Every single Christmas season some brilliant music executive decides that there needs to be a newer, shinier version of an old standard, even though there are literally hundreds of preexisting versions of the same, old standard. Frankly it’s all starting to sound the same. From NSYNC’s “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” to Megan Trainor’s “I’ll be Home for Christmas” there has been a distinct lack of originality. So I’ve compiled a list of hidden Christmas jam gems that will shake up the normal Christmas music routine.
“White Christmas” by Otis Redding
First of all, it’s Otis. What can really go wrong? He gives White Christmas a much needed injection of soul. It’s the perfect song for dreamily staring into the fire and slowly slipping into a post-Christmas Eve food coma, brought on by too many helpings of mashed potatoes.
“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by the Pointer Sisters
If you can listen to this song and not get excited about the Christmas season, then you are a miracle of science. Or dead. The Pointer Sisters’ harmonies are on point, their spirit is infectious, and the saxophone is the kicker. Listen while dancing and decorating your studio apartment with the tinsel you found in the trash can outside. (Christmas decorations are expensive!)
“This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway
A) Mr. Hathaway’s voice. B) Mr. Hathaway’s voice. You will find yourself singing this song at completely inopportune moments, which is really any moment because you don’t sing like Donny Hathaway.
“Christmas Must Be Tonight” by Bahamas
Full disclosure, I’m a huge Bahamas fan, so maybe I’m an eensy bit biased, but this song is wonderful. It’s pacific yet soulful — you are immediately transported to a beachside bonfire in Hawaii where the only guests are you, Bahamas’s voice and your significant other. You clink your Coronas together and thank Christ you’re not stuck in some sub-zero hellscape like the rest of the suckers at your office. I hate you.
“Glorify” by Ivan & Alyosha
A Christmas carol to keep away from your mother — save this one for the debauched pre-Christmas parties with your other heathen friends. Ivan & Alyosha implore us to “glorify the Lord above with your drink and making love,” and I don’t mind if I do. It’s also catchy as hell.
“Auld Syne Lang” by Andrew Bird
Andrew Bird’s version of this very old tune feels both traditional and true to his style — he keeps it uptempo and simple, but still manages to have a fantastic fiddle solo that fits into the song seamlessly, (“a fiddle solo?!?! Oh fuck ya, I need to listen to this song now!!” is what you should be saying).
“A Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives
Although this song is incredibly well-known, it has slowly begun the descent into obscurity, which is a shame. The lyrics of the song are about the best parts of the season — being jolly, drinking cups of “cheer” (like I don’t know what that is Burl), and casually shrugging off the imminent threat of global warming (“I don’t know if there’ll be snow, but have a cup of cheer!”)
“At the Christmas Ball” by Bessie Smith
While listening, you are taken to a booze-filled bar on Christmas Eve in 1927. You smile drunkenly and ask the dame at the bar to bring you another glass of moonshine. Seriously, it’s a drunken mess of a song, but let’s face it — that’s what you turn into after more than three days with family.
“Give Me One Reason” by Eric Clapton and Tracy Chapman
Ok, so not necessarily a Christmas song, but it was on one of those A Very Special Christmas albums that came out in the 90s, so I associate it with my childhood Christmases (you know what I’m talking about — the albums with the Keith Haring album covers). This song is perfect for your pre-Christmas karaoke duet. Or your post-Christmas karaoke duet. Or your New Years karaoke duet. Any karaoke duet, at any time.