The Best Christmas Albums for Your Holiday Party, Ranked By How Drunk People Need To Be to Listen

If you're throwing a Christmas party, you're going to need holiday music on rotation. Once everyone's drunk on eggnog, you can whip out Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" so the horde can screech along. But in the hours before that, when everyone is still making small talk, it's important to set a mood. A good, party-friendly Christmas mix strikes a balance between jingle-bell-ringin' enthusiasm and laying down a chill vibe.

Setting the mood

Partygoers are like baby animals lost in the woodland hills—they need to be lured into the spirit. Gently coax your guests into a good time with some lightly comedic Christmas music, something that says, "I can't believe we're adults wearing ugly sweaters."

Barenaked for the Holidays, from The Barenaked Ladies, is a surprisingly spiritual album from a band most famous for lyrics like "Chickity China the Chinese chicken." It's also pretty inclusive: They sing Hanukkah songs, spiritual and secular classics, even "Auld Lang Syne." If you only play one track, make it "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / We Three Kings," a holiday classic mash-up featuring Sarah McLachlan that (somehow) borders on funky.

Because the Barenaked Ladies are hokey, you're going to want to balance their earnestness with something more hip. Follow with the soundtrack to Bill Murray's Netflix special A Very Murray Christmas, featuring tongue-in-cheek covers by Hollywood elite. The stand-out track: An original by the band Phoenix, "Alone on Christmas Day." It's so catchy you'll swear you've heard it before, maybe in a Wes Anderson movie.

Stoking the spirit

Just when your guests are thinking, "Boy, this party is a snoozer," hit them with James Brown's Funky Christmas, a greatest-hits compilation comprising three holiday records from the hardest working man in show business. Your friends will begin that little half-dance that suggests they haven't had quite enough to drink yet. Be warned, though: A few of Brown's Christmas tunes are political manifestos in disguise. Still funky, but with a message.

For a millennial version of Brown, try Chance the Rapper and R&B crooner Jeremih's modern smooth PBR&B sounds, complete with flirty holiday lyrics. Tailor-made for assessing the opposite sex.

Once everybody's engaged, hit 'em with arguably the greatest Christmas album ever recorded: Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift For You, featuring Darlene Love, The Ronettes and The Crystals. This isn't about creating sexual tension—it's an oldies album, after all—but it's the perfect backdrop for the time in the party when everyone has moved from talking to yelling.

Keep 'em merry

Once you're nearing 11 p.m., when people are paying more attention to each other than to your holiday tunes, switch to A John Waters Christmas. It's a good way to slow things down a bit, without dampening the mood. At least one partygoer—your hippest friend—will overhear the lyrics and yell out, "Is this Tiny Tim right now? Are we listening to Tiny Tim?"

Follow Waters' festive quirk-parade with Jacob Miller's Natty Christmas, a stoner-friendly holiday reggae album that will amuse your older guests and inspire some of the younger ones to take it down a notch. Then hit your guests with the Ravonettes' Wishing You a Rave Christmas. All the reverb will buzz nicely, and everyone around you will think, "Wow, who knew [your name] was so cool?"

When normal people start to leave

As your acquaintances and coworkers start to trickle out, leaving you with your ride-or-die friends, slip into Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole (The Magic of Christmas), or the highlights from Songs for Christmas by Sufjan Stevens. Don't play the latter in its entirety—it's approximately 4,000 years long.

Once you're all drunk and in your pajamas, eating the last of the cookies and putting beers into the recycling bin, it's time for A Charlie Brown Christmas. At least one person will know how to do Linus and Lacy's dance moves.

Congratulations! You hosted a Christmas party without offending anyone's music sensibilities. Now what do you got for New Year's?