The holidays are here – ready or not. Some years I get excited – this year, not so much as it’s been a tough year. However, I believe in the holidays, and no matter my mood, I feel as though I need to observe them. The holidays are so much bigger than my own individual mood – so dive into the holidays I shall. There are few things to help me accomplish this – looking at pretty lights always helps, as does looking at the excitement of children in the toy department as they spy their Christmas morning wish. But the biggest thing that helps put me in a holiday mood is to listen to music. Some music is silly, some is sweet, some is profound, some is even sad. Whatever the mood though – it helps set my mood. So on that – here is a list of some of my holiday favorites. I hope they enhance your season as much as they enhance mine:
Christmas – Blues Traveler: These guys get the season right. They start the song out with saying they just don’t “feel it” at this time, and yet they pursue the season anyways. They tell the listener that the holidays are about hope, love, peace on Earth, etcetera. “Noel / or navidad / Season celebration or just the end of the year / Christmas can mean anything /And I mean to keep it’s hope forever near.” They end the song by singing “Hark the herald’s angel sing.” If you don’t understand their religious / philosophical views, the significance of this might get lost on you, but to give you a hint – they’re outspoken atheists and have done entire albums on their viewpoints. So – the ending of the song gives me a huge amount of respect for Blues Traveler as this is putting action to words. This is Blues Traveler showing their feelings are irrelevant as there are more important things to focus on this time of year. Bravo guys, bravo.
Do they Know it’s Christmas – Band Aid: Ok, ok, this might not be the most cheery song ever, but that’s fine. There’s just something about hearing Sting, Bono, Boy George, George Micheal, and every other freaking early 80s British or Irish musician of note singing together. And once more, they were singing together for a cause. They were trying to raise money to feed starving people, as well as to raise awareness of famine. Yeah, sure….the author of the song (Bob Geldof) kind of hates the song (even calling it one of the worse songs ever written). Yeah sure, they had to basically throw a temper tantrum to get Boy George out of bed, across the freaking Atlantic and into the studio. Yeah, sure….Bono really didn’t want to sing that line. Still – when everything was finished, they produced something amazing. Something that’s part of my history. Something that even inspired Quincy Jones and Micheal Jackson to create We are the World (Geldof hates that song as well). This song is my childhood. And despite what Bono thought at the time, I believe “Well tonight thank God it’s them, instead of you,” is one of the best lyrics ever written. I do wonder one thing though – why wasn’t Elvis Costello involved?
12 Days of Christmas – John Denver and the Muppets: Yes, yes, I’m 42 years old and I still love this song. Why? Well, one of the components of the holiday season is joy. What brings more joy than laughter? This is a very funny song. Actually, the entire album is funny as heck. We need more humor in this world, so if you don’t like it….well adjust your funny bone. And chant with animal…won’t go! Won’t go! WON’T GO! (badum dum). Oh wait, that’s We wish you a merry Christmas. Like I said – the entire album is hysterical. And Awesome. If it doesn’t bring you joy, you need a shot of Christmas cheer.
Oh Come All Ye Faithful – Twisted Sister: I never knew that Christmas music could rock until I heard Twisted Sister’s version of this song. But rock it does! It rocks so hard, I want to sing into a hair dryer, 80s style, whenever I hear this. I want to tear my clothes off and dress like the band. Well, maybe not – I mean, me dressed in women’s clothing might look scary. Then again, I probably wouldn’t look half as scary as Dee Snider. One highlight of this song – in the guitar solo (yes, there’s a guitar solo), they start drifting off into “We’re not gonna take it.” Almost an Antithesis of Iron Butterfly, who, in the long version of Inna-gadda-da-vida, drifted into “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” By the way – if you’re not watching any of the videos – watch this one. You’ll laugh your ass off.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing – Bad Religion: Just as Twisted Sister makes Christmas Music rock, so does Bad Religion. But while (I feel) Twisted Sister did it for the hell of it – Bad Religion’s Christmas songs feel like they took a page from Blues Traveler. Here’s a punk band, named Bad Religion of all things. They have been known to come out against organized religion, even featuring a Cross with a red circle and Line through it as their logo. Yet they’re singing some of the most sacred songs, and with reverence too. I chose Hark the Herald Angels Sing as my example, but really most of the entire album does this. And it’s beautiful. It demonstrates that while they speak out against organized religion, they’re perfectly ok with the actual teachings of Jesus, ie love, love, love.
All I ever get for Christmas is Blue – Over The Rhine: There’s a sultry, jazzy feel to this song which will just give you shivers unless you’re dead – and oh the feels! Over the Rhine says they like to write “Reality Christmas” music; music that recognizes, despite the holiday season and the joy thereof, we still feel real and often times dark emotions. We miss loved ones, we feel fear, rejection, sorrow, and pain. This song in particular reminds me of so many Christmas mornings where I longed to have someone by my side – my loneliness having to take a back seat to the holiday, but my loneliness still there. I suppose songs such as this are almost an antithesis to that of the Blues Traveler’s “Christmas.” Just as the season asks us to recognize the season is bigger than our own individual feelings – this song, and others in the “Reality Christmas” genre, remind us that we’re still human. That we can still feel sorrow and pain if we need to – even if it is Christmas day.
Underneath the Tree – Kelly Clarkson: Perhaps this song isn’t up the same standard as most of the other songs on this list, but dammit, I like Kelly Clarkson. So sue me. And this song provides a happy ending to All I ever get for Christmas is blue. There’s nothing wrong with a happy ending. Yes, it’s cheesy, yes, it’s plastic, yes, it’s typical pop – but it’s sweet, sweet candy. There’s nothing wrong with eating candy every so often – as long as you don’t make a steady diet of it, you should be fine.
Christmas at Ground Zero – Weird Al Yankovic: I used to listen to this song every Black Friday. It was almost always the first Christmas song I listened to and set the tone for the entire season for me. While this song is indeed very funny, It really does explore peace on earth. It shows us the horror of a nuclear war – and how even Christmas time chants of peace, hope and joy cannot stop idiotic madmen if they’re hell bent on destruction. Perhaps we should all send this to any and all future presidents. Include with it a short letter: please, for heaven’s sake, and for the sake of Peace on Earth, don’t bomb people. Please! Give Peace a chance.
Christmas Dinner, Country Style – Bing Crosby: Perhaps this song is a little outdated. I really don’t know too many people who make a thanksgiving style dinner on Christmas anymore. Who has that kind of time? We’ve got relatives to visit, presents to wrap, presents to unwrap. Besides, who wants to do all those damned dishes? Having said all that, it’s a throwback to a different time – one I saw in my grandparents and their siblings. One that will always be part of me, even if it celebrates a tradition I don’t celebrate. Going back to the concept of Reality Christmas, perhaps remembering our deceased loved ones during the holidays isn’t as bad or sorrowful as we think it might be. Remembering their traditions, their quirks, what made them smile, what made them happy – yeah, we miss them – but remembering the things that gave them joy might be enough to bring us a little joy despite their absence.
Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire – Bob Rivers: Let’s be honest: there are some freaking annoying Christmas songs out there. And while some of you might like the Chipmunks Christmas song, I see it as one of the most annoying songs ever written. This song serves as a sort of therapy for those of us who just can’t listen to that accursed song any freaking more. Sure – it might be a bit to macabre for the season, but hey! It brings me joy to think of Alvin, Simon, and Theodore as part of that “Christmas dinner, country style…”
Winter Wonderland – Steve Taylor: Christmas songs done in a mariachi style. Why not? I guess it’s better than José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad.”
The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah: I’ll leave you with this, perhaps one of the most beloved choral arrangements of all times. This song, especially while preformed by a mass choir and full orchestra, really does illiterate the point about the season being more than just about our own selves. Look at the video – look at all those faces. Hundreds of people, with who knows what is going on in their lives. If you pay attention, you can even see it in their faces. You can see that something in their lives is not going well – there’s pain and sorrow and worry…and yet there they are….singing Hallelujah with a thousand other people. They may or may not believe the same things as I believe – they may or may not care about the same things – they may or may not even like the same type of music. But there they stand, singing about the coming of the Messiah (whether they believe in the Messiah or not).