At 12:00 AM on Black Friday and not a second later, radio stations all across the country began blasting Christmas music, oh so ready to put the Thanksgiving holiday behind them and go headstrong into Christmas season. While we at LxL love the Christmas holiday, our relationship with Christmas music is a little more conflicted. I, for one, love Christmas music in doses but less doses of “Grandpa Got Run Over By a Reindeer” and “Chipmunk’s Christmas” and more pure Christmas carol classics. Austin, on the other hand, is a regular crotchety Scrooge, as he even balked at the idea of doing a Christmas list period. Luckily for you who love Christmas music, two-thirds is majority, and Todd and I won the day.
For this list, we differed greatly but were able to find enough common ground to make what we feel is a solid top ten. We did decide upon specific versions rather than just the songs themselves. So here is the LxL’s take on the best Christmas songs of all time.
10. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” – Bruce Springsteen
The Boss loves ‘Merica, so naturally he loves Christmas too. Springsteen delivers one of the most ebullient versions of any Christmas classic I can remember with his take on “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.
9. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey
Austin hates Christmas music, but he does have a real soft spot for Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. For myself, I don’t care much for shopping at JCPenney’s, so the song isn’t really my bag, but Austin is instantly taken by Mariah’s milky face and her bubbly vocal tones.
8. “Merry Mutha***kin’ Xmas” – Eazy-E
Our only hip hop inclusion is from the wild child Eazy-E, who brings us Christmas from Compton running the gamut of Christmas classics in this old school hip hop jam.
7. “White Christmas” – Bing Crosby
This isn’t the last you will hear from Bing on this list, as the old soul pretty much personifies the Christmas season. “White Christmas” captures that yearning for the ideal holiday, free from drunk uncles, crying nephews, and spoiled eggnog.
6. “The Christmas Song– Nat King Cole
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire/Jack Frost nipping at your nose.” One of the most classic lines of any Christmas song, but chances are, you know very little beside that line and find yourself mumbling through the rest. All the talk of chestnuts reminds us of a very “Schweddy Balls” Christmas.
5. “Mele Kalikimaka (Christmas Vacation)” – Bing Crosby
The exotic Christmas song that rules them all. Caught in the unforgiving cold of the Windy City, nothing sounds finer to me right now than a Christmas in Hawaii. It’s also pretty irresistibly awesome hearing good ol’ Bing say “Mele Kalikimaka”.
4. “Christmas Time Is Here (Peanuts)” – Vince Guaraldi Trio
We at LxL love us some Peanuts. “Christmas Time Is Here” is so friggin’ innocent and classic it just makes my belly warm and fills my face with a cheery grimace.
3. Happy Xmas (War is Over) – John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Easily besting his former band mate Sir Paul’s take on Christmas, John Lennon released the only Christmas song/war commentary that probably exists. And believe it or not, it’s not all that preachy – at least compared to much of Lennon’s solo work. This song also stands as probably the only good thing Yoko Ono has ever been a part of.
2. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” – Frank Sinatra
Sort of the national anthem of Christmas songs, it’s huge reputation doesn’t make it any less special, and either does Old Blue Eyes singing it. Lyrically and melodically, it captures the unified, hopeful spirit of Christmas better than any other song – bar none.
1. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan
Our favorite Christmas song is oddly enough, not even really a Christmas song. Not only is it not about the holiday, it’s probably the most innocent sounding date-rape song of all time. Louis Jordan nonchalantly tries to do everything in his power to get Ella Fitzgerald to come in for a nightcap, which as the song goes on and on, you can tell exactly what he is really after. Ella comes up with every excuse in the book from “I simply must go” to the way more odd “my brother will be at the door”. Date-rape aside, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a one-of-a-kind blast of a song, and we can never get enough of it during the Christmas season.
Wes – “O Come O Come Emmanuel” – Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan has now released 10 volumes of nearly 100 Christmas songs, mixed with faithful and experimental takes on classic carols as well as both brilliant and patently garbage originals about the holiday. Of all his songs, his hauntingly beautiful and Eastern-tinged take on “O Come O Come Emmanuel” is as good as his Christmas stuff gets – faithful but truly branded as Sufjan’s own.
Todd – “Jingle Bells” – Booker T and the MGs
Instrumentals don’t always get the credit they are due on, but Todd gives rock legend Booker T and his band the MGs take on “Jingle Bells” a much deserved nod.
Austin – “Christmas Song” – Dave Matthews Band
Dave Matthews Band put together a rather poignant and grace-filled take on the nativity story in their addition to the Christmas canon.
So there is the list. Let us know what we unforgivably missed, or got right, but still feel free to just rip on us in general …