The last Christmas playlist you will ever need again

21 12 2009

Just kidding. Christmas music is far too pervasive and subjective to make a definitive Christmas playlist. In fact, that’s why this post is coming to you so late, because I have toiled away with trying to figure out how to give it to you. But that doesn’t mean I can’t give you a few tips and pointers along the way. All Christmas music is not made equal, and if you’re going to be in charge of the holiday tunes for friends and family, then you’ve got to have at least some of your bases covered.

Classics

First thing’s first: everybody loves a classic. Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Mel Torme, Tony Bennett and the like — they don’t call them classics for no reason. Any Christmas song in which 99% of the population can sing a lyric or four — those are your classics. The best part about Christmas classics is, unlike almost any other genre of music, you can put the same song on twice, and nobody will care.

Why? Because that version of “Little Drummer Boy” by that crusty old fart is good, but Stevie Wonder‘s remake is worthy of being on your playlist too. That’s key when you have to make a playlist that has to be palatable to a multi-generational audience. There’s nothing wrong with the classics, but you should make sure to have a few alternate versions, because that angst-filled teenager might get a little tired of the same version of some song sung by some dead guy they’ve never heard before.

That’s the beauty of Christmas music, too. Sometimes you get new versions of classic songs that add years of life to a song. Sure I love “Baby, it’s Cold Outside”, it’s one of my favorite Christmas carols. But the one that really gets me? The version from Elf, by Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbon. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to keep Ray Charles and Billie Hollday and Bing Crosby’s version on the playlist though. This way you can keep the hip cousins happy, your blue-blood uncles happy and your racist gamgam happy. It’s a win-win-win.

  • “The Christmas Song” – Nat King Cole. Alternate version: Hootie and the Blowfish, admit it, ever since you saw those old Burger King commercials, you re-friended Darius Rucker.
  • “Jingle Bell Rock” – Bobby Helms. I don’t suggest you grab the version from Mean Girls, but got-damn is that movie just fantastic. Best part? The gay guy, who is hands down the funniest thing in that movie. I will never stop watching that movie, if only for his character.
  • “White Christmas” – Bing Crosby and Tony Bennett are good, but if you want some soul, try Otis Redding‘s version. Yes, it is the one found in the movie Love Actually, what of it? That whole album should be a staple in your Christmas catalog.
  • “All I Want For Christmas is You” – Mariah Carey. Mariah is the song you all know and love, too bad some 9-year-old did it way better. Olivia Olsen belts that shit out in Love Actually (oh yeah, there it is again)
  • “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” – Go for the Zooey Deschanel/Leon Redbone version. Just do not get Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey‘s abortion of a song.
  • “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” – Frank Sinatra.
  • “Silent Night” – Sinead O’Connor should be considered the alternate version, but really, the song isn’t that great, so we’re just gonna give her the original spot for this one. Why? Because I honestly thought she was dead. It’s a Christmas miracle!
  • “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” – Amy Winehouse. Oh yeah, smoking crack is all the rage at Christmas time. Nothing spread the yuletide cheer quite like being incapable of closing your eyelids. But seriously, I have no idea where I stumbled upon this little number, but Amy Winehouse kills it. KILLS it.

Instrumentals

There’s only one album that should represent about 90% of your Christmas instrumental songs: A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. That album should be the official album of December. December should be A Charlie Brown Christmas awareness month. Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas should be going steady, A Charlie Brown Christmas should wear Christmas’ letterman jacket. If you don’t like A Charlie Brown Christmas then you don’t like Christmas, and if you don’t like Christmas, you don’t like America. And if you don’t like America? You’re a terrorist. That’s right I said it.

  • “Carol of the Bells” – The Trans Siberian Orchestra. Nothing says snuggle up next to that fire with a cup of hot cocoa like the merciless shredding of an electric guitar.
  • “Auld Lang Syne”. I know this is the New Year’s song, but I think it’s apropo for Christmas, so long as it’s an instrumental version.

Niche Songs

Niche songs take Christmas, in all of it’s power and glory, and turn it up another notch. These songs are hated by some, loved by others, but regardless of where you stand their mere existence makes the entire genre of Christmas music better. I’m serious too, I dislike some of these songs, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to skip over them. What’s the point of Christmas if not for loving cheesy trash in the name of presents?

  • “Feliz Naivdad” – Jose Feliciano. 90% of America hates this song, and it still get’s played about a billion times a day on the radio.
  • “Wonderful Christmas Time” – Paul McCartney. See “Navidad, Feliz”, then add 9% and an extra billion.
  • “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” – Jackson 5
  • “Do They Know it’s Christmas” – Band Aid
  • “The Christmas Song” – Alvin and the Chipmunks
  • “You’re a Mean one Mr. Grinch” – How the Grinch Stole Christmas

All in all, this is a start. But the most important thing about Christmas music, it still follows the rules of regular music: If you like it, play it. Who cares if Gamgam doesn’t like Weezer‘s “Silent Night”, (though it is truly a calamity of errors and should have never seen the back of a CD), if it gets you in the Christmas spirit then go forth and blast. It only comes around one time a year, so make your own rules.

Oh, and Merry Christmas from everyone at R&R.

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