December is arguably the month with most songs written. No wonder because this month is associated with Christmas, Hanukkah, or the holidays in general.
The challenge here, then, is to come up with 10 of the best songs about December that aren’t Christmas songs.
So there will be no Mariah Carey, no pop star covers of Christmas classics. Not even a Bing Crosby and David Bowie duet. With those rules in mind, here is the compilation of songs we have come up with. Enjoy reading!
1. “A Long December” By Counting Crows
Due to arcane rules, “A Long December” never appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a hit. From Counting Crows‘ second album, 1996’s Recovering the Satellites, the wistful ballad recounts the reflection one tends to undertake at the end of the year or after a tragedy.
Lead vocalist Adam Duritz wrote the song after a friend was hit by a car. The lyrics look back on the past to find something positive in a tragedy.
The singer is hopeful that good changes are about to happen. He looks forward to a better year, singing, “Maybe this year will be better than the last.”
Related: Check out our list of the best songs about winter here.
2. “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” By Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
Originally titled “December 5th, 1933” (the date the 21st Amendment was ratified), “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” was written as a paean to the end of Prohibition. But Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons were much more comfortable singing about girls.
So they asked songwriter and Four Seasons keyboarder Bob Gaudio to change it. As a result, the song became a remembrance of a young man’s first love affair. The singer remembers a particular night in December 1963 when he met a lady.
It’s an upbeat song and one of the Four Season’s biggest hits (and Frankie Valli only sings on the bridge, which is unusual). Nevertheless, it was a #1 hit in 1975.
3. “Back To December” By Taylor Swift
Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift continued her bid to conquer the world when she released her album Speak Now in 2010. One of the tracks, “Back To December,” showed her well-developed songwriting chops. This was a terrific example of a crossover hit, as Swift combined pop and country sensibilities into the ballad.
The lyrics are a plea for forgiveness for a lost love the singer wronged. But like most regrets, it’s always too late when we realize our mistakes.
Whether the breakup happened in December or if it’s a metaphor for the end of things is beside the point. She sings that if she could go back and change what she did that December, she would. But she can’t. The only thing she can do now is to say sorry.
4. “December” By Collective Soul
Another song with “December” in the title is Collective Soul‘s 1995 hit, “December.” It came from their second album, a self-titled affair that saw other people playing and singing with vocalist and songwriter Ed Roland.
The song is about a relationship souring. Though by Roland’s admission, the addition of “December” came late in the writing process. But it works. The bridge lists a bunch of December-associated things that complicate the singer’s life.
These include betrayal and the promises she gave him. The singer just wants to leave these all behind.
5. “December 4th” By Jay-Z
The worldwide rap hip-hop mogul and Mr. Beyonce Jay-Z was born in December. On “December 4th,” Jay-Z adds his mother to the mix as a narrator, and the two of them spin the tale of his life.
Jay-Z raps about his days before his fame, his music business pursuits, and his hustle. He seems to hold up his actions as what he needed to do to get where he is today.
He acknowledges that he made some bad decisions but states that the decisions were part of him – and everything turned out fine. And it all started on December 4th, 1969.
6. “If We Make It Through December” By Merle Haggard
In October 1973, Merle Haggard dropped a Christmas album, Merle Haggard’s Christmas Present. “If We Make It Through December” was one of the tracks. It’s not the happy lovefest you’d expect from a song on a Christmas album, though.
This song with “December” in the lyrics says that it’s “meant to be the happy time of year.” But not for our singer and his family. He just lost his job, and how he can’t afford Christmas for his little girl. The dreary days of December seem to reflect his economic state at this time of the year.
Sure, there’s hope that if they can make it through this cold month, they’ll be fine. But still, what a crummy Christmas it must be.
7. “December Day” By Willie Nelson
Up next is “December Day” by country singer and musician Willie Nelson. The song appeared on his 1968 album, Good Times.
In “December Day,” the singer uses the month to signify endings and remembrance. When this month came around, he finds himself thinking back on the spring and summer months of his relationship. He also reflects on the fall months that indicate that things might end.
And now that end is on the horizon. His opening statement, “This looks like a December day,” tells us he thinks that today’s the day she might leave for good.
8. “Last December” By Good Charlotte
A cutting song about loss, “Last December” stood as Good Charlotte‘s anniversary present to the world. It was released 20 years after the band’s first success.
That it came out in December of 2020, as the world was living through some hard times, added to its poignancy. The singer talks about a friend’s funeral and how he can’t believe all that happened. The funeral service affects him in that it reminds him that everything is passing him by.
While that’s something of a cliche as song subjects go, Good Charlotte’s Madden brothers do a good job of making the message hit home.
9. “Remember December” By Demi Lovato
The album Here We Go Again saw Demi Lovato trying to explore more mature themes to distance themselves from her Disney-kid image. It sure helped their efforts, starting with “Remember December.”
Many writers use December to symbolize the end of things. But this one from Lovato is a song that mentions “December” to mean good memories from the cold days.
In the lyrics, we find the singer and their lover on the brink of separation. They implore their estranged lover to think back on the good times. Particularly December, when they were so in love and promised to stay together forever.
10. “Permanent December” By Miley Cyrus
A less successful stop-thinking-of-me-as-a-Disney-kid song was “Permanent December.” This was Miley Cyrus‘ heavily produced song in 2010. When held up against Lovato’s piece from the previous entry (released the same year), it’s a treacly piece of pop fluff.
The song is about how the singer has been everywhere but can’t find anyone as good as the one she loves. All the fine things they have – money, fame, and cars – can’t take her love away.
The lyrics use December as a symbol for the cold and isolated feelings we endure in the wake of realizing we let a good one get away.
Summing Up Our List Of December Songs
Finding the songs above wasn’t an easy feat and took some work. But many of the songwriters who used the month in a non-holiday manner did well.
From the list, we could see that the songs evoked loss and the ending of things. These seem to reflect what December is for some people. That it symbolizes cold, dreary months when sadness kicks in.
There are many more songs out there, but these 10 make up a pretty diverse list. Have you found a new favorite? We sure hoped so.