Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Top 25 Best Christmas Songs Ever

Aww yeah. Had to happen. There are typically 2 types of people when it comes to christmas music. Those who admit they love it and those who are friggin' lying and say they don't..yet secretly they do. I am of the first camp and enjoy the music that is inspired by all the energy that amasses around the final moments of the year. Whatever Christmas means to you, music can make it a little more enjoyable. So if you're wondering what songs to include on a Xmas party playlist...or just need some comfort for your lonely Christmas soul, I present to you: The Top 25 BEST Christmas Songs Ever!

25. "All I Want For Christmas Is You" - Mariah Carey

This first entry might surprise some of you, but whats greater than a super-sexy diva singing about only wanting to be with you for Christmas. It gets off to a soft start, but give it a few moments and it kicks into an uplifting tune that is guaranteed to make your girl gyrate and swoon. Always been a shadowed Mariah supporter...craziness and all.

24.  "Driving Home For Christmas" - Chris Rea

British born Chris Rea is kind of like England's Johnny Cash. This one strikes a chord with me, because i'm always on the road around Christmas time. Driving back to my hometown from wherever in this country i'm living in at the time. Music definitely makes that trek easier...always has

23. "We Three Kings" - Wintersleep

I've not only included original Xmas songs, but even some traditional carols that have been performed by contemporary artists. Halifax's Wintersleep unleashed a haunting version of "We Three Kings". While i've heard the song played all year round, it's typically reserved for the holiday season with it's association with the birth of Christ.

22. "Step Into Christmas" - Elton John

A classic from 1973 by the legendary song crafting duo Elton John and Bernie Taupin. It was released as a stand alone, meaning it didn't fit on any of Elton's records nor did he release an album of all Christmas music at the time. The recording procedure was meant to mimic Phil Spector's "wall of sound" technique. More on Spector later...

21. "Please Come Home For Christmas" - Bon Jovi

I've always thought this song was called "Bells Will Be Ringing". It was originally written in the 60s and has since been covered multiple times...most notably by The Eagles and Bon Jovi. I feel Bon Jovi's is the best treatment and obviously the most popular. Again about that feeling that it's just not the same without having that someone with you on Christmas...as we all know it's usually a whirlwind and a nightmare trying to untangle everyone's plans...but still one can wish.

20. "Seasons Greetings Felony" - Revenge Of The Egg People

Not every Christmas song is sappy and joyful. Revenge Of The Egg People tell a humourous tale of mistaking Santa Claus for a prowler and opening fire when he makes a move for his bag. It wasn't easy finding this track...i had to make a video for it myself on Youtube. Y'all better respect what I do for you guys around the holidays.

19.  "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy" - Bing Crosby & David Bowie

One of the most iconic musical Christmas images is a young David Bowie visiting Bing Crosby's "home" on Bing's final Christmas special in 1977. "Little Drummer Boy" might be my favourite Christmas carol, but this version is special not only because of the star power, but the delightful harmonization of the "Peace on Earth" lyrics against the traditional ones. It's a pretty thing isn't it?

18. "Merry Christmas Baby" - Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band

It just isn't Christmas without the Boss. Featured on the 1987 album A Very Special Christmas which featured many various artists doing their holiday tunes and donating the profits to The Special Olympics. This song is actually a cover of an old R & B favourite, but Bruce's version has a nice energy and that infectious saxophone hook. Gets ME hooked!

17. "Early Christmas Morning" - Cyndi Lauper

Here's a fun little ditty from the fabulous Cyndi Lauper. Leave it to her to capture the sheer anticipation and frenzied joy we all remember from our youth the night before Christmas. Man, I remember having near anxiety attacks. This was only released in Japan I think, which is why some of the backing vocals sound like Japanese.

16. "Merry Xmas Everybody" - Slade

If you ask a Brit what their idea of the best Christmas song is, some might say John Lennon's "War Is Over" but the majority will say "Merry Xmas Everybody" by Slade. They are very proud of this export. It's a feel good, quasi-rock, yet not over the top Christmas song. And yes the 'X' is actually in the title. It was part of Slade's M.O to purposely misspell their song titles. Cheeky...

15. "Mary's Boy Child - Oh My Lord" - Boney M

Legendary Disco group Boney M arrived at the Christmas party with a version of Harry Belafonte's "Mary's Boy Child" only they synced it with their own flavour "Oh My Lord". The result is a catchy and unforgettable song, beaming with positivity and joy. Just the right prescription for the winter blues. Seriously how can anybody be miserable watching this video??

14. "Christmas Day" - Dido

Here's a sweet and simple track one might not even distinguish as a Christmas song were it not for the tell-tale sleigh bells playing faintly in the background. It's a common trend in movies and art that Christmas Day is the constant and the absolute for many relationships. Dido's song plays on this well as her hero promises that he will return to his love on Christmas Day. I wonder if he did...I wonder if I would...

13. "Wonderful Christmastime" - Paul McCartney

This one has been tattooed on my memory for quite some time. Hearing those addictive first swells of the song as a youth on the radio, I knew I would soon be swarmed by AM Christmas favourites, though if they could all be like this I wouldn't complain. The Cute One's knack for songwriting has never left him like many thought would happen after The Beatles split. This song is so simple, so linear...so freaking good.

12. "Breath Of Heaven" - Amy Grant

Kind of off the beaten path of what most people's conceptions of a Christmas song is. "Breath Of Heaven" (also called "Mary's Song") is a powerful song told through the virgin Mary's eyes during her and Joseph's voyage to Bethlehem. Whatever your beliefs are, this song is impressive for it's honesty and it's magnificent ability to take you from wherever you are and put you directly in that position. It's sad, brave and inspiring all at once. Wrapped in a beautiful package of Amy's heavenly voice.

11. "Feliz Navidad" - Jose Feliciano

I'm sure there are some that would scream blasphemy for not putting this one at the top of my list, but trust me, we only go up from here. Here's the english translation of what Jose is saying here "Merry Christmas, a prosperous year and happiness"

10. "Little Drummer Boy" - The Jackson 5

Yes I know it's already been on this list but as I said, it's my favourite Christmas Carol. There's something about the way the Jackson 5 belt this one out and the way the song keeps rising and reaching to that peak vesre when the baby smiles at him. It's a touching moment in Christmas mythology, performed marvelously by one of Motown's legendary groups.

9. "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)" - U2

U2 put their Irish tinge on a classic by Darlene Love and Phil Spector. Here's another song that's inspired by the memories within relationships Christmas tends to intensify. For some people it's just another day unless all the pieces fall together perfectly. They may be present at the celebration, but in their mind they're with someone else.

8. "Oi To The World" - The Vandals

Time for some Xmas punk. As a play on the typical Christmas anthem "Joy To The World" The Vandals craft a wonderful tale of brotherhood and good will towards man in "Oi To The World". It's since been covered by many bands, most notably by Gwen Stefani and No Doubt. More bands should try their hand at honest and unique Christmas music the way The Vandals did.

7. "Do They Know It's Christmas" - Band Aid

Band Aid was the brainchild of Bob Geldof and Midge Ure. In 1984 Geldof was heavily effected by the famines in Ethiopia and wrote the song "Do They Know It's Christmas" to raise funds for it's relief. He amassed dozens of singers and pop stars of the era to provide vocals and music. Among those involved were Bono, Sting, George Michael,  Simon LeBon, Boy George and Phil Collins. Geldof went on to create Live Aid which raised further funds for the troubles in Africa and he has been on a similar crusade ever since.

6. "Christmas Is Coming" - The Payolas

Perhaps the greatest Christmas song ever forgotten in the pages of musical history is done by none other than Canada's Payolas! They sadly suffered from obscurity in other countries outside their own simply because DJs didn't like mentioning the word "Payola" on air. For some reason thats a touchy one for American Radio Djs...hmmm. Anyway, this song is great. About having nothing going for you, but it's still Christmas and the magic of the season can make all that go away for a few days at least. Christmas is coming, it's been a long year. I wish you were here...

5. "Snoopy's Christmas" - The Royal Guardsmen

As a kid I thought this was The Beatles under a different name...I also thought the song was about Snoopy in a dogfight with a red BEAR. I was kind of a dumb kid. This song speaks to the comradery that is an unspoken law around Christmas time. Even sworn enemies can put aside their differences for a night and enjoy a drink together. This song could have it's roots in a true event that happened one Christmas during World War I. When British and German soldiers agreed to a ceasefire on Christmas Day and met in between trenches, exchanging gifts, sharing photos and even playing a game of soccer.

4. "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" - John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Though this song can make you look uncomfortably at yourself at a time when you're supposed to be celebrating and enjoying the holidays, it's still one of the all time greats in terms of Christmas Music. Lennon's simple poetry and gifted songwriting could coax a crowded room to join in the chorus of "War Is Over".
Simple. Moving. Effective.

3. "Last Christmas" - Wham!

In the future kids won't sing "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" or "Jingle Bells" they'll sing Wham!'s "Last Christmas" in school assembly's around the holidays. That's how much of an impact this song had, to this day dozens of artists cover it each year. Jimmy Eat World, Human Nature and Taylor Swift are a few that come to mind in recent history. I wouldn't be surprised if the leeches at Glee got a hold of it...this song would still be strong though...the soul and heart of George Michael's words will last the test of time no matter who attempts to capitalize on it's power.

2. "Christmas Eve /Sarajevo" - Trans Siberian Orchestra

Here we are at number 2 and this one doesn't even have any vocals. It doesn't need them. This whole list I was praising songs on their beautiful simplicity, which is a honourable merit, but being complicated can also be beautiful. The Trans Siberian Orchestra has their talents down to an art....each piece in the orchestra and member on the backing rock band are so in tune with one another it creates a chaotic tapestry that can weave a story without even speaking a word. They are known for their brilliant live performances...if you ever get a chance to see them DO NOT pass it up. This group will not be around forever...and that will be a very sad Christmas.

1. "Fairytale Of New York" - The Pogues

There was no doubt what was waiting at #1. Irish group The Pogues crafted this masterpiece in 1987, almost an anti-Christmas tune, it's a ballad for all of us who've ever been alone with a bourbon on Christmas Eve. Kristy MacColl joins the band, making it a wonderful back and forth vocal offering of a relationship being tested by the holiday season. This song will always take me back to my younger days, as i'm sure it does for many listeners. It's really a song for any time of year being about what could have been or once was, it just happens to occur during Christmas. I love the outro....conjures the image of the two walking off into the unknown. Hand in hand. Whether they like it or not.

I've been wanting to do a list like that for a long time! I had fun! Hope you guys enjoyed it!
Happy Holidays from your mate Johnny Zhivago...the original Jay-Zed.

1 comment:

  1. I love Christmas music !! Or is it "holiday" music now ?? ;-) However you missed one of my all time faves ... The Eagles version of Please Come Home for Christmas. Far better than Bon Jovi's version, IMO.

    Merry Christmas !! :)