Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tara's Top 10 Christmas Songs

It may surprise you to hear that I still like Christmas music even after years of working retail.  I do, though.  Maybe not the really obnoxious and overplayed stuff – honestly, if I hear one more cover of "Baby Please Come Home" I might kill somebody – but there's a lot of great Christmas music out there and the novelty of only being able to listen to it for about a month every year means it's tough to really get sick of.

And so, in no particular order, here are my ten favorite Christmas songs.  They're not terribly traditional, you may notice.  I do like traditional carols.  But I find updated versions or newer songs more fun for singing along in my car or bopping along to with friends.  Enjoy!

Tara's Top 10 Christmas Songs

Elvis Presley, "Blue Christmas:"

Only Elvis is allowed to sing this song. Any other artist attempting it is unacceptable to me. My mom was definitely on the Elvis side of the Pulp Fiction Elvis/Beatles divide, so I used to hear this song on her old vinyl Elvis records as a kid. So my love for this is part nostalgia and part just loving the King's voice and the simple melancholy but not over-the-top song.

The Waitresses, "Christmas Wrapping:"

Can you get more 80s than this? No. No you can not. And it's glorious. I love the Valley Girl lyric delivery, the cheerfully cynical tone, the cheesy horn solo, the John Hughes-esque narrative... I just love the whole damn thing. This one never fails to make me smile.

Run-DMC, "Christmas in Hollis:"

I should warn you, a lot of this list is going to live in the 80s. Because the 80s produced some pretty awesome Christmas tunes. Like this cheerful tale of a Queens Christmas from the rappers you still think about whenever you see someone wearing all black clothes and white sneakers.

The Killers, "Don't Shoot Me Santa:"

And now for something completely different! Remember kids, if you're naughty, Santa won't just deny you toys, he will straight up kill your sorry naughty ass and bury you in a shallow grave.

The Ramones, "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight):"

The Ramones are Long Island royalty. So as a LI girl, no Christmas list I could make would be complete without this awesome classic. Bonus points for the trashy LI video: "We were supposed to visit my parents in MineOOOla!"

The Pretenders, "2000 Miles:"

I did warn you about the 80s thing, right? But seriously. This is a great song. Every time my bangs get too long and hang in my eyes I try to pretend I'm a total rock badass like Chrissie Hynde. Coldplay does a decent cover of this song, but nothing beats the original.

Fountains of Wayne, "Valley Winter Song:"

This isn't technically a Christmas song. But it's on my Christmas playlist anyway because it so perfectly captures the mood of frozen New England winter days. There's something sort of soothing but still moody about it.

The Calling, "Carol of the Bells:"

I stumbled on this one on some Christmas compilation and I love it. Usually you hear this song performed either with enormous drama and bombast or in a traditional choral style, so I love this quiet acoustic version. You can actually understand the lyrics!

Tori Amos, "Pink and Glitter:"

I've loved Tori since about the age of 15 (like most girls who were teenagers in the 1990s). The Christmas CD she put out last year, Midwinter Graces, is absolutely gorgeous. This track is my favorite. I love the Big Band style, and I totally love the title. Two of my favorite things! How could I resist? Tori speaks my language.

Barenaked Ladies featuring Sarah McLachlan, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings:"

It's hard to imagine these two traditional carols sounding so punchy and cheerful, but BNL made it happen. I hit "repeat" on this one a lot every December. It just makes me happy. Maybe it's the combo of carols I remember from a Catholic upbringing combined with a newer, less churchy arrangement.

And there you have it.  I've got about 7 hours' worth of Christmas music in my iTunes, but I found this list weirdly easy to compile.  These were really the clear favorites – and looking at the "times played" count on my iTunes bears that out since these all get the most repeats of anything else.   (I did consider including Adam Sandler's "Hannukah Song," but since I titled the list "Top 10 Christmas Songs" and not "Top 10 Holiday Songs" it felt a little like cheating.)

Anyway.  I hope you like these, and maybe even discovered something new for your own holiday music collection. 


  1. Oh cool, I always have trouble finding anything newer than the mid-60s that I enjoy for Christmas music, so this is sort of perfect for me. Also I had no idea BNL recorded a Christmas album, but I have a strong affection for 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen', and this is a great version. Thanks, Tara!

  2. Possibly in the 'overplayed' category, but it just isn't Christmas without this:

  3. Stupid html formatting, won't let me do a hyperlink. Grr.

  4. I love lists of Christmas music lists that mostly stay away from the "overplayed, every station plays them every year" songs. About the only two songs on your list that are that way are the Elvis and BNL ones and those are GREAT songs! A great list.

  5. I wish that in between the 5,000th loop of Last Christmas, All I Want For Christmas Is You, Do They Know It's Christmas, Santa Baby, and Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer the store I work would throw a few songs from this list too--just in an attempt to keep its employees from completely hating Christmas due to an oversaturation of crappy music.

  6. I do love Space Christmas by Shonen Knife and, well, the entirety of the Vandals Christmas album. This is an awesome list though, as Christmas Wrapping is just one of the greatest songs of ever, and excellent choice of Ramones track too!

  7. I totally have to fight you on Blue Christmas. I can't stand that song. The Mighty Mighty BossToneS also cover "2000 Miles". It has surprisingly become one of my favorite Christmas songs.

  8. Justin, there's so much! Check out any of the "A Very Special Christmas" CDs from the 80s-90s, or VH1's "Big 80s Christmas." Nettwerk Records put out a CD called "Christmas Songs" a few years back with all Canadian artists (which is where the BNL/McLachlan song came from).

    And though I didn't put any of the songs from it on this list, "We Wish You A Metal Christmas and a Headbanging New Year" is a fun CD of Christmas classics performed by supergroups of metal artists: http://www.amazon.com/Wish-You-Metal-Xmas-Headbanging/dp/B001DZN5XA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323813595&sr=8-1

  9. Great list Tara. I've always had a soft spot for Elvis' Blue Christmas and I can't imagine anyone but him singing it. My favorite Christmas song of all time is Carol of the Bells. I've always loved the almost frantic nature it gives off in some versions but the version you listed is great. It's nice to finally understand the lyrics.


  10. No mention of the Brian Setzer Christmas albums, the Colbert special, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Christmas album, Pomplamoose or (Most recently) Scott Weiland's Christmas album means this is nowhere close to what my top 10 would be.
    Still these are great songs, just not my personal favorites.
    And though I do enjoy a few covers of Blue Christmas (Mostly the A Fine Frenzy cover) I definitely agree Elvis does it best.

  11. http://xkcd.com/988/

    Somehow I have managed not to hear Fairytale of New York this year. I am impressed.

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