I should warn that my Christmas playlist isn’t much of a traditional one to start with: The only Bing Crosby is a duet with David Bowie. The most frequently appearing orchestra is the one accompanying Brian Setzer on rockabilly takes of Christmas tunes. I have more versions of “Christmas” by The Who than “Silent Night”, by anybody.
Still, I can only take the playlist in small doses. I get sick of it! And lest you think that means I’m a Christmas curmudgeon, I would point out that my favorite Christmas song remains Tim Minchin’s “White Wine in the Sun”, with its “I really like Christmas!” sentiment. Because I do. But much of my favorite music could be characterized as loud or angsty rock. And that is pretty much the opposite of most Christmas music.
Still, the seasonal sound is nice on occasion through December (not every day!), and when else are you going to listen to most of this stuff? So it is nice to rejuvenate it with some additions. Some of which I thought might interest more than just me.
A lively take on tradition: “Joy to the World” by Earth, Wind, and Fire
I first heard this on CBC radio, and Google Play is currently giving it away for free. A completely original take and a welcome reminder that Christmas should be about joy. “Somebody clap your hands!”
The mashup: “Tommy’s Royal Christmas” by DJ Schmolli,
Nothing’s taking the place in my heart from Spiraling’s amazing mashup of “Do you hear what I hear” and The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”, but I will say that this combination of Pete Townshend’s demo of The Who song ”Christmas” with Lorde’s “Royals” is pretty interesting.
A hilarious celebration of Christmas food: “La Tourtière” by La Bottine Souriante
There’s nothing about Christmas in this song, so you just have to know that French Canadians mainly eat la tourtière (meat pie) at Christmas time. The song is lively and danceable, and the lyrics—if you understand them—are hilarious.
A song about another late-year holiday: “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah” by The Barenaked Ladies
These guys give a wicked Christmas concert that I was privileged to see a couple years ago. This lively take on the Jewish holiday was the song that stood out for me, giving Adam Sandler’s “The Chaunukah Song” a run for its money as best non-Christmas Christmas song.
Inappropriately sexy: Mon Beau Sapin by Garou
“Mon Beau Sapin” is “O Christmas Tree” sung in French. This Garou version was an iTunes freebie. Is it just me, or does he sound unnaturally attached to this tree? Maybe he means it as a metaphor?
A great singer at work: “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” by “Glee Cast”
This song was used on episode of Glee, but except for the narration, the voice is all KD Lang. And I never get sick of that voice…
The great Christmas song that never was: “She’s Right on Time” by Billy Joel
Most modern Christmas pop songs are basically love songs set in December, with the singer wishing / bemoaning / celebrating that their loved one is or isn’t around. “She’s Right on Time” falls into that category, but seems to have slipped through the cracks of ever being treated as a Christmas single. Too bad; it’s an excellent song from Joel’s best album, The Nylon Curtain, in which he celebrates that his girlfriend has chosen to forgive his “far too many sins to mention” and return to him right at Christmas time: “I guess I should have known it; she’d find the perfect moment!” (I especially love that he spends most of the song running around getting the house in shape for her…)
She’s Right on Time by Billy Joel (I think this goofy video may not have helped this song…)
And, Band Aid 30 has released a new version of Do They Know It’s Christmas. Sure, the original was better, but this one is helping to raise money for the current Ebola crisis. You should get it. (Or, just donate to Médecins sans frontière.)