As far as seasons go, winter is a little controversial. Pretty much all of us get excited for summer, but whilst some people enjoy the colder months, others dread them. Some people love hunkering down under blankets, wrapping up warm and getting stuck in to winter festivities. Others shiver their way through and wait for summer to arrive.
No matter which side you fall on, one thing we can all agree on is that there have been some fantastic songs written about winter over the years. From big ballads to joyful pop, winter has inspired many of your favourite artists and is responsible for some brilliant pieces of music. Here are 21 of the best songs about winter to keep you warm in the colder months.
“Forever Winter” – Taylor Swift
Although Swift wrote “Forever Winter” for her 2012 Red album, the song was ultimately cut. It wasn’t destined to gather dust forever, however, with Swift adding the song as a “From The Vault” track on her re-release of Red (Taylor’s Version).
“Forever Winter” describes a complicated relationship with a male friend or family member who is struggling with their mental health. Swift is terrified of losing them and begs them not to leave her too early. “Forever winter if you go,” she sings sadly.
“Winter” – Khalid
“Love grows colder in the winter,” sings Khalid sadly on this track from his debut album, American Teen. Although he still loves the girl he’s singing about fiercely, he knows that her love is cooling and he’s sad but not surprised that she’s ready for the two of them to go their separate ways. But winter is harder without someone to bunker down with, and come November he finds himself thinking back over their relationship.
“Hazy Shade Of Winter” – The Bangles
Originally recorded by Simon & Garfunkel, “Hazy Shade Of Winter” was covered by The Bangles in 1987. The track describes the feeling of searching for something or someone, but realising that you’re only repeating the same pattern as you run out of time. You might think you’re in the “springtime” of your life, but if you look around, you might realise that “the sky is a hazy shade of winter.”
The Bangles’ cover of “Hazy Shade Of Winter” ultimately performed better commercially than Simon & Garfunkel’s original recording, charting at No.2 in the US.
“Winter Song” – Sam Fender
Fender asks his listeners to think compassionately in the winter and remember how tough the season is for those who have less. Whilst most of us can “decide to stay in bed” in the cold, many people don’t have a bed to stay in. Fender asks that we spare a thought for those people and think beyond our own bubble.
“Winter Song” was originally recorded by folk rock band Lindisfarne, written and sung by Alan Hull. Fender’s version pays homage to his working class roots.
“Snowman” – Sia
This festive tune from Sia is a cheerful love song for a snowman. She doesn’t want her snowy love to melt, and so she proposes that they “go below zero and hide from the sun.” Sia uses the snowman as an image to represent how she feels her man’s love for her may be evaporating. She wants to go somewhere where she can freeze their relationship, so that their love won’t melt away.
Although “Snowman” was originally released in 2017 as part of Sia’s Everyday Is Christmas album. However, it wasn’t until 2020 that the song gained popularity after going viral on TikTok. Sia later released a “Snowed In & Slowed Down TikTok Remix” version to mimic the sound that users had been sharing.
“Winter Winds” – Mumford & Sons
In the second single from their debut album, Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons explore a moral and emotional dilemma. The narrator is afraid of being alone and so throws himself into a relationship in order to escape his fear. However, he soon realises that spending time with a girl because he’s afraid of the “winter winds” that loneliness brings isn’t a good enough reason to try and fall in love with someone.
“Winter Things” – Ariana Grande
Grande is from Florida, where even in the winter it doesn’t get particularly cold. She isn’t wrapping up warm and enjoying the snow. But her love is in town, and they’re determined that they’re “gonna do some winter things.”
She wants to go ice skating even though it’s 100 degrees outside and relax in a cabin with a roaring fire. “I wanna pretend we’re at the North Pole,” she sings. “Winter Things” was part of Grande’s Christmas & Chill EP, which she and her collaborators put together in just under a week.
“A Winter’s Tale” – Queen
Freddy Mercury composed this melancholy track just two weeks before his death. Recording at a studio on Lake Geneva, Switzerland, Mercury was inspired by the wintery view outside the window. “Swans are floating by, smoking chimney tops,” he describes. “Am I dreaming?” Later, he marvels – “What a truly magnificent view.”
Brian May later expressed why he loved the song so much by explaining that even though Mercury knew he didn’t have long left to live, “A Winter’s Tale” isn’t indulgent or overly emotional, but just a perfect picture of a beautiful view.
“Early Winter” – Gwen Stefani
Stefani uses winter to illustrate the ending of a relationship after things turn cold. This particular freezing over has come early than she expected, however. “Looks like an early winter for us,” she sings. It turns out that her man has been lying to her for years and she’s now having to re-evaluate how she sees the relationship – this man isn’t her sunshine anymore.
“On This Winter’s Night” – Lady A
“On This Winter’s Night” sees country music group Lady A looking back on past winters – particular during the Christmas season – and remembering what they love about the season.
This festive tune comes from the band’s Christmas EP, A Merry Little Christmas, which the band recorded in the middle of July. In order to get into a more wintery frame of mind, the group decorated the recording studio with all their Christmas decorations.
“Winter” – Tori Amos
“I get a little warm in my heart when I think of winter,” sings Amos. She’s clearly in the camp who enjoy the cold weather. This track from her debut album expands on her love of the season, which is tied to her relationship with her father. On a wintery walk with her dad, Amos received some life changing advice about gaining more direction and living her life with more integrity. Amos has since said that the track took on new meaning for her after becoming a mother herself.
“Trains And Winter Rains” – Enya
Originally meant to be a Christmas album, And Winter Came… was eventually reworked to be a seasonal record that addressed all aspects of the cold months. “Trains And Winter Rains” was one of the tracks that explored winter outside of the festive season, with Enya singing about a train journey on a cold day and the landscapes she sees out her window. The track was written with Enya’s frequent collaborators, married couple Nicky and Roma Ryan.
“White Winter Hymnal” – Fleet Foxes
This upbeat, folky track from Fleet Foxes depicts a winter scene, describing warm coats and red scarves. However, lead singer Robin Pecknold has since confirmed that the song’s lyrics don’t really mean anything – the band wanted to open their self-titled 2008 album with a pretty, harmonious tune that focused more on vocals than anything else.
“Winter Bird” – AURORA
Norwegian singer-songwriter AURORA places this dreamy track from All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend firmly in the natural world. She walks in her sleep “like the naked trees” and wants to lie down “by the frozen river.”
Struggling with loss, AURORA feels like a winter bird who is learning to flourish in a cold and barren landscape. “To the winter I belong,” she tells the listener. However, she knows that eventually she needs to thaw and “remember how it was to feel alive.” The harshness of the world around her reminds her that she can’t exist in this place forever.
“Wintersong” – Sarah McLachlan
Having lost her mother to cancer in the winter, McLachlan finds the season difficult. “Reminders of you are everywhere I go,” she sings. Instead of trying to process her grief, she instead tries to focus on the beauty that surrounds her in winter – the snow, the frozen lakes – and find her mother in it.
Gently, over the piano instrumental, she wishes her mother a merry Christmas, wherever she might be. McLachlan has admitted that this song was particularly difficult to write. This wasn’t necessarily because of its emotional subject matter, but because she wasn’t used to setting out to write a song with a particular theme in mind.
“Wolves Of Winter” – Biffy Clyro
Winter is a season that has inspired many ballads, but Biffy Clyro take a different approach with this high energy rock track. On “Wolves Of Winter”, the band depict themselves as wolves ready to defend their patch of land throughout a cold and bitter winter.
The song is a metaphor for how hard the band feel they have fought to gain the ground that they have in the industry, and how they’re still prepared to fight the naysayers. The track opens the band’s 2016 Ellipsis album.
“Winter Wonderland” – Courteeners
“Winter Wonderland” looks at how different people’s experiences of winter are based on their situation. Whilst the festive season brings beautiful postcard pictures of snow covered fields, lead singer Liam Fray shows just how complex the season can be behind the scenes, describing the breakdown of a relationship.
This track was written by Fray on Norah Jones’ piano, whilst at her New York home. All profits from the track were donated to the homeless and housing charity, Shelter.
“Winterlong” – Neil Young
“Winterlong” sees Young pining after a woman he’s lost. He doesn’t know where or how he’ll find her, but he’s still spending the winter waiting for her to come back. Although fans recall seeing Young perform this track as early as 1970, “Winterlong” wasn’t actually recorded until 1977. It was later covered by the Pixies for the 1989 compilation album The Bridge – A Tribute To Neil Young.
“’tis the damn season” – Taylor Swift
This poignant track from Evermore is set in the narrator’s sleepy hometown as she ventures back for the holiday season. Running into her high school sweetheart, she starts reminiscing about what might have been, and finds herself hanging out with him again. “The road not taken looks real good now,” she sings. However, she knows that when winter is over, she’ll be heading back to LA without him.
“Snowfall” – Ingrid Michaelson
“I want a snowfall kind of love,” sings Ingrid Michaelson. “The kind of love that quiets the world.” Michaelson is desiring something sweet, gentle and beautiful this winter – a love she can be softly buried in, with someone she can stay in bed all day with.
“Winter” – The Rolling Stones
This ballad from the Rolling Stones sees them feeling depleted after a cold, hard winter, during which they were trying desperately to keep love burning. Ironically, the band recorded this track in sunny Jamaica, leading to a fairly rushed recording session – producer Jimmy Miller wasn’t happy with any of Mick Jagger’s four takes, but Jagger refused to do more as he wanted to go outside and enjoy the warm weather.
Winter means something different to everyone – as demonstrated by the wide range of tracks on this list. Whether the cold season leaves you toasty on the inside or feeling a little chilled, there’s plenty of great tunes out there to help you hibernate through the winter and get you ready to make a fresh start come spring. Which is your favourite winter tune?
Caitlin Devlin is a music, entertainment and lifestyle writer based in London. When she’s not creating playlists for Repeat Replay, she’s reviewing gigs and interviewing artists for Ticketmaster UK and thinking about what her Spotify Wrapped will look like this year.