December is finally upon us, which means many are gearing up for Christmas. Of course, with the approach of the holiday comes the reemergence of all those Christmas songs we know, love and sometimes hate. In honor of the season, here are five holiday tracks to get you ready for the season and everything it has to offer.
“The Christmas Song”- Nat King Cole: Though it was difficult to settle on just one song by Nat King Cole, the title track of his only full album of Christmas songs seemed the obvious choice. From the famous string intro to that iconic opening line, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” Cole’s rich baritone can transport even the grumpiest of Scrooges into a world of winter wonder.
“Christmastime Is Here,” both vocal and instrumental versions – Vince Guaraldi Trio: It’s hardly the holiday season without the airing of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on TV throughout December. Besides being known for Linus’ impressive speech on the meaning of Christmas and the little tree Charlie picks up for the school play, the special is remembered for its soundtrack. Performed by Vince Guaraldi Trio, many standouts can be found in the score, but most notably is the song “Christmastime Is Here.” Its slow and contemplative jazz feels perfect for a walk on a snowy day. There are two versions, one with vocals from a children’s choir and one that’s instrumental, but both certainly get the job done.
“Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)”- Trans-Siberian Orchestra: A more recent addition to the holiday repertoire, Trans-Siberian Orchestra has been adding a little more rock to Christmas cheer since the early ‘90s. With its modern reworking of classics, TSO has been consistently selling out its annual winter tours. One song that’s always expected on the set list is “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” from its debut album. It’s a rock medley of “Carol of the Bells” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” that truly does work. For those that find traditional holiday hits a little dull, TSO will wake you up.
“Sugar Rum Cherry (Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy)” – Duke Ellington: In 1960, the famous bandleader decided to tackle the score of one of the most well-known ballets: “The Nutcracker.” One would be hard-pressed to find a person who hasn’t heard at least a portion of Tchaikovsky’s work, especially because of its association with the Christmas season. Ellington’s interpretation of “The Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy” adds a new flair to the classic, but it still stays true to the heart of the music.
“Christmas in Hollis”- Run DMC: Despite the prevalence of the genre, it’s interesting to note the lack of hip hop and rap Christmas songs. Sure, Busta Rhymes has a feature on Justin Bieber’s album and the Ying Yang Twins felt the need to release a few holiday- inspired tracks – no really, check YouTube. It’s as wonderful as you’d expect. But when it comes down to it, the only true standout is Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis.” It’s rather light fare, with lyrics talking about finding Santa’s wallet on the ground and dinner with family. However, there’s something about the song that’s so immensely enjoyable that it keeps us listening decades later.
“I Wish It Was Christmas Today”- “Saturday Night Live” cast (Horatio Sanz, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan): The classic skit might not be the best song lyrically, but this short and absurd song brings its own form of cheer.