Music Monday: Favorite Holiday Classics

Monday, December 24, 2012

Last week I posted some of my favorite new holiday songs, songs that aren't considered classics. This week I'm back with my favorite traditional songs, some in their original forms and some as covered by contemporary artists.


"The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year," Andy Williams
I don't know why (maybe you can tell me), but I consistently associate this song with the Rockefeller Center ice rink in New York City and the Rockefeller tree. Did NBC use this song to introduce a holiday program for years on end or something? This, to me, is the song that signifies the start of the holiday season and makes me think of holiday decorations inside Macy's Herald Square and all the stereotypical New York City Christmas stuff. 

"I'll Be Home For Christmas," Aly and AJ
They now go by the name "78violet," but back when this was recorded in the mid-00s, they were still known as Aly and AJ Michalka. I'm not a huge fan of the Christmas record this song comes from, but I particularly liked their acoustic rendition of "I'll Be Home For Christmas," one of my very favorite Christmas songs.


"Sleigh Ride," Ella Fitzgerald
Another one of my absolute favorite Christmas songs of all time (although all of the songs on this list are). This song always makes me think of Christmas Day, sitting in front of the television in my pajamas, even though it's not at all a lazy, snuggly kind of song. 


"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," Christina Aguilera
I was torn between posting the original recording (done in 2000) and a 2011 performance of the very same song, because in the ensuing 11 years, Christina Aguilera has really learned to pull back on the "vocal Olympics" to allow a song to shine through. However, I felt that in the original recording (which is another one of the 90s pop holiday albums that carries with it special memories), Christina did have really tender moments that made the song really beautiful in parts that she didn't seem to have in her 2011 live performance. This is another Christmas classic that I enjoy, regardless of who's singing it.

"Last Christmas," Wham!
This is a song that's become a real holiday classic, and has been covered oodles and oodles of times. But the original is still the best. All of the covers I've heard seem to lack the earnestness of the original.


"Winter Wonderland," Tony Bennett
I've always loved this song and how chipper and jolly it is, and I love the wind instrument intro in this Tony Bennett version. I really like the lyrics of this song more than most of the Christmas songs I know, the way the words pop off the tip of the tongue: "In the meadow, we can build a snowman / Then pretend that he is Parson Brown / He'll say, 'Are you married?' / We'll say, 'No man, but you can do the job when you're in town.'" 


"This Christmas," Joe
Apparently this song was first recorded by Donny Hathaway in 1970. This Joe version was recorded for the 2000 compilation album "Platinum Christmas," but I think Joe's version of this song really brings out different textures of the tune.

"Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow," Lady Antebellum
I think this is just such a sweet winter song, made even more so by Hillary Scott's sweet voice. 

"The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)," Nat King Cole
I think this is the ultimate Christmas song for me. I love just about all of the songs I've listed here equally, but this is the one song that defines Christmas for me. A sleepy song encompassing pretty much everything can be said about winter and the act of gathering together with loved ones for the holiday. 

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