Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Worst and Best Of the Holiday Songs You'll Hear For The Next Month

Now that Thanksgiving weekend is over, I feel like it's officially the Christmas season, which means one thing – holiday songs everywhere on the dial.  I have mixed emotions about this; some of these songs make me feel festive and spirited, others make me cringe and turn the radio dial.

At the risk of being a Grinch, I’ve presented my list of the 10 songs I could do without, but before you call me blasphemous, I’ve followed it with the 10 I could listen to all year long.  So here goes.

The Bottom 10....

10) Bruce Springsteen – "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" I know this’ll piss off hard-core Springsteen fans, but I'm not afraid to make unpopular decisions.  This time of year I can’t be in the car for two minutes without hearing this song.  I concede that maybe that’s the radio stations’ fault, but it's not even December and I’m already sick of this song.

9) Bob Geldof et al, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" With a roster that includes Spandau Ballet, The Boomtown Rats, Wham! and Big Country, this was hardly a group of all-stars.  If you’re gonna pick an era to grab a bunch of British rock stars for a collaboration, the early ‘80s was probably the worst.
8) Paul McCartney – "Wonderful Christmastime" See Springsteen, above.

7) Bryan Adams – "Christmas Time"  When I was in middle school, Bryan Adams could rock with the best of them.  Then he released this song.  Next thing you know, Bryan Adams was the successor to Christopher Cross and Robbie Dupree as the dominant force of the yacht rock genre.  Any song that single-handedly emasculates an artist gets on this list by default. 

6) Elvis Presley – "Blue Christmas"  There’s a reason I don’t listen to a lot of Oldies or country, and this is it.  I don’t know who sings the awful background vocals in this, but whoever it is deserve coal in their stockings.  

5) Elton John – "Step Into Christmas" Again, see Springsteen.

4) Adam Sandler – "The Chanukkah Song"  (Parts I, II, and III) Admittedly, it’s important to have Jewish representation during the holiday season.  But Sandler really runs out of gas in parts II and III, throwing in a few folks – such as "Flashdance" star Jennifer Beals – who aren’t even Jewish.   And let’s face it, Sandler’s singing voice is worse than fingernails on a chalk board.

3) Burl Ives – "A Holly Jolly Christmas" As much as I enjoy watching the old Rankin-Bass “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” special every year, I have to either change the channel or throw the mute button on when they play this song. The lyrics don’t even make sense – “I don’t know if there’ll be snow / But have a cup of cheer.”  Huh?  What the hell is a cup of cheer?  You can't do any better than that?  An aside: it’s interesting that this was written by a guy (Johnny Marks) who’s Jewish.  Maybe Adam Sandler should’ve substituted Marks for Jennifer Beals.  

2) Frank Loesser & Lynn Garland – "Baby, It's Cold Outside"  Turns out Loesser wrote this song just for kicks and he and his wife Garland sang it during holiday gatherings with their friends, calling it “their song.”  Then, Loesser sold the song to MGM, which infuriated Garland.  A few years later, they divorced.  Any song that leads to a couple’s divorce should be automatically barred from Christmas radio rotation.   

And the No. 1 worst holiday song..... 

1) George Michael/Wham! – "Last Christmas"  Pretty self-explanatory.  I don’t expect holiday songs to rock, but this song makes “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” sound like AC/DC.

So now that you think I'm the Grinch, here are my 10 favorite holiday songs of all time.... 

10) Vince Guaraldi Trio – "Linus & Lucy"  Technically this isn’t a holiday song, which is why I don’t have it higher up.  But radio stations play it a lot this time of year, and it does factor pretty big in the Peanuts Gang's Christmas play.  Plus, as this list will show, my life has been heavily influenced by Charles M. Schulz.

9) Thurl Ravenscroft – "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"  Any song sung by the voice of Tony the Tiger deserves to be on a Top 10 list for something.  Plus, thanks to this song I discovered how much fun seasick crocodiles can be.

8) Bare Naked Ladies, featuring Sarah McLaughlin – "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" The antithesis of the Bryan Adams song above, this collaboration is funky and cool, by far Canada’s greatest contribution to Christmas.

7) Vince Guaraldi Trio – "O Tannenbaum" Only Vince Guaraldi can take a stodgy old Christimas carol and turn it into the kind of tune that you could hear at a hoppin' jazz club on a Saturday night.  Plus, it’s a great TV moment when it’s the background music for Charlie Brown killing his dinky tree with the lone ornament.

6) Bob Rivers – "I Am Santa Claus" Here’s the best part of this parody of Black Sabbath’s “Ironman” – as a kid, when I was beginning to figure out that (spoiler alert!) there’s no Santa Claus, I asked the very same question as Rivers – “If he’s getting toys for everyone, Santa Claus has to be a billionaire.  Wait a sec…”

5) The Waitresses – "Christmas Wrapping" Who would’ve thought that the brains behind songs like “I Know What Boys Like” could kick it for Christmas, too.  Not only a good holiday song, but an early influence in the rap genre.  Plus, I always thought lead singer Patty Donahue had a nice voice (though she must’ve been doing a little too much smoking; she’s been dead for quite awhile now).

4) The Royal Guardsmen – "Snoopy's Christmas"  When last we left the Red Baron, he was chasing Snoopy into a the Halloween party from “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," which led to Lucy kissing Snoopy while bobbing for apples. It's good to see everything turned out OK for all involved. 

3) Straight No Chaser – "The 12 Days of Christmas"  A mashup that has everything – in addition to the 12 Days, you’ve got Rudolph, The Dreidel Song, and even Toto’s Africa.  The only minor negative is, no Vince Guaraldi.

2) Trans-Siberian Orchestra – "Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24" I first heard this song at a Patriots game back in the late ‘90s and, true to form, this is one of the few Christmas songs that really rocks.  I wanna tackle someone whenever I hear this.

And, in my humble opinion, the No. 1 holiday song of all time....

1) Vince Guaraldi Trio – "Christmas Time Is Here"  Come on, is there any other choice for No. 1?  Snoopy is dragging Linus across the pond by his blanket as I write this.  An aside: it’s a travesty that nobody has put together a Wikipedia article on this song yet.

So those are my lists and I'm sticking to them.  You're free to disagree, or create your own list.  Here's hoping I hear more of my top 10 this holiday season.

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