Confess: you’re as sick of Silver Bells and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as I am. Every mall and coffee shop has been cranking out the same old songs since we trashed our Halloween pumpkins – and ate the rest of the candy. A change is needed. It’s wayyyyy past time to reboot the nation’s holiday playlist.
And so, public-spirited citizen that I am, here’s a list of some lesser-known versions of songs for the season, with an original or two thrown in for good measure.
Plug in the tree lights, shake up the eggnog, and – if you have a record player – break out the vinyl. And give these choice cuts a listen.
“Grace,” Lizz Wright
This song is a marvel. Mz. Wright gloriously reminds us that we all can use a little grace in our lives as we head into the new year.
“Santa Claus, Santa Claus,” Charles Brown
They don’t come any smoother than Charles Brown, who’s best known these days for that other holiday song, “Merry Christmas, Baby.” This is cut from the same cloth – smooth vocal, bluesy piano stylings – but doesn’t get played as often. Here’s your chance to remedy the situation:
“Santa Tell Me,” by Ariana Grande
Cheeky, boppy – Ari will get your cheer on and have you dancin’ round the kitchen as you dust those homemade sugar cookies with red, green, and sparkly sprinkles. Don’t forget to check out the hilarious outtakes – ho-ho-ho.
“White Christmas,” the Drifters
This group went through several incarnations, producing classics such as “Money Honey” and “There Goes My Baby.” This version of Irving Berlin’s classic is from 1954 and features the legendary Clyde McPhatter.
“Santa Baby,” Shakira
It’s tough to top Eartha Kitt’s 1953 original, but Shakira manages to heat things up, aided and abetted by a small jazz combo, in Rockefeller Center, 2009:
“Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto,” James Brown
The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, gives that jolly old elf his marching orders. And just so everyone knows what’s what, “Tell ‘em James Brown sent you.” Better listen to the Godfather of Soul, Saint Nick…
“Angels We Have Heard On High,” Annie Lennox
Sweet Christmas dreams are made of this. Lennox brings her trademark powerful sound to bear on this beloved hymn, replete with a gazillion red-gowned chorus members, in a performance from 2010.
“Silent Night,” the Swan Silvertones
One of the greatest gospel groups of all time lend their voices to another version of the 1818 carol. Claude Jeter’s voice, soaring above it all, is a thing of diaphanous beauty.
“Lonely Christmas,” Crayon Pop
5 charming elves will chase away those Holiday blues. This catchy tune is one earworm I actually adore!
“Christmas Wrapping,” the Waitresses
The late Patty Donahue fronted this new wave band best known for “I Know What Boys Like.” She brings an authentic touch of holiday despair to this fast-moving tale of chances missed…and opportunities taken.
There you have it – 10 songs to reboot our Holiday Playlist. This is far from definitive, of course. There are so many singers and Yuletide songs I yearned to include, but there just wasn’t enough space to fit them all in.
And, because it is – after all – better to give than to receive, here’s a bonus track. I heard this in the local deli this morning and it’s been buzzing around my head ever since…
“Here Comes Santa Claus,” Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters.
The Andrews Sisters – Here Comes Santa Claus