Inspired by Jay of Sexy Armpit (who was, in turn, inspired by Matt of DinosaurDracula), I have decided to share with you my ultimate, desert island X-Mas music playlist. Even though being stranded on a desert island wouldn't seem that X-Mas-y, fire up my playlist and you'll think the white sands were snow. Then, because my playlist has such a powerful grip on your mind, any rescuers will find you dead of exposure ... but from FROSTBITE! TWIST! X-Files.
Raised in an oldies home - that is, my mom didn't believe that any music was made after 1965 - all of my X-Mases sounded like Baby Boomer X-Mases. All doo wop-y and Phil Spector-y. It was great, though it did make me very suspicious of new X-Mas songs. "What gives them the right?! Didn't we get this perfect by the 50s?!" Happily, I have since gotten over this bias and have even come to embrace some new stuff, as you'll soon see (if I shut up and just get to my list already).
Winnowed down from the 1,034 Christmas songs I own, here is my top 15. It wasn't easy. I'm presenting them in what I like to call a "Accurately Nebulous" order. That is to say that #1 IS my favorite of all time, but 2 through 15 are all kinda interchangeable. Do you love one child more than the others? Yes. You love the best child. (But all the others? Who cares in what order you love them?)
Super swinging jazz-time X-Mas sounds! So poppy and light, you'd almost forget WWII was happening. Also: Try and forget about his son's future accusations that Der Bingle was a monster who would take any opportunity to beat his son with a belt.
I think this list is off to a great start!
Ah, this freaky little nerd of a song. The one everyone says they hate, but secretly wants all songs to be like. It's what the future of Christmas sounded like, 30 years ago. The Robot Of X-Mas Future approves of this song.
I might like the Stevie Wonder version slightly better, but I wanted to put something super-contemporary from a modern music superstar (and The Voice chair-holder) onto my list to make me look cool and current. Even if Cee Lo's X-Mas special, last year, was pretty terrible, this is still a great version of the song and one that I'm OK with hearing all over the place.
Here's one from my childhood that I didn't "get" until I was much older. When it was first on the airwaves, I dismissed it as noise. (A young me was a lot like a very old everyone else's grandparents.) "Why isn't there a SONG there?" I'd think. Yet time, and familiarity, causes us all to fall in love. Now I look forward to it, once the weather turns cold. It's also great because how many X-Mas songs curse? "A&P has provided me / With the world's smallest turkey / Already in the oven, nice and hot / Oh damn! Guess what I forgot?"
I'm 36 and this lyric still makes me uncomfortable to hear, when my mom is around.
Of all the songs on "A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector" (which, if you do not own that album, shame on you! It's great ... even that creepy final track where Phil personally wishes us all a happy Christmas (while probably plotting our murder)) this one is my stand-out favorite. Weird that a ballad about a ditched lover lamenting her loss on Christmas day would become a fan favorite. Darlene Love's voice is just so full of pain. That's what X-Mas is, right? Pleasure mixed with pain. A Cenobite X-Mas!
It hits me, as the kids say, in my feelings. (Paraphrased.) It's heartbreaking in the very same way that "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" is, but with a happy ending, this time! (Spoilers: The guy comes back [turns out he just stepped out for a smoke and this chick over reacted. Typical woman, am I right? Is Misogyny in the X-Mas spirit?])
No idea who Olivia Olson is, but she belts out a mean version of this song. According to Wikipedia, she's also the voice of someone called "Vanessa Doofenshmirtz". Has Mariah ever played a Doofenshmirtz? Didn't think so. Case. Closed.
Seriously, if you're not moved by this song, you're a monster. It's achingly beautiful and exactly what you'd expect a Bing Crosby / David Bowie track not to sound like at all. ("Oh don't lean on me man / cause you can't afford the frankincense / I'm back from Nazareth city ... aaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAA, Wham, bam Beth-le-hem!"
Turn the lights off, turn the tree on, and stare out the window at the snow while snuggling under a blanket and sipping cocoa. Now let Lou Rawls' buttery tones slide all over this song and into your ears. Yeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhh. Ahhhhh.
Bonus fun: Lou Rawls is the guy who sings the songs in the old Garfield holiday specials, so you can opt to imagine Garfield singing it to you, instead.
More of a skit than a song, but it's always the song with which I start my holiday song-listening. It's great. If I had to chose an X-Mas song to sing - or any song - to be my "theme", then the sung portion of this track would be it. It'd be my "Hooray For Captain Spaulding". There would be a lot of top-hat lifting and cane-spinning and high-kicking.
Probably my most favorite "secular X-Mas song" (in that it's about the season and not the "reason"). It's a peppy love letter to everything white. Um. I mean, "snow-covered". It makes walking around outside in the snow sound inviting and not at all bone-chilling and exhausting. (Digging out a car "I'll give YOU a marshmallow world right upside your head, Mr. Martin, you sunuva... " trails off into grumbles.)
You know what, Andy, it IS the most wonderful time of the year. And even though I can't keep the images from that Staples back-to-school commercial from popping into my head whenever I hear it, you still fit the X-Mas season perfectly! It's a great and optimistic song for an optimistic time of year. Anything is possible ... if you just trust Andy.
I'm pretty sure it really isn't Santa, but someone come to rob Louis Armstrong.
This entry was almost "Christmas Night In Harlem", which would certainly slot in at #16. Or maybe I should swap the two? I'm terrible at lists, because I'm so indecisive.
A counter-point to "Santa Baby" in which all pretense is stripped away, and the lady just asks for a box of money, instead. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE "Santa Baby" - especially the Eartha Kitt version (which brings the much-missing quality of "sex appeal" to X-Mas), but this song one-ups it in a most hilarious way.
This one is relatively new to being my fave of all time, but, I dunno, it just hits me right in the X-Mas spot. Also (not) interesting? For it being my favorite, I have the least to say about it, of any of the songs. It wasn't playing when anything important happened to me, or whatever, it's just solid. And it slid into my #1 spot comfortably, the way true love should.
Now here's a Spotify playlist for you to listen to. It includes all of the songs above ... except for "All I Want For Christmas Is You", because it is uncooly not on Spotify. Find it on YouTube or something....
(If your browser is an idiot, or you're on mobile, you might not see the embedded playlist. Poor thing. Click here to get sent to Spotify, instead.)
Please note that I've restricted myself to only "real" songs. (That is, ones that I deemed "real" because they were played on the radio and released by real artists ... or something. I dunno, the demarcation here is fuzzy, but I had to draw a line (even if it's one that only I know where it is), otherwise, tracks 1-10 would be from The Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack and I'd have to sort through all the best songs from Rankin and Bass animated TV specials.) I'll save every other kind of song for a future post.
Holy crow, this post took me a long time to write.
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