It is December and we know what that means: it’s beginning to look (and sound) a lot like Christmas. Now, I’m sure for many of you the last thing you want is to endure endless clichéd Christmas songs (myself included; I work in a mall, after all). But what’s Christmas without a little snow, a little egg nog, and a little Christmas music? So for those of you that want to get into the Christmas spirit, these are 12 (days) of Christmas songs which speak of the season but aren’t the same trite tunes we hear year after year. In my opinion, these Christmas songs never get old.
1. Band Aid – “Do They Know It’s Christmas Time” MP3
As an avid U2 fan, I couldn’t resist including this song created by charity supergroup Band-Aid. The song was released in efforts to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia and became a chart-topper. The band included Bono and Adam Clayton of U2, John Taylor of Duran Duran, Jim Kerr of Simple Minds, Phil Collins, George Michael, Boy George, and Mark Knopfler (with other Dire Straits members).
2. Death Cab For Cutie – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (Darlene Love cover)“ MP3
Ben Gibbard’s voice holds a perfect nostalgic tone that creates a great Christmas mood. It’s also a nice song for Death Cab fans — I will listen to it even when the holiday season is not nigh. (My favorite version of this song is the U2 one; even Gibbard cannot match Bono’s soaring, emotive tones -ed.)
3. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – “Colorado Christmas”
The title says it all — nothing beats Christmas in Colorado.
4. Barenaked Ladies – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings (ft. Sarah McLachlan)”
A genius mash-up that blends the two Canadian artists nicely. (Also, listen to Barenaked Ladies‘ “Deck the Stills” for a little Christmas humor).
5. Straight No Chaser – “12 Days of Christmas” MP3
This humorous song synthesizes “12 Days of Christmas” (among other Christmas classics) and Toto’s infamous ’80s hit “Africa.” The video for this song shows its creators, the Indiana-based a cappela group Straight No Chaser, performing the inspired comedy track. It went viral and helped them get a record deal. If you haven’t yet been one of the 13 million YouTube viewers, here is your chance.
6. Josh Groban – “Believe”
This was the theme song for the 2004 movie adapation of the book The Polar Express. Josh’s voice will melt even the coldest heart (except mine -ed.) and make you believe in anything this Christmas. Groban also released a Christmas album in 2007 which features several Christmas classics, and I would recommend listening to the French Christmas song “Petite Papa Noël.”
7. Jethro Tull – “A Christmas Song”
Nothing Says Christmas like the flute, and who can play the flute better than Ian Anderson? This whole album is fantastic; I had a hard time choosing which song to go with. Ultimately I chose “A Christmas Song” because it displayed Anderson’s talent as a musician, had some humor, and wasn’t “traditional/cliché.” Although were I to choose again I would go with “Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow” or “Last Man at the Party”
8. The Moody Blues – “Yes I Believe”
The Moody Blues‘ 2003 Christmas contribution includes several fitting songs. I decided to include this one because it flows nicely with the next one from Greg Lake, Hayward’s voice is irresistible, but the main reason I chose this song is because one of the lyrics references one of their greatest albums, possibly one of the greatest albums ever written, and I find that rather droll and intelligent.
9. Greg Lake – “I Believe in Father Christmas”
Emerson, Lake & Palmer have always been a part of my life — literally. CDs that my dad created for my mom to play during my birth included songs by ELP. Greg Lake, singer and writer of this progressive rock band, has such an astoundingly beautiful voice. He came up with this song by using the “Jingle Bells” chord progression. Although it was meant to get people in the Christmas mood, it does have a certain sadness — but that didn’t stop it from becoming a favorite Christmas song of mine. The music video was filmed in Israel, which if you know your Bible is the birthplace of Jesus.
10. Joni Mitchell – “River”
This song falls under the category of “Song About Christmas”: it isn’t necessarily a Christmas song, although Mitchell’s 1971 hit has become a Christmas standard. Like the last song, “River” begins with the “Jingle Bells” tune, and the chords are repeated throughout the song, adding to the Christmas spirit. ”River” has been covered by multiple artists across many genres, including Sarah McLachlan, James Taylor, Barry Manilow, and Lea Michele.
11. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo”
Perhaps a little cliché — but nevertheless deserving, simply because the awesome combination of classical music, orchestral rock, metal, and theatrics that is Trans-Siberian Orchestra never grows old. In the instrumental-Christmas mood? check out “Applachian Snowfall,” “A Mad Russian’s Christmas,” and “Christmas Canon.” (And don’t forget the spectacular “Wizards in Winter“! -ed.)
12. Wham! – “Last Christmas”
Okay okay, this one is admittedly a little clichéd, but it is impossible to resist George Michael‘s pop ballad; every time it comes on the radio or at work I have a spasmodic happy dance. Trust me, you’ll be singing along with it in no time.
Other Notable Songs
Enya – “Silent Night”
Kenny Loggins – “Celebrate Me Home”
Fountains of Wayne – “I Want an Alien for Christmas”