When you think of the perfect soundtrack for Christmastime festivities, odds are the oft-despondent Pheobe Bridgers wouldn’t be your first choice. Nevertheless, Bridgers has made a tradition of releasing a holiday cover every year since 2017. Though she started out with the classics, she soon made her way onto more obscure offerings, all of which have aided a charity of her choice.
Bridgers once said, “I like fucked up holiday songs. I always have. I remember being so inspired when I went to Nashville and saw where Elvis had done his Christmas album and because he’s a crazy person, he had to make it feel like Christmas in July. It’s also a cool thing to do for charity every year, and it’s fun. I like tradition.”
In honor of Bridgers’ tradition, we’re ranking all six of her Christmas covers from Simon & Garfunkel, Merle Haggard and more. Find our definitive list, below.
6. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
Bridgers started it all with “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” in 2017. Everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Coldplay has taken on this holiday classic throughout the years. When Bridgers got her hands on it, she imbued her trademark melancholy on the otherwise uplifting tune. While her singular vocals make for an interesting rendition, we’ve chosen to put “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” in last place given its omnipresence all December long.
5. “7 O’Clock News / Silent Night”
Moving on to 2019, Bridgers tapped Fiona Apple and The National’s Matt Beringer for a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “7 O’Clock News / Silent Night.” The original version of the song features a news report about this discourse surrounding the Civil Rights Act of 1966. Keeping the same politically-charged messaging, Bridgers included a news report in her version about the Trump administration.
“Happy Holidays to everyone whose family has been literally or figuratively torn apart by Donald Trump,” Bridgers said in a statement. “And to my racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, hypocritical family members, fuck you. Thanks, Fiona, Matt, Simon and Garfunkel.”
4. “Christmas Song”
For her 2018 cover, Bridgers teamed up with Jackson Browne for McCarthy Trenching’s “Christmas Song.” Bridgers explained the song choice in a statement, “The first time I heard this song, it hit me like a ton of bricks. A lot of McCarthy Trenching songs do that. It’s not that often that I hear a Christmas song that doesn’t make me want to quit music. I played a show in L.A. around the holidays last year where I covered it for the first time.”
She added of Browne’s involvement, “Jackson Browne was there, and he came up to me after the show to tell me how much he loved the song. A couple days later, Dan got a Bandcamp notification on his desktop computer that someone paid 50 bucks for his record and wrote a nice note and signed it Jackson Browne. He thought someone was fucking with him. So when I decided to record a version of the song, I knew who I wanted to sing on it. Plus, I have wanted to make music with Jackson as long as I’ve wanted to make music.”
3. “If We Make It Through December”
Bridgers has a history of dipping into the country realm. She did just that in 2020 for a cover of Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December.” A distinctly sad Christmas tune, the cover was a perfect choice for Bridgers. Given that the song was released amid the pandemic, the lyrics I don’t mean to hate December / It’s meant to be the happy time of year / But my little girl don’t understand / Why daddy can’t afford no Christmas here hit even harder.
2. “So Much Wine”
For her most recent effort, Bridgers covered The Handsome Family’s “So Much Wine.” She sings, I had nothing to say on Christmas Day / When you threw all your clothes in the snow / When you burnt your hair and knocked over chairs / I just tried to stay out of your way.
She once again plays with an Americana flavor, but never fret, she still adds in her own brand of emo that never seems to be missing from her alt-pop sensibilities.
1. “Day After Tomorrow”
The top choice had to go to her cover of Tom Wait’s “Day After Tomorrow.” Though Waits’ version of the song was not made distinctly for Christmastime, the lyrics about a soldier trying to make his way home live in the same vein as “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” Bridgers also adds in a round of “Silent Night” to the track, making it even more on theme than usual.
Bridger’s rendition is gut-wrenching, to say the least. To make it through the six-minute runtime without a single tear would be a feat. If you are going to listen to any of these six songs, make this the one you choose.
Phoebe Bridgers Photo by Tim Mosenfelder