Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Music

For me, this is one of the best things about Christmas. I love the cookies and the sweater-worthy weather, and when it isn't too hectic I *do* enjoy going shopping for people. And of course, Christmas isn't *really* about all those things - it's about Jesus and the amazing gift He gave to all of us - but the cookies and presents and family time are all pretty awesome. Not to mention decorating the tree. I'm a shopaholic when it comes to Christmas decorations.

But the music...the music is what really brings the Christmas spirit for me. Anything with jingling sleigh bells in the background, or lyrics about angels and mangers and shepherds. So here, in no particular order, are some of my favourite Christmas songs.

20. Christmas Eve - Sarajevo Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This rings in the Christmas season for me every year. It's not Christmas until this song has been played.
19. Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth Bing Crosby & David Bowie. Same as above...and I sort of love Bing Crosby.
18. Happy X-mas War is Over Maroon 5. Before the cries of blasphemy start, I pay all tribute to John Lennon, but Yoko and those kids... She has a voice fit to make ears bleed. Not to mention, Maroon 5's lead singer does excellent justice to this song in a paired-down, nearly acoustic version of John Lennon's Christmas classic.
17. Wonderful Christmastime Paul McCartney. Paul has always been my favourite Beatle...even when he delved into the cheesily sentimental with things like "My Love" or "Silly Love Songs" he makes up for it with tracks like this or "Growing Up Falling Down". Having heard this song on the radio as far back as I can remember, it's a requisite Christmas tune.
16. Last Christmas Jimmy Eat World or Darren Hayes or Wham! I cannot explain how much I love the 80s-tastic nature of this song, with or without George Michael. Each artist has a very individual take on the song, which makes it worth listing 3 times.
15. Do They Know It's Christmas? Band Aid. Who can fail to feel nostalgia for hearing Bono, Boy George & Culture Club, George Michael, Duran Duran, Paul McCartney and David Bowie - along with countless other 80s wonders - repeat the cry to "Feed the world! Let them know it's Christmastime again!"? Who cares that there's never snow in Africa at Christmas? Who cares that the images of African children crying bitter stinging tears in fields barren of crops (because, as we know, nothing ever grows and no rain or rivers flow) are trite and probably fairly inaccurate? Not me. It was a well-meant message, and one that ought to be played at full-volume in the car so you can shout along at the top of your voice.
14. All I Want For Christmas Is You Mariah Carey. As one of the reasons I wanted to learn to sing, Mariah Carey holds a special place in my heart. At least, her early to mid-90s music does. And what's more benignly cheesy and romantic than saying that the rest of Christmas can sod off if the person you love can't be with you?
13. Mary Did You Know? Chi Rho. The Christian all-male a cappella group from Wake Forest: Chi Rho is amazing. These boys have a fantastic Christmas album on Amazon (shameless plug!) and do justice to many Christmas songs, but this gets my biggest vote. I severely disliked this song before I heard my friends do this cover, and now their version is one of my favourites.
12. Winter Wonderland Jason Mraz. Slightly hipster and understated in all the best ways. It makes this over-done song palatable again.
11. Gabriel's Message Sting. It feels very vintage Sting & The Police with the electronic backbeat and is a carol I think doesn't get enough play. The minor key and slightly modal melody make it wonderfully interesting to listen to, and Sting makes sure the tempo doesn't drag.
10. O Come, O Come Emmanuel Sufjan Stevens. Again, simple is better and Sufjan gets that with his version of this song. The melody remains clear and un-muddled and the lyrics are able to speak for themselves. A powerful song done well.
9. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear Sixpence None the Richer. I first found this in the season 1 soundtrack for Grey's Anatomy and it's been a favourite ever since. The alternative melody gives a new feel to this carol, and I approve.
8. Greensleeves Sarah McLachlan. Really, it's the same as above. Simple, with a lovely alternative to the original melody line.
7. The Christmas Song Nat King Cole. Among other things, this song IS Christmas. And Nat King Cole has one of the most beautiful, silken male voices ever. Full stop.
6. O Holy Night *NSYNC. Oh yeah, I went there. I dragged a boy band into it. To be fair, of all the boy bands (Backstreet Boys, 98*, OTown, *NSYNC) of my childhood and early teenage years, the guys of *NSYNC were the only group talented enough to do true a cappella and make it sound good. Their a cappella 5-part harmony in O Holy Night makes this one of my favourite versions of one of my favourite Christmas songs.
5. Sleigh Ride Ella Fitzgerald. This woman is amazing, and her version of Sleigh Ride has soul and a catchy swinging beat.
4. Good King Wenceslas/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Chris Casswell & Friends. Really, I recommend the whole of the Celtic Yule album: I'm a sucker for a flute and fiddle in the Scots/Irish style of my ancestors, and this album delivers on every track a lovely rustic-feeling Christmas sound.
3. Jingle Bells The Puppini Sisters. An updated Andrews Sisters-like sound. Their a cappella 3-part harmony really jazzes up this song.
2. Ave Maria Jewel. Her other albums wouldn't have given the impression of it, but she has quite the impressive set of pipes. As a departure from her normal style, this song is powerful and beautiful and her voice is wonderfully clear.
1. Christmas is All Around Bill Nighy as Billy Mack from Love Actually. I think nothing else really needs to be said about this song. Bill Nighy is hilarious as a washed-up rock star, and his Christmas cover of Love is All Around conveys that hilarity in the best possible way. And any song that can use a sitar, sleigh bells, chimes AND a George Harrison-style guitar solo gets an A in my book.

Merry Christmas!

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