“Do not be ashamed of who you are”: top songs celebrating the start of a new year.

Estimated read time 13 min read


During the holiday season, the playlists of individuals who observe Christmas (and are fans of Mariah Carey) are filled with traditional holiday songs, much like a stocking overflowing with oranges. Some examples include Frosty the Snowman, The Little Drummer Boy, and even a performance by Cyndi Lauper and Pelle Almqvist’s mother from The Hives.

However, the start of the new year is often overlooked in terms of music selection. Therefore, here are some of the top tracks to kick off the next 366 days (I verified).

Sugababes – New Year (2000)

Overload might be the OG Sugababes’ seminal track, but I’d put New Year – the second single from their debut album, One Touch – alongside it. Written in part by Siobhán Donaghy, Mutya Buena and Keisha Buchanan, the song details a Christmas break-up one year on – and the potential revival of the relationship (“Sitting here stressing at 2:30am …”).

A pop-R&B ballad with lush harmonies showcasing the original members’ precociously soulful vocals, it combines acoustic guitar with a thunking drumbeat and ambient crackling sounds that conjure a winter log-fire – or perhaps a needle lowered on to vinyl. On its release, the Guardian compared the song with Wham!’s Last Christmas. High praise indeed.

The song “This Will Be Our Year” was released by The Zombies in 1968.

Starting with a lively piano tune followed by the addition of snare and trumpet, This Will Be Our Year is a song with a cheerful 60s vibe and positive lyrics (“all your worries are gone”). It has been recorded by various artists, including Cher, The Beautiful South, and OK Go, and has also been featured on TV shows like Mad Men. Clocking in at just two minutes, this track from St Albans’ consistently underappreciated answer to the Beach Boys is short and sweet. It’s ideal for some easygoing dancing.

The song “New Year’s Day” was released by Taylor Swift in 2017.

Taylor Swift is known for her portrayal of parties and drinking among millennials, as seen in her lyrics “How’d we end up on the floor anyway? / You say ‘your roommate’s cheap-ass screw-top rosé'”. Her contribution to the New Year celebration is a piano ballad that reflects on the aftermath of a wild night. In the song, she sings about glitter on the floor and girls carrying their shoes in the lobby. She uses a party metaphor to express her willingness to stick with her loved one through both good and bad times, stating that she’s even willing to clean up bottles with them on New Year’s Day.

Swift mentioned that the lyrics, written in collaboration with Jack Antonoff, were inspired by Joni Mitchell and expressed a sense of permanence. She also questioned if Travis Kelce would be the type to provide Advil and help clean up the house after a hangover, but this is still to be confirmed.

The song “The New Year” was released in 2003 by Death Cab for Cutie.

The first line of “So this is the New Year / And I don’t feel any different” by Ben Gibbard and his band expresses understanding for those who don’t feel inspired on January 1st and don’t care about making resolutions. In the song, Gibbard mentions not having any resolutions or self-imposed punishments for problems that have simple solutions. The drums, played by new band member Jason McGerr, crash in the background while the guitar strobes and ambient sounds can be heard throughout. This track is featured on Transatlanticism, an album that doesn’t have a single bad song. While briefly following the celebratory tone (“so everybody put your best suit and dress on”), the song returns to the album’s overall reflective mood and focuses on themes of distance and longing.

The song “New Year’s Prayer” was released by Jeff Buckley in 1998.

Based on a poem written and recited by Jeff Buckley on New Year’s Eve in New York in 1995 (and at a separate poetry event the next day), the musical rendition of “New Year’s Prayer” deviates from the original’s rich seasonal storytelling (“You, my love, have permission to forget about the Christmas you just spent stressed out at your parents’ house”) and simplifies the lyrics to a repeated call for freedom and a promise of a fresh start (“feel no shame for what you are”). However, it is too remarkable and captivating to be excluded from this list. Originally recorded in 1996-1997, the track was incomplete at the time of Buckley’s passing and was posthumously released on Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk (1998). With its focus on percussion, it has gained a devoted following for its mesmerizing, trance-like, and otherworldly vocals. Buckley was a admirer of Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his qawwali music, and these influences are evident in this piece.

The song “New Year’s Day” was released by U2 in 1983.

The first single from their 1983 album War, New Year’s Day was influenced by the Solidarity movement in Poland. Bono originally intended for it to be a love song, but as he wrote the lyrics, he found himself referencing the uprising led by Lech Wałęsa, a Polish dissident who was then imprisoned. With its iconic riffs from the Edge and pulsating bassline from Adam Clayton, the song became the band’s first Top 10 hit in the UK.

The song “New Year” by The Breeders was released in 1993.

The video features a high-energy performance of the song “New Year” by The Breeders, from their popular album Last Splash. It starts off with mellow vocals and then quickly transitions to Jim MacPherson’s dynamic drumming and a chaotic guitar riff. The lyrics, sung passionately by Kim Deal, personify the new year, the rain, and the sun. I highly recommend watching the rehearsal version of this track, filmed on an iPhone in Deal’s basement with fairy lights, before the band’s reunion tour in 2013.

“Happy New Year” by Abba was released in 1980.

The Swedish power group’s New Year song, tentatively titled “Daddy Don’t Get Drunk on Christmas Day,” has a slightly confusing name as it does not mention a father or the holiday. However, the song, featured on their famous album Super Trouper, begins with a nostalgic tone. Although it includes a signature bold and catchy chorus, the lyrics are melancholic. Agnetha Fältskog sings about the end of celebrations and reflects on the state of the world and life’s deeper questions. Nevertheless, a glimmer of hope remains as she sings, “May we all have moments of envisioning a world where everyone is a friend.”

The track was produced in Barbados during the month of January in 1980, which marked the end of the decade. Originally, it was conceived by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson as part of a concept for a musical centered around New Year’s Eve. By chance, they suggested the idea to John Cleese. While the musical did not come to fruition, the song was included on a subsequent album. Interestingly, a version in Spanish gained significant popularity in South America.

In 1967, Otis Redding and Carla Thomas collaborated on a song called “New Year’s Resolution”.

From Otis Redding’s humbly titled duet album with Carla Thomas (King & Queen), New Year’s Resolution is a sultry slow jam focusing on dialogue between a pair of lovers promising to change their ways. “Let’s turn over a new leaf / And baby let’s make promises that we can keep,” suggests Redding. Thomas magnanimously concedes that “women make mistakes too”.

Regrettably, Redding was unable to witness the song’s debut on New Year’s – he passed away in a plane accident in the beginning of December of the same year it was released.

The song “Auld Lang Syne (The New Year’s Anthem)” was released by Mariah Carey in 2010.

Many individuals have already performed Auld Lang Syne, which was originally written as a poem by Robert Burns and was later adapted into a folk song. However, what sets Mariah Carey’s version from her album Merry Christmas II You apart is its remarkably low-budget green screen music video that appears to have been filmed in front of a Windows XP screensaver.

The music is reminiscent of a preprogrammed track on an outdated Casio keyboard, while Carey, who is pregnant, only moves her upper body as she dances. Around the two and a half minute point, she asks, “Does anyone actually know the lyrics?” before effortlessly hitting a high note and finishing with a countdown to the chorus. It’s undeniably terrible, yet strangely captivating. However, the nine remixes released by Island were unnecessary.

Camera Obscura – Happy New Year (2001)

From the first album produced by Stuart Murdoch, the Glaswegian band, comes Happy New Year. This song is not as well-known as their other New Year-themed track, New Year’s Resolution from their 2013 album Desire Lines (which pays tribute to the late Carey Lander). However, I can’t help but choose a song that starts with the lyrics “Did the ironing in a cowboy hat.”

This song is a flawless and uncomplicated example of catchy pop music, featuring a catchy guitar riff and harmonies in the background. Not only that, it’s a refreshingly unique and emotionally sincere love song with a touch of humor, discussing the struggles of keeping a relationship alive (“I’m starting to realize / I’ll either use glue or an elastic band to keep us together”). It’s a delightful piece of music, and the band will be back with more in the upcoming year.

What is the plan for New Year’s Eve for the Orioles in 1949?

In 1947, Frank Loesser, known for his work on Guys and Dolls, wrote this emotional song. It was originally performed by Margaret Whiting and has since been sung by countless artists (although Ella Fitzgerald’s version is probably the most famous). However, the Baltimore doo-wop pioneers’ rendition will always be my favorite.

The simple structure and straightforward melodies that pose the titular question, along with the praise (“out of the thousand invitations you receive”), are characteristic of a group that went on to inspire numerous R&B vocal groups.

While it may seem like January 1st is too late to be paying attention to a New Year’s Eve song, there is a case to be made that it is not. According to reports, Loesser was annoyed by its frequent rendition in December, as the intoxicated speaker is meant to be making advances towards their love interest well in advance (“perhaps it’s too early in the game…”). Count me in for the countdown to 2025.

The song “Funky New Year” was released by the Eagles in 1978.

For the term “funky” in this context, it means feeling extremely hungover. This song is arguably the best choice for a “morning after” anthem, regardless of whether it’s the day after New Year’s. The track begins with party noises like blowers and revelers, then quickly transitions into gritty riffs reminiscent of Wild Cherry. The guitar licks are so seductive that even Nile Rodgers would seem prudish in comparison. There’s also some intense clavinet playing. Lead singer Don Henley sings, “Woke up this morning / I don’t know how / Last night I was a happy man / But the way I feel right now.” Later in the song, in a classic house party scene, he asks about the owner of a pair of shoes. This song was first released as the B-side to the band’s cover of Charles Brown’s “Please Come Home for Christmas.” However, it wasn’t until the band performed it at a massive concert in Los Angeles in 1999 to ring in the new millennium that it was truly appreciated and recognized for its greatness.

The song “My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year)” was released by Peggy Lee in 2006.

Peggy Lee’s song “My Dear Acquaintance” was initially written in 1983 for her musical Peg, but was not included in the final production. It was eventually released in 2006, showcasing a somber piano and strings arrangement with a message of community spirit. However, Lee’s mournful vocals give the song a heartbreaking tone rather than an uplifting one. A few years later, Regina Spektor covered the song for the compilation album Gift Wrapped, adding ironic sounds of war in the background during the lines “All that is gentle / Kind and forgiving.” (Spektor also includes her own New Year’s song on the album.)

The song “New Year” by Beach House was released in 2012.

Beach House’s signature sound of dreamy vocals and glistening synths is evident in New Year. The song starts off soft and gradually becomes more experimental and moody with the addition of deep bass and fuzzy guitars by Alex Scally. It takes listeners on a journey through various musical styles, from ethereal to pop to atmospheric, reflecting the lyrics’ theme of uncertainty and questioning one’s aspirations. Lead singer Victoria Legrand ponders on whether our desires are truly what we want in life: “Is it getting away?” This is a perfect track to listen to on a reflective drive home after spending Christmas with family, perhaps in your childhood bedroom. Such is life.

Bing Crosby’s song “Let’s Start the New Year Right” was released in 1942.

In 1942, Bing Crosby released a song called “Holiday Inn” which was written by Irving Berlin and featured in the movie of the same name. The song, with a romantic tone, is considered a blues wellness anthem. It was performed by Crosby and his orchestra, and also featured Crosby’s co-star, Fred Astaire. Interestingly, Berlin also wrote the famous song “White Christmas” for the same film. With its positive and uplifting lyrics and prominent use of brass instruments, Berlin’s creation stands in stark contrast to the melancholic Eagles, who are often portrayed as being in a state of despair.

The song “Celtic New Year” was released by Van Morrison in 2005.

The opening line of this song, “If I don’t see you through the week / See you through the window,” is quite unsettling. However, the following six minutes of beautiful, mournful blues almost make up for it. Despite the fact that the Celtic New Year falls on November 1st, this long-distance love story still resonates with listeners as we hear the perspective of a wandering troubadour on January 1st. With Morrison’s signature emotional vocals and the addition of strings from the Irish Film Orchestra and Paddy Moloney’s whistle-playing in the outro, this track stands out as one of the strongest and most impressive on Morrison’s 31st studio album, Magic Time.

“Bringing in a Brand New Year” by Charles Brown, released in 1961.

Charles Brown’s Christmas album features a lively mix of instrumentals, including saxophone, electric guitar, and cello, accompanied by a catchy finger-clicking and handclapping beat and jazz piano. Despite fading from the spotlight during the rise of rock’n’roll, Brown continued to release music prolifically as a solo artist and member of the Three Blazers. In his song “Bringing in a Brand New Year,” Brown’s optimistic and ambitious lyrics express his determination to reach new heights. He even mentions the possibility of a trip to Mars, making the popular goal of Dry January seem small in comparison.

Source: theguardian.com

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