Come,' VB8

There's no escaping pop covers of Christmas songs at this time of year, but for something more traditional and authentic, Montreal's VB8 is here for you. VB8 is a vocal octet drawn from the roster of the chamber choir Voces Boreales, and their debut album, Winter Magic, delivers on its title. On Will Todd's modern classic, "My Lord Has Come," they conjure a state of total repose with their laser-beam tuning and seamless blend. Tight harmonies and perfectly synchronized phrases seemingly pose no challenge to this ensemble. Christmas is all about finding light in the darkness, and VB8 has arrived like a beacon in these troubled times. — Robert Rowat


'Please Come Home for Christmas,' Aqyila

"Please Come Home for Christmas" was originally penned as a blues song in 1960, although many listeners likely associate the track with the rock music of bands such as the Eagles or Bon Jovi. R&B singer Aqyila brings the song back to its roots, with a soulful cover that beautifully expresses yearning for a loved one during the holidays. When she sings "What a Christmas to have the blues," you can feel her wistful desire for her flame to return. The song is the perfect canvas for Aqyila to paint with her voice, which is equally rich and warm. Whether you're pining for a long-distance partner or mourning a romance that's ended, "Please Come Home for Christmas" will always be a Christmas track in rotation for those who are feeling a bit blue. — Natalie Harmsen


'I'll Be Home For Christmas,' Glenn Lewis

The Bing Crosby classic "I'll Be Home for Christmas" has been covered by the best of them: Frank Sinatra, the Carpenters, Al Green, the list can go on forever. Canadian R&B crooner Glenn Lewis stands apart by giving a soulful feel to the track. Add a little vibe, mix in some gospel-like keys and Lewis's signature riffs and you get yourself a yuletide jam session. It provides the perfect groove for you, your friends and family, nestled around the Christmas tree. As much as he pays respect to the original, Lewis makes the song shine — the organs give you that warm feeling, like adding extra marshmallows to your hot chocolate. It's oh-so-good, you'll be replaying this song over and over again. — Ryan Chung


'Christmas in the Cape,' Villages

Cape Breton folk quartet Villages are no strangers to Christmas music: last year, they warmed our hearths with the rousing "Merry Christmas (From the Dowie Dens)," and in 2016 we were gifted the lovesick "Writing a Letter (This Christmas)." This year, the band is nesting with "Christmas in the Cape," a nostalgic return to traditions you feel in your bones. "Off to visit friends you know/ warming welcomes at the door/ laugh o'er a toddy before you go/ it's Christmas in the Cape again," sings Matt Ellis, a natural body sway implied with each line as he gently walks us through a hometown Christmas weekend. Light bells sound intermittently, giving the song a festive touch outside its lush layers of guitar, percussion and woodwinds. As the wind whistles the song to a close, it feels like you've been to Cape Breton and back in these short but delightful three minutes. — Holly Gordon


'Santa Baby,' Lauren Spencer-Smith 

"Santa Baby'' is another one of those Christmas classics that has been done every which way, by a never-ending list of performers: the likes of Madonna, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Kylie Minogue have all released their own variations over the years. Some poppier versions of this song veer on the cutesy side, but Lauren Spencer Smith's sultry and slow rendition stays true to the core of Eartha Kitt's original.

Accompanied by piano and double bass, Smith performs the song as if she's in a jazz lounge, showing off the rasp in her voice and the fullness of her tone. She has formidable vocal chops that shine when she's accompanied by live instrumentals (as she was at the 2022 Juno Awards), so it's exciting to see the pop singer take a more pared-back route for this Christmas cover. "Santa Baby" is steamier than most holiday tunes and that's what makes it so fun (and risqué) to listen to. Kudos to the songwriters Joan Javits and Philip Springer for penning a song in 1953 that is still so scintillating and alluring 70 years later. — Kelsey Adams

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