Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s essentially Christmas for the next month—at least for advertisers, movie studios and pop musicians(‘ labels). Pop musicians and Christmas are like Americans and professional soccer, they only associate at regular intervals but goddammit if they don’t embrace each other 100% when they finally do converge. Unfortunately, just like the World Cup, Christmas pop songs are not always satisfying. In fact, sometimes a Christmas single is so bad it feels like the artist was trying to Zidane you. Still, Christmas music is fundamentally cheerful and oftentimes the holiday track succeeds. Enjoy our 5 best and 5 worst Christmas songs after the jump (NOTE: These are Christmas songs – everybody knows there is only one “The Hanukkah Song” and then “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel”).
The Waitresses — “Christmas Wrapping” It’s like Blondie, except with a voice slightly different from Debbie Harry’s…and the most baller saxophone line this side of Clarence Clemons. Even better than the music, however, is the narrative—few pop artists have ever achieved such a vivid yet simple depiction of white girl problems in song: “Deck those halls, trim those trees, raise up cups of christmas cheer./ I just need to catch my breath. Christmas by myself this year.”
The Beach Boys — “Little Saint Nick” The Beach Boys were killin’ it in 1964, and then those bowl-cut Brits came and messed it all up. It’s ultimately just a fun song with enough vocal harmonies to keep a smile on anybody’s face, even if you have to deal with Brian Wilson being relegated to a supporting role for just one song. Plus, we often forget that Santa’s supposedly also St. Nicholas…in some cultures…depending on the era…
The Drifters — “White Christmas” If only for the scene where Kevin McAllister naively tosses some alcohol-based aftershave on his seven-year-old face, this song is a great Christmas tune. Like The Beach Boys (and most other ’50s-’60s rock outfits), The Drifters had a great sense of harmony that elevated a somewhat trivial song to something wonderful. Plus, it’s always pleasant to hear a song from an African-American recording artist who isn’t a ’90s R&B star/group.
Vince Guaraldi Trio — “Christmas Time is Here” Peanuts cartoons, especially the Christmas episode, are some of the most entertaining animated features around, despite being produced before most of us were born. Beyond being a great jazzy instrumental, the track also provided the perfect melancholy music for the beloved ’00s television series Arrested Development. Can anybody actually resist a song that immediately brings to mind both Charlie Brown and George Michael Bluth?
Paul McCartney — “Wonderful Christmas Time” Some would say that this song is pure camp and sounds more dated than much of McCartney’s wildly catchy but ultimately shallow pop music catalog. We would probably agree—primordial synthesizers tend to do that to songs coughKeithEmersoncough. Some wise men, on the other hand, would say that no best music list is complete without some degree of Beatles representation. Therefore, Sir Paul, will you please come forward to accept your honor from the most popular blog brought to you daily by the Herald?
Miles Davis – “We Three Kings of Orient Are” I suppose that a song whose title reads like a holiday speech from Yoda would inspire some strange renditions, but Miles wrenches this Christmas standard out of its lofty perch and does weird, unspeakable things to it. We seriously do like Miles Davis, and some of his funky era stuff is dank, but he just can’t do carols. The original song surfaces for a few pained seconds every minute or so, then reverts to a normal Miles-y freakfest. It’s like he thought to himself, I know, I’ll go out there and play this Christmas song, except — and here’s the kicker — I won’t actually play it. They’ll eat it up! Talk to my back, fuckers!
Bob Dylan, “Here Comes Santa Claus/Little Drummer Boy/Must Be Santa” Bob Dylan sounds like Batman, and do you see Batman making any Christmas albums? No, you don’t, because Batman knows better. Half the comments on any recent video of Bob Dylan are always “Shut up he’s earned the right to make whatever he wants,” but no one has the right to aurally waterboard us during the season of goodwill. “Must Be Santa” is actually not too shabby, but that’s only because Current Bob Dylan sounds better when he’s singing loud and fast and has lots of backup. “Little Drummer Boy” is a different story. No little drummer boy in history has ever spoken slowly in a cigarette-ravaged voice, but now Bob Dylan has shown us what to expect if that dread future ever comes to pass.
Band Aid, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” To be able to sing or play an instrument on this charity track you must first ask yourself the question, “Do I believe that the dying wish of every single starving Ethiopian is to have a hit Christmas single written about them?” and then answer with a large, neon “YES.” Key lyrics include The Christmas bells that ring there/are the clanging chimes of doom/Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you. A-fucking-men. Strangely, Band Aid chose this tender moment to engage in some controversial climate change rhetoric, remarking And there won’t be snow in Africa/this Christmas time, probably because of the exhaust from all those big, filthy Ethiopian Cadillacs being driven to and from grocery stores.
Korn, “Jingle Bells” The members of Korn roar in hardcore approval of every single small event in their lives. Make nachos? Well then tear that nearby dog to shreds. Successfully parallel park your sensible Honda Civic? Immediately construct four shrines to Bal and begin self-flagellation. Mail a postcard to your sister? Eat your own tongue. Riding in a one-horse open sleigh fits in perfectly. They’re readying the smoke grenades and eyeball tattoos as we speak. All this talk is silly, though, because everyone knows who the really good sleigh bells belong to.
Ying-Yang Twins, “Deck Da Club” It was a toss-up between the Twins’ holiday effort or the entirety of Lil B’s holiday mixtape, but we sided with the Twins because we can safely count on Lil B rapping something about yuletide joy during the other 11 months of the year. We have found that around the holidays, it is especially hard to obtain crunk – the department stores just don’t want to sell it in the quantities we require. It’s fitting, then, that Christmas has been graced with the Ying-Yang sound. Please, email BlogDailyHerald if you have a picture of your boughs of money – we can’t figure out how to make all the bills stick together properly.