Since we’re all family here, I feel like I need to come clean — this time of the year I go into my secret wonder land – I have a serious obsession for Christmas music, the cornier the better. Growing up I remember my dad and I watching the Macy’s Day Parade – even as an adult, halfway down the East Coast I would call home Thanksgiving morning to talk with dad. His voice on Thanksgiving, and watching Santa Claus cross the finish line, made the holiday season official. Even though it’s been over a decade since he passed, I still get up and curl on the couch to watch the parade and cheer when Santa goes by. For real, I stand up and cheer – and then go looking for my Sears toy catalog.
And once that happens – and only when that happens – do I feel like I can focus on Christmas and all its corniness, especially the music that goes with it. As a youngin’ I grew up listening to the proper Christmas music – mom’s rule was if there was music on Christmas Eve/Day on the main stereo, it was going to be Christmas music. End. Of. Discussion. Then……it happened:
In 1987, A Very Special Christmas was released. This compilation album, to help raise money and awareness for the Special Olympics, entered into my life – and I had Christmas music by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi and…freakin’ Run DMC to slip into dad’s stereo. Oh…I know (now) that there were a ton of other R&B and Pop stars with their own Christmas music (hello, Jackson 5), but THIS was epic as I stumbled on it while roaming through the aisles of Strawberries Records & Tapes on North Street, Hyannis.
Even to this day, I remember sneaking this onto the CD player at one point:
And then hearing my mother’s “What the HELL IS THIS? You know my rule!” come flying from the kitchen. My response, “well, it is Christmas music.” After that, it was on – I am the bearer of the most insane and ridiculous random Christmas music selection. But, it only sees the light of day from Thanksgiving Day until New Year’s Eve. Which, I think, is why I enjoy it so much.
Last night I sat down at my laptop to make my KJStJ Christmas Music playlist and wanted to share some of the songs. Maybe it’ll make you laugh….or even remind you of a song you’ve enjoyed as a child. Please note, some of the songs I may mention are purely guilty pleasures, so I’m going to pretend this is a no judge zone and that you won’t hold them against me in the coming weeks when I suggest music/artists for you to check out.
Santa Rap – Treacherous 3 (Beat Street soundtrack)
I cannot begin to tell you how much I love this NSFW song. Tell me about a deadline on a project during a meeting and then ask me later that day, I don’t remember. But, throw this song on and I’ll rap along word for word. Years ago, I remember walking into a laundromat with my then-roommate, Kisme, and Beat Street was on the tv. This song had just started when we crossed the threshold – and I immediately picked it up like I wrote the damn thing. Beast Street has a special place in my heart……and Santa’s Rap will always be a fav.
Someday at Christmastime – Stevie Wonder
Leave it to Stevie to have such simple requests during the holidays: Men won’t be boys, playing with bombs like kids play with toys. A world where men are free. We’ll see a land with no hungry children. Where all men are equal and there will be no tears. WHAT?! Yes, Stevie – I hear you, I want this as well. What do you need for me to do?!
Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney & Wings
This is early 80s at its best right there. Guilty pleasure #1. I have no excuse or explanation as to why you can find me singing along when I’m alone. Actually, the chorus is pretty much the best explanation – we’re simply having a wonderful Christmastime.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Jackson 5
About 4 years ago The J5 Ultimate Christmas Collection was re-released; complete with awesome covers, like Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and messages from the group in between the songs. Oh My…..the height of corniness and awesomeness converge to make an album that’s perfect for any holiday get-together. And, with Dante de Blasio gracing us with his epic J5 ‘fro during his father’s successful mayoral campaign, this is the perfect year to put anything Jackson 5 into rotation.
Last Night I Saw Santa Claus — New Kids on the Block
Ok, for those who don’t know, as someone who came of age in Massachusetts in the late 80s, it is required that I am a Block Head. I was a fan from the first time I heard Joey McIntyre sing “Please Don’t go Girl.” So, it’s a no-brainer that I own their Merry Merry Christmas album. I may have moved to DC 17 years ago, but I refuse to give up my Massachusetts’ badge. Yes, this whole album is corny – but I truly enjoy watching people squirm when “Funky, Funky Christmas” comes on at work holiday parties (this actually happened when someone made the mistake of asking me to be the DJ one year). Remember…this is a judge-free zone!
All I Want for Christmas is You – Mariah Carey
I’ll be honest, I haven’t been a Mariah fan in years. When she first came out – yes. But now? Meh. However, this song cannot be ignored. I absolutely love everything about it and can’t help but sing along, even to myself when I’m at work with the headphones on. The 60’s girl-group flair to it just makes it untouchable. AND, when she sang it with Jimmy Fallon last year? That just did it for me – A++++ in my grade book.
O Holy Night – Trombone Shorty
I’m a HUGE fan of Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews – HUGE – and once I can whittle a submission down from dissertation length to something that could be read in one sitting, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on him and the reason why he should be a permanent addition to your playlists. In the meantime, let me present you with the show that introduced me to him – Studio 60. This episode dealt with the onslaught of New Orleans musicians who, right after Hurricane Katrina, traveled to LA looking for work. True story, the studio musicians in LA would call out sick to give these musicians a chance to put their time in to become a member of the union out there so they could get regular work on daytime and late night talk shows. As with any Aaron Sorkin production, Studio 60 made sure to capture this while making a political statement. I remember watching this when it first aired and having, to quote Oprah, an “ugly cry.” O Holy Night is such a beautiful traditional Christmas song, one that I loved hearing when I went to Christmas Eve mass with my parents. This version, with the pictures of NOLA and the devastation took the song to a whole other level – and made me curious about this Troy Andrews kid. I saved the Christmas episode on my TiVO until I got a new tv and had to switch it out for a HD version. But, every once in a while (during this season), I’ll pull up this clip and remind myself that this awesome city is still fighting a battle to recover.
Wow…now that I’ve completely turned into a Debbie Downer, let’s take a quick left turn and talk about some great Christmas albums to check out:
- Luther Vandross – This is Christmas — It’s Luther…and Christmas music. Need I say more?
- Various Artists — Soul Train: Christmas Starfest — Perfect compilation of R&B artists from back in the 90s. I mean, who doesn’t want to hear Rome telling you to Have a Merry Little Christmas? Yes, exactly, who’s Rome?
- Temptations – Give Love at Christmas — The Temptations, another obvious choice
- Boyz II Men – Christmas Collection — This is the full group, Michael and his bass are right there. Lights some candles and sit back, it’s going to be a romantic Christmas
- Big Bad Voody Daddy – Feels Like Christmas Time — a party band, perfect for that background music during the get together with the neighbords
- Various Artists – A Very Special Christmas 25 — A compilation of all the best songs from the past 25 years of A Very Special Christmas releases. I wouldn’t want to be the person who picked these
- Mary J. Blige – A Mary Christmas — Mary’s lost me in regards to her regular releases, but her voice is perfect for this
- Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas — Ella, swing music…..grab the bourbon and have a blast
- Various Artists – The Best Man Holiday Soundtrack — One of the best movie soundtracks in a while, AND it’s a Christmas album. You can’t ask for more than this
So, go forth my friends and enjoy your Christmas season with abandon. Oh yeah – and what are your Christmas “Go to” songs?