A Christmas playlist
Let me admit something to you right here and now that will likely cause my hipster music snob card to be permanently revoked: I love Christmas music. Absolutely adore it. I keep a couple of dozen Christmas songs in my Spotify library year-round and never forward past them when they pop up on random. I like classic lounge singer tunes, choral renditions, and modern rock and roll takes, just about any way it comes I like.
What makes a great Christmas song? Like all great music, great Christmas songs are heartfelt, emotional, genuine, and, often, a bit sad and melancholy. A great Christmas song can make you feel all the feels in a short amount of time, but by the end, they usually leave you feeling optimistic and hopeful. See for example Christmas Baby (Please Come Home), Good King Wenceslas, and A Fairytale of New York, the greatest Christmas song there ever was, or ever will be.
Then again, like other all other types of music, there’s some really awful holiday songs, usually made all the more awful by the fact that they are nothing more than transparent money grabs. I’m looking at you everything by Mannheim Steamroller and 90% of the pop/country versions of classics that flood the airwaves these days. You can tell within about 30 seconds when a performer doesn’t have their heart in it and are simply recording something at the suggestion of the manager or producer. And don’t even get me started on “novelty” songs.
Anyway, here’s my annual Christmas playlist, updated for 2015, and perfect for your next holiday party, sitting in traffic on the way to the mall, or just a quiet night at home by the tree.
As a bonus, here’s a couple of favorite versions that aren’t on Spotify.
Good King Wenceslas – Mel Torme
Thematically this has always been one of my favorite Christmas songs, especially the line “Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing” (a sentiment that many an alleged Christian of wealth and rank could probably stand to heed more often.) The problem with the song is that traditional versions tend to be sung be serious men with deep voices in the style of a funeral dirge. Enter the Velvet Fog, who gives it a bopping jazz makeover that transforms the song completely. Hallelujah.
The Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth – Bing Crosby & David Bowie
A stone cold classic, this one. The awkward Christmas special banter at he beginning makes it all the better. Legend has it that the Thin White Duke balked initially at singing Little Drummer Boy, so the Peace on Earth counter melody was added literally a few hours before taping. And voila, a classic is born. (apologies for the ad before this one)
Cheers, and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all, regardless of how you celebrate the season.