House of Hawthorne

The Only Three Christmas Songs I Will Listen To Voluntarily Today

Posted on: December 25, 2011

I don’t mean to be a grinch, I really don’t. It just happens every year, I spend a month listening to Christmas music at work and the actual day comes around, it is often my first day off in a couple days, and the last thing I would choose to listen to is Christmas music. Luckily there are Christmas songs so good even the person with the most shrunken and wasted holiday spirit can participate in the festivities without rolling their eyes or worse, dying just a bit more inside.

Nat King Cole, “Adeste Fedelis.” This song actually was the impetus for this list. Nat King Cole does most Christmas songs better than anyone else, but this is his best. This song truly captures what they tell you is the whole reason for this whole shindig in the first place: the savior of all humanity being born. That would be a sight to see, indeed, especially if Nat King Cole was singing at the baby shower. It is at terms solemn and grand without being maudlin or showy. It is entirely superior to Bing Crosby’s versions, which in itself lends whatever the term for street cred is for Christmas songs. (Winter Wonderland Weight?) I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Nat King Cole also performed the definitive version of “The Christmas Song,” but that is a terrible song. I believe that it was written by  Coca Cola music scientists trapped in a lab trying to figure out a way to bland consumers into a stupor. You heard me. “Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe”? Those two concepts shouldn’t go together.  Ever. You put holiday-related phrases into a hat and picked them at random. Let’s stop pretending otherwise.

Ella Fitzgerald, “Sleigh Ride.” This song in all its versions is, according to ASCAP, the most played Christmas song for two years running. So many people do absolutely awful versions of this song, which makes Ella’s even more enjoyable. Her version feels more true than the others. The “Giddy Up”s don’t feel like nonsense words, and you feel, while listening, as though you could be careening about town with somebody whose presence you actually enjoy. Not so quick, you might be thinking, what about The Ronettes? Don’t get me wrong, I love The Ronettes, but the wall of sound loses some of the intimacy of “Sleigh Ride.” They slay “Frosty the Snowman,” though. (Get it? Slay? Hint: sleigh.) I would never put any version of “Frosty” on a favorite Christmas songs list, not even The Ronettes’ which perfectly captures the joy and terror of a magically animated melting man. I just happen to believe that “Frosty” was created in a similar nefarious music lab to glamorize corn cob pipes to children. It is shameful, really.

Dean Martin, “Rudolph, the Red-Noses Reindeer.” You may be surprised to see a version of “Rudolph” on this list after my railing against “Frosty the Snowman.” The message is obviously more positive. Outcast makes good using the very thing that makes him different vs. if a collection of ice particles anthropomorphize, have as much wacky fun as you can while it lasts? That really is up for question? “Rudolph” beats “Frosty” every time, and Dean Martin has the most fun version. He takes to nicknaming the reindeer in question Rudy surprisingly early, which suggests a certain veritas, I suppose, but really what pushes this song to the top is Dean’s impression of Santa Claus. Does anyone else try to do Santa with an accent that somehow feels accurate? I don’t know why exactly Dean Martin’s idea of Santa involves a vaguely German accent, nor do I know why exactly I find it so amusing. But it is real, much like this album cover:

image

What a dang scoundrel! Christmas at the ski lodge looks like an Archie comic here.

Merry Christmas, jugheads.

P.S. The notable exception is the Motown Christmas album. I can listen to that on a hot summer night equally as happily as Christmas proper.

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