With just one more day remaining until Christmas, I’m sure you have heard a Christmas song or 500 since you finished eating that Thanksgiving turkey. In fact, you probably started hearing holiday music once everyone put their Jack-o-Lanterns away almost two months ago. Each year it seems that the holiday season gets pushed up earlier and earlier. Before we know it we’ll be getting ready for Christmas on the 4th of July.
But that’s not the point of this post. Today we’re talking about CHRISTMAS MUSIC, people, and all the wonderful things about it. More specifically, the best albums you all should be listening to during the season.
So get ready for…13 AWESOME HOLIDAY ALBUMS YA’LL NEED!
(in no particular order because I can’t commit)
13. The Carpenters: Christmas Portrait / An Old Fashioned Christmas (1978/1984)
70s easy-listening superstars The Carpenters released two Christmas albums during their short reign, and you can buy them today as one big SUPER-ALBUM (or super-download, whatever). When I was younger my parents listened to a LOT of The Carpenters, which, of course, made me think they were lame once I hit that age where everything your parents like is lame. But once I grew up and realized that The Carpenters are, you know, kind of BOMB, it’s easy to appreciate the awesomeness of their super relaxing and comfy-cozy Christmas albums. And their biggest original holiday hit, “Merry Christmas, Darling”, is freaking gorgeous. CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT THE CARPENTERS.
12. Michael Buble: Christmas (2011)
For some reason it took this super suave Canadian, like, EIGHT YEARS to make a whole Christmas album (he released a Christmas EP back in 2007, but it only had six songs on it, which totally doesn’t count). But apparently it was worth the wait because his 2011 album Christmas is everything a Christmas album needs to be. It has all the songs you love, sung by that voice you love, PLUS an swoon-worthy (YES I SAID SWOON-WORTHY) version of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, second only to the original. CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT MICHAEL BUBLE.
11. She & Him: A Very She & Him Christmas (2011)
Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward are about as close to a Very Hipster Christmas you can get right now, at least until Mumford & Sons or The Lumineers release a Christmas album. But until that day comes, you have the pleasure of enjoying one of the most sweet and chill holiday albums out there. Seriously, this album just makes me want to sit in a really cozy (but still modern) coffee shop with my iPhone and some coffee and a cute hat on my head and have quirky conversations with people on Twitter. It’s coziness without all the old-timeyness, if that makes sense. CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT SHE & HIM.
10. A Christmas Gift to You from Phil Spector (1963)
Let’s forget for a moment that Phil Spector is a creepster and remember all of the amazing musical acts he produced back in the 60s. Now let’s appreciate that musicality on one Christmas album, A Christmas Gift to You. The album mainly consists of The Ronettes and Darlene Love, and some of the most memorable versions of famous holiday songs were created for this album, like “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). The album was originally a total FLOP, mainly because it was released on November 22, 1963 – the same day JFK was assassinated. But 50 years later it continues to be enjoyed and cherished and just completely awesome. CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT PHIL SPECTOR.*
*Well, not really anymore, because, you know, he’s a murderer. But still. Good music.
9. Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite (1892)
Truth: I actually listen to this album all year round. But more so during the month of December because, you know, it’s about Christmas and all that. And seriously, who doesn’t love The Nutcracker music? It’s some of the most recognizable classical music out there, so much so that my husband, who wouldn’t know a piece of classical music if it hit him in the face, even recognizes it. Initially the ballet itself wasn’t popular, and Tchaikovsky himself didn’t even like it that much, though I think he changed his mind afterwards. He must have got the feels during the Pas de Deux the same way I do. Today The Nutcracker is another part of many people’s traditions, and will remain so for a very long time. CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT THE NUTCRACKER.
8. Glee: The Christmas Album, Volume 1 (2010)
During Glee’s second season they released a Christmas album, which at the time was like the world’s best Christmas present to me. And say all you want about Glee, but that first holiday album they released (they’ve released two more since) was actually very awesome. It includes a holiday single they had released during their first season, Wham’s “Last Christmas”, which is my favorite modern Christmas song, and other classics that have yet to be overdone. Their version of “Welcome Christmas” from How the Grinch Stole Christmas makes me cry. They even do The Carpenters’ “Merry Christmas, Darling” which, if you’ve been reading this, you know makes me happy. And even though they do the ever-popular “O Holy Night”, a song that really good singers love to sing to show off their skills, Lea Michele’s rendition is one of the best I’ve heard. Which is saying a lot. CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT GLEE.*
*But just their first Christmas album.
7. The Hotel Café Presents…Winter Songs (2008)
The Hotel Café opened in 2000 and became the stomping ground for many now-famous female singer-songwriters like Sara Bareilles, Priscilla Ahn, Ingrid Michaelson, and Meiko. And THANK GOODNESS ladies like those and others came together and put out an ensemble holiday album because it is probably my favorite modern ensemble holiday album of all time. Some songs are original, some are not, ALL ARE AWESOME. And seriously, you can’t beat Fiona Apple singing “Frosty the Snowman” because it’s just so odd and perfect in every way. This is the perfect album to change things up this holiday without getting too crazy and left-field. CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT THE HOTEL CAFÉ.
6. Straight No Chaser: Christmas Cheers (2009)
There’s just something about an all-male a cappella group that is so soothing to the ears, am I right? I mean, people using their voice not only to sing words, but to create music is pretty amazing. And when they sing Christmas songs? WIN WIN! This particular album comes after their first holiday album in 2008, and I like it better because it’s a bit more fun than the traditional songs of the first one. With songs like “Who Spiked the Egg Nog” and their hilarious version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, this album will make you want to go to a bunch of holiday parties and be social. And perhaps join an a cappella group. CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT STRAIGHT NO CHASER.
5. Kelly Clarkson: Wrapped in Red (2013)
This is the newest album that appears on this list, and because of that it’s the most unfamiliar to me, as I’ve hadn’t had much time to listen to it. But it’s Kelly Clarkson, and you just can’t go wrong with this girl. And like Michael Buble, why did it take her ten years to release a holiday album??? It only took Mariah five years. Hell, it took The Biebs only two years. Whatever, I’m just glad she did. Because it’s pretty great. She’s got some fun original songs like “Underneath the Tree”, which is reminiscent to when the 15-year-old me heard Mariah’s “AIWFCIY” (I’ve turned her song into an acronym now) for the first time (re: FUN), and even though I still don’t consider “My Favorite Things” to be a Christmas song , her version is fun because she just belts the crap out of it, as she should. CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT KELLY CLARKSON.*
*And it’s about time, too.
4. Enya: And Winter Came… (2008)
And now for something completely different! One thing I love about the holiday season is incorporating Celtic and Pagan music into the mix of things, and Enya’s New Age holiday album is perfect for doing just that. Because sometimes you need a break from all the white Christmases and holy nights, am I right? Enya wrote and composed ten of the twelve tracks on this album – the only two she didn’t are an Irish version on “Silent Night” (“Oiche Chiuin”) and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. While listening to her calming music it’s easy to picture snow-covered rolling hills and other wintery images that will make you long for a walk in the snowy forest or want to have a hot toddy. Or anything Irish. CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT ENYA.
3. A Leroy Anderson Christmas (1940s-50s)
For those days when you want to listen to Christmas music but just want some nice, background music with no singing, Leroy Anderson is your way to go. Leroy Anderson was a composer who wrote many, many, many songs back in the day, his most famous being “Sleigh Ride”, a song which pretty much anyone who’s made a Christmas album has recorded. This album is the perfect companion for when you’re working or reading or just relaxing while getting ready for the holidays. CHRISTMAS ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT LEROY ANDERSON.
2. Bing Crosby: White Christmas (1945)
Okay, so it would be a bit sacrilegious if I didn’t include this album on this list. And it definitely belongs here – it’s one of those albums you can listen to over and over and not get sick of because every song is just plain awesome. Not only does it include the one song for which Bing will forever be immortalized, but it also has three of my favorite holiday songs: “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”, “Silver Bells”, and “Mele Kalikimaka” (which is double awesome thanks to his collaboration with The Andrews Sisters”. However, if you’re looking for the song “Sisters”, which was featured in the film White Christmas, you will not find it here. Because it’s not a Christmas song. So there. CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT BING.
1. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (soundtrack, 1964)
It’s hard to believe that next year will mark the 50th anniversary of this TV special, because this thing just does not get old. Ever. I’ll be 90 years old and they’ll still be showing it on TV and I’ll still watch it (probably on my Google goggles, or whatever technology will be around in 60 years). And one of the things that keeps this thing going is the music! Sure, there are the couple famous songs like the title song and “Holly Jolly Christmas”, and there’s even the somewhat depressing “There’s Always Tomorrow” (seriously, I used to leave the room when I was younger when that song came on because it made me sad), but then there’s the awesome “Jingle Jingle Jingle”, “We’re a Couple of Misfits” (“I WANT TO BE…A DENTIST!”), and “Silver and Gold”. And of course, who can forget “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year” from the Island of Misfit Toys…a song that is also kind of sad because, you know, no one wants a choo-choo with square wheels on your caboose…but also a song that is hopeful and joyous and beautiful? Seriously, people. CHRISTMAS JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS WITHOUT RUDOLPH.
So there you have it…my Christmas music picks for 2013. What are some of your favorite Christmas albums? Christmas songs? Traditions involving music? Anything? I’d love hear it!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Happy listening!