JJudging by the number of trees and lights on, the UK is closing the worst year in its history by turning Christmas 2020 into a six-week celebration of successful vaccine trials. Sure enough, holiday song sales and streams were up 50% compared to the same week last year, with Mariah Carey leading the way and is likely to hit the Top 40 today. But to avoid being completely fed up with All I Want for Christmas is You before you’ve opened an Advent calendar, consider adding these lesser-known tracks to your playlists.
Luther Vandross – The Mistletoe Jam (Everyone kisses someone)
Vandross powerfully exudes the warmth and seriousness of Christmas – it’s the perfect accompaniment to a four-Baileys high on full heat. Her 1995 album This Is Christmas features a beautiful version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (it competes with Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra for the title of the definitive version), as well as excellent originals such as the piano ballad With a Christmas. Heart and The Mistletoe Jam, a playful funk number with the comment: “I’m glad you have big legs / because they’re so good when we’re in a romance.”
Britney Spears – My Only Wish (This Year)
With the sheer volume of classics from the glam rock era and before, it’s hard to make a new holiday song stand out, but this effort by Spears has stubbornly made its way into canon. In it, she pleads with Santa to have a boyfriend; That heartbreaking minor chord change in the chorus is sure to convince you to throw a piece down the chimney.
Kelly Clarkson – Under the Tree
The X Factor imposed a brutal secularization on the Christmas charts, its almost unshakable hold on No. 1 Christmas between 2005 and 2015 preventing wonderfully festive songs like this from getting the attention they deserved. Fortunately, Clarkson’s 2013 song is going perennial. He bounces like a five-year-old in his parents’ bed at 5 am on Christmas morning; If you are trying to ring the sled bells along with it, you will need a protein shake to help your triceps recover.
John Fahey – Fantasy of the Saints of God of Christ
If you’re the type of person who likes Christmas, but not some kind of 2000 calorie before 11am and then a fight over immigration policy with your stepfather, this beautiful 10-minute suite of brooding from Guitar alone may be the best for you: as cleanly beautiful as a robin’s footprints on a winter morning.
Kanye West – Christmas in Harlem (with Teyana Taylor and CyHi the Prynce)
The best part of the Christmas rap sees West chilling out for the holidays, doing his last minute shopping, and being an adorably seedy Santa who gets drunk on eggnog with his girlfriend. Taylor’s sublime chorus never fails to sparkle the heart.
Leroy Carr – Christmas in Jail – Isn’t that a pain?
As you ponder how to hack Boris Johnson’s Christmas lockdown rules by turning your in-laws’ house into a blood donation center, you can at least give thanks for not being the character in this song by Carr. The 1929 recording of the bluesman She sees him longing for the turkey and a Christmas tree in his cell and the bail money as a gift, but the melody of his lament suggests that even he has a glimmer of Christmas glow.
Jesu – Christmas (Mass of life)
Christmas, a 2010 doom-shoegaze track from Justin Broadrick in his Jesu guise, gets sublime in this 2018 live version for a Paris church fashion show: a kind of Christmas carol, with 12 minutes of beautiful guitars ringing and grinding instead of choir kids.
Sanctified Cotton Top Mountain Singers – Christ Was Born On Christmas Morning
Recorded in 1929 and directed by vaudeville comedian Frankie “Half Pint” Jaxon, this jazz and gospel crossover may sound like it’s recorded from the other end of an AM radio dial, but its wildly catchy melody burns through. marks and scratches.
Courtney Barnett – Boxing Day Blues (Revisited)
A depressed, jogging tune that lacks Christmas cheer, but still has a little spring in its wake. The Australian indie star sings about a horribly unequal relationship, in which one person worries too much and the other doesn’t care at all: “Like a Christmas tree on Boxing Day, thrown away / Why don’t you feel nothing for me? ” If everywhere you look there are drunk couples kissing while you’re socially distancing yourself, this is one to put on your headphones and kick dead leaves.
Low – Some Hearts (At Christmas)
Making the best Christmas song of the last 20 years is commendable; doing second best is just showing off. The Duluth, Minnesota band’s quietly upbeat masterpiece Just Like Christmas has become well known and fits in nicely with the cheer of the season. This 2016 follow-up is very different: a no-percussion ballad with Mimi Parker singing, as if you had a comforting hand in yours: “Some hearts will break at Christmas.” His melody is as pure, bright and open as a snow covered meadow and it makes me cry every time I hear it. Christmas can be difficult, and this year will be new and especially for many; let’s pay attention to Parker’s words.
What are your favorite Christmas songs that you overlook? Share them in the comments below.
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