6 Christmas Songs That Don’t Suck

6 Christmas Songs That Don’t Suck

There are some holiday tunes that rise above the pack in a season where it seems like Satan has his iPod set to Shuffle.

[Today, December 24, 2008, is Christmas Music Day on OTI. Here’s a holiday guest post from Trevor Siegler. Let us know what you think in the comments! —Ed.]

Christmas Music WeekChristmas is in the air, and that means one thing: Christmas music is back and in full force. No other season has as many songs written about it, and it’s almost like Satan sets his iPod on shuffle every year.

Many songs simply suck the Christmas spirit out of you, especially if you’re stuck in a customer-service job where it’s piped in 24/7 between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

But there are some holiday tunes that rise above the pack, some golden nuggets in a field full of overdone horse manure. I’ll keep the disgusting metaphors to a minimum and simply list the six seasonal songs that always fill me with Christmas spirit no matter how often “Jingle Bells” is on repeat.

1. Nat King Cole, “The Christmas Song”


Written by Mel Torme and recorded by Cole’s band in 1946, this beloved classic has become the most covered holiday song of all time. But like most songs covered ad nauseum, the original is usually the best. Cole’s version (re-recorded twice, in 1953 and again in 1961) has an odd melancholy to it that helps to undercut the overly gooey and upbeat tenor of many other established classics (only the original “White Christmas” has the same sense of barely restrained despair underneath the holiday pleasantries). A simple arrangement with sweeping strings and Cole’s distinctive voice make the song the perfect alternative to overwrought retreads by God knows how many one-hit wonders and “American Idol” rejects. It’s the perfect Christmas song for an entire bar’s worth of lonely drunks on Christmas Eve as well as a family gathering from near and far around the fireplace on Christmas Day.

8 Comments on “6 Christmas Songs That Don’t Suck”

  1. lee OTI Staff #

    Wait…Frosty the Snowman is supposed to be the mutant product of nuclear fallout? Like Godzilla??? This blows my mind.

    Also, while I do like the “Love Actually” version of “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” there’s still a special place in my heart for the Mariah version. It’s become an annual sing-along event in my office. No joke. Did I mention I work for the government?


  2. sheely OTI Staff #

    Great list. Like Mark, I also really love the shit out of Mariah’s version of “All I Want for Christmas is You” (but I’m in general a huge fan of pre-1997 uptempo Mariah singles).

    My personal favorite is “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” by Bing Crosby and David Bowie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9KpNznVLlY, from Crosby’s 1977 Christmas Special. Crosby sounds great, Bowie’s counterpoint (written for this recording) is beautiful, and the silly patter before the clip is priceless (and is exactly the sort of thing that Colbert riffed on perfectly in “A Colbert Christmas).


  3. 24Frames #

    Great list. I submit Fairytale of New York by the Pogues, though have been told on occasion that it “doesn’t really count.”


  4. Wade #

    If that were the case 24Frames, then dozens of Christmas songs wouldn’t count. I wholeheartedly agree with you on Fairytale of New York.

    I nominate The Eagles’ “Please Come Home For Christmas”


  5. Eric #

    I second Fairytale of New York. When I saw the title, it was the first and only song that came to mind.


  6. Andy #

    “Alfie the Christmas Tree” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” by John Denver and The Muppets. The latter amazingly by John and Rowlf.


    “My Little Drum” and “Christmastime is Here” by The Vince Guaraldi Trio for A Charlie Brown Christmas.


  7. Noelle #

    Thank you for putting “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” on your list. You have brought a sense of validation to the perverseness in me that likes kitschy, strange, and slightly dark stuff.

    Having said that, I am a big fan of the traditional Christmas songs, and not generally into holiday songs about the death of a close relative (the writers of “The Christmas Shoes” should be flogged). But for some reason, I just love the heck out of this dumb song. It is it’s irreverence and silliness that gets me, and I smirk every time it gets to the part about grandpa showing that he’s holding up okay by “drinking beer and playing cards with cousin Mel”.


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