Top 5 Favorite Original/Non-Traditional Christmas Songs
Hey everyone! Believe it or not, I’m still alive and finally writing another post. You can chalk up that lengthy hiatus to having lots of stuff to do for school. I had a whole bunch of papers to write and several exams to prepare for and I just wasn’t in the mood to write after all that. And I’d wanted to write a commemorative post celebrating the one-year anniversary of this blog, too (I registered with WordPress on New Year’s Eve 2008). I’d also planned on writing this post a lot sooner, since the holiday season only lasts so long.
But here I am, late to the Christmas party… and the New Year’s party, for that matter, but I’ve never done much for New Year’s anyway. The most I ever do is watch a movie or that Three Stooges marathon on AMC, then switch over to Dick Clark and the Times Square ball drop, have a glass of Bailey’s Irish Cream, and then it’s right back to the Stooges for a little bit longer. In the immortal words of James Blunt, “My life is brilliant.” (No links for those of you who are still traumatized by “You’re Beautiful.”)
So in the spirit of the season that has officially passed us by (my mother actually just took down our Christmas decorations today), here’s my Top 5 Favorite Original/Non-Traditional Christmas Songs. No “Frosty The Snowman” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” here, folks. All those songs have been done to death, but people keep doing them anyway. If I have to listen to one more version of freaking “Jingle Bell Rock,” I’m going to lose my mind.
See, back when I worked in a supermarket during high school, they played nothing but Christmas music during the holiday season. Because they apparently didn’t want to offend any non-Christians by playing songs about Jesus, that meant the soundtrack was pretty much limited to every version of “Frosty” and “Rudolph” and “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” that has ever been recorded. I still haven’t quite recovered from this.
So today we celebrate artists who dare to write their own Christmas songs — and actually succeed at it!
But first, an honorable mention.
The Lonely Island, “Dick In A Box (feat. Justin Timberlake)”
Do I really need to explain this one? This is probably one of the best things Saturday Night Live has done in years, up there with the “more cowbell” sketch, “Celebrity Jeopardy,” and Tina Fey’s dead-on impersonation of Sarah Palin. Also, this is Exhibit A in my case for why Justin Timberlake needs to be on SNL more often.
And now we move on to the actual list! Hooray!
5. Thurl Ravenscroft, “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”
Here’s another one that doesn’t need much explanation. The singer’s name may not sound familiar, but the voice will — this is the version from the original Chuck Jones cartoon. Of all the songs on this list, “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is probably the closest to being a “traditional” Christmas song. Everyone knows it, and lots of people have covered it — Jim Carrey in the Ron Howard movie, Frank Zappa’s son, the “Chocolate Rain” guy from YouTube, the guys who sang the “Carmen Sandiego” theme song (DO IT, ROCKAPELLA!), and some band called the Whirling Dervishes who are pretty much solely known for covering this song. Fun fact: the lyrics to this song were written by none other than Dr. Seuss himself.
4. The Beach Boys, “Little Saint Nick”
Brian Wilson is one of the greatest songwriters in the history of pop music, and the Beach Boys made a Christmas album that was half original songs and half traditional songs. One of those original songs was bound to make this list, and here it is. “Little Saint Nick” was always my favorite song on the Beach Boys’ Christmas album, and considering how insanely catchy “Merry Christmas Baby” and “The Man With All The Toys” are, that’s saying a lot.
3. The Pretenders, “2000 Miles”
As great a Christmas song as “2000 Miles” is, probably the best thing about it is that it works just as well at any other time of the year. That’s because it isn’t just about Christmas. The song is more about being separated from someone you love. And when you’re around that person, you’re as happy as… well, a kid on Christmas morning who’s just seen all the presents under the tree. Knowing they’ll be home for the holidays just gives you another reason to look forward to them.
2. Chuck Berry, “Run Rudolph Run”
I’ve loved this song ever since I heard it for the first time while watching Home Alone. It plays during the part where the family’s rushing through the airport to catch their plane, not even realizing they’ve left Kevin behind. It’s got that familiar “Johnny B. Goode” vibe to it — very up-tempo and fun. If I had to pick the music to play at a Christmas party, I’d probably choose this song over “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” every time. And that’s only partially because of how sick I am of “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” This song rocks more than “Jingle Bell Rock” could ever hope to, and it didn’t even need to put the word rock in the title to do it.
1. The Kinks, “Father Christmas”
Just as pretty much every Christmas special on TV will probably tell you, Christmas is about the spirit of giving. And so, along with all the gifts you have to get for your relatives and significant others, you are encouraged to donate money or gifts to the Salvation Army and Toys For Tots and whatnot. It’s also why songs like this and “Do They Know It’s Christmas” exist. That’s pretty much where the similarities between the songs end, though.
I’ve never been a big fan of charity songs like “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” They want to tug at your heartstrings, so their lyrics are written to be pretty heavy-handed. “Do They Know It’s Christmas” is at least a catchy song that doesn’t get as… I don’t know… sappy as something like “We Are The World.” But there are still a couple things that bug me about it. For one, there’s that lyric telling you to “thank God it’s them instead of you,” a selfishly-worded phrase that kind of goes against the whole “feed the world” message despite its intended meaning of “be thankful for what you have.” Also, how many people in Africa celebrate Christmas?
“Father Christmas,” on the other hand, tackles similar subject matter in a more lighthearted and casual way rather than trying to inspire you to save the world: “Father Christmas, give us some money/Don’t mess around with those silly toys.” The song is more fun, sprinkling its lyrics with humor rather than beating you over the head with the horrors of poverty. As much as the holiday season is about the spirit of giving, it’s also a time for celebration. And this song pretty much hits the nail on the head on both counts: “Have yourself a very merry Christmas,/Have yourself a good time,/But just remember the kids who got nothing.”