My relationship with Christmas music is up and down at best. I can willfully admit that I straight up like some songs, can tolerate others and can sure why not a few more. There are also a handful of Christmas tunes I can’t hear without having flashbacks of being in the chorus in fifth grade and serenading the various old people homes and hospitals of the greater Portland area. I’m not sure if these are good memories, bad memories or just memories.
Regardless, Christmas music- I am generally cool with it. Of course there are a lot of Christmas songs I can’t stand. But going with the Christmas spirit, I’m not going to get into those.
Well, except for two.
Because really, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer?” That song is about straight up bullying. People were complete dicks to poor Rudolph, Santa included. Shit-talk, exclusion, mockery- Rudolph dealt with all of it. Why? Because of a bright, shiny nose? That seems like a ridiculous reason to torment someone. Bad breath? A disturbingly loud and obtrusive voice? Unnecessary hugging? Yeah, those seem like perfectly fine reasons to rib someone. But something like a “bright and shiny nose?” Come on.
And then, the coconuts of Santa and his crew to turn to Rudolph when they needed him and act like, oh dude, it’s cool, yeah we eff’d with you like your whole life, but hey, we’re sorry and yeah, we’re cool now, right? If I were Rudolph I would have unloaded years and years of pent up anger on them. No, no we’re not cool now! We are actually very uncool. These assholes, only when stuck with their thumbs up their ass in the middle of a snow storm finally saw the benefits of a reindeer with a built-in headlamp? I would have thought something like that would have been pointed out as super useful right from the jump. But that’s just me. I have a penchant for tipping my hat to things that are useful.
And then there’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a song that has become more commonly referred to in recent years as Oh yeah, that date rape song. Why? Because yeah, it’s kind of, sort of a song about the moments before something shady happens. I don’t care if it can be song in a wonderfully adorable tone. All that’s missing is the sound of seventeen door locks being locked.
But let’s move on to better songs, better Christmas music, specifically my top ten Christmas songs.
And we start with number one…
“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
It’s fun, it’s fresh, it’s a delightful take on an old favorite, which is how covers of classic Christmas songs should be (with one exception that will come up later.) This song radiates and pulsates fun. You hear it, you start dancing. If you don’t, then God help you what the hell is wrong with you! No really, what’s wrong with you?
“All I Want for Christmas is You” Mariah Carey, Jimmy Fallon & the Roots
A recent performance not withstanding, this song is what Christmas music should be. It makes you sway, it makes you sing a long, it makes you do that adorable little glance over to your partner and say with your eyes- yeah the message of this song, it applies to you smoochy. This version with Jimmy Fallon and the Roots is my favorite.
“Little Saint Nick” The Beach Boys
Growing up, my parents had a very random record collection. Part of the collection was four or five Christmas albums. They loved them some Brenda Lee, I always loved the Beach Boys’ Christmas album, especially “Little Saint Nick.” There should be a component of nostalgia with Christmas music, it should bring you back. That’s what this song does. Brings me all the way back to Regan Lane, G.I. Joe’s and the sound of Gram asking- now what do you have there?
“Christmas in Hollis” RUN DMC
Why is this on the list? Because it’s cool. And Christmas is cool. And Run DMC cool. However, the elf in that video? Kind of creepy.
“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” U2/Darlene Love
Two great versions of the same song and I can’t decide which one I like better. Let’s say I could sing and let’s say I was in a band where I was the lead singer. And let’s say this band was playing a show around Christmas. Then we’d say I would most definitely want to play this song because it seems like such a fun song to sing.
“Silver Bells” Dean Martin
Whereas the other songs hit that merry vibe in a dance around, hug a loved one sense, this song really nails the merry vibe of the clink, clink of a few ice cubes in a glass and that mellow boozy swagger of Christmas eve.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” Frank Sinatra
This should be on everyone’s list.
“Happy XMas (War is Over)” John Lennon
This is a haunting song in the way that it’s spirit sticks with you, you can’t let it go. Which is probably or at least partially the point. I once saw a Portland band, Dominic and the Lucid cover it and when I hear it, I think of them playing it. They killed it.
“Wonderful Christmas Time” Paul McCartney
Is this song cheesy? Yup. Is Christmas also kind of cheesy? Yeah, kind of. So win, win.
“Little Drummer Boy” Sidecar Radio
The exception to my Stay True to the Original When it Comes to Covering a Christmas Classic rule because Sidecar Radio make this song theirs, while also tipping their hat to the original.