I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. I don’t know whether it’s Jon Bon wistfully sniffing a Santa hat to glean his loved one’s scent or the close ups of Cindy’s denim cut-offs that make the video of ‘Please Come Home For Christmas’ so ingenious, but something about it evokes a sense of nostalgia, and not just for the 1990s. The pine tree, the wine, the supermodels and rockstars by the fireplace, the desert, the verandah, the sunset – does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies.
‘8 Days of Christmas’ by Destiny’s Child
‘8 Days of Christmas’ is a Christmas song only in the sense that some of its lyrics reference the more traditional carol ‘Twelve Days of Christmas.’ Mostly, the track is about one of Destiny’s Child’s favourite topics: material goods. And despite the fact that I and many others claim to hate the consumerist nightmare that Christmas has become, the truth is that most of us still buy into it – literally. That’s the reason I appreciate this song. It doesn’t try to hide the enjoyment of receiving expensive and excessive amounts of presents: rather, it shamelessly celebrates the rampant capitalism of the holiday season (‘on the eighth day of Christmas my baby gave to me / a pair of Chloé shades and a diamond belly ring’). I wish more people (including myself) would treat Christmas as an opportunity for spiritual and philosophical reflection and questioning, but the fact is most people don’t – and this song nails that.
‘All I Want for Christmas is You (SuperFestive!)’ – Mariah Carey feat. Justin Bieber
As I’m sure you’ll agree, the 2011 ‘SuperFestive!’ version of the Mariah classic (not to be confused with ‘Extra Festive’ version) will always remain inferior to her original 1994 solo version. However, this more recent collaboration with the Biebs has its own appeal, largely due to the charm of Mariah’s continual attempts to relive her glory days, in this case re-releasing an old hit featuring a new young star who brings with him millions of potential fans. The Jack Russell Terrier that Justin and Mariah cuddle in the video’s final scene is almost as cute as Justin’s dire need to rely on such extreme auto-tuning, and the entire video is suffused with the strange feeling that Mariah (at the time about 41) and Justin (at the time about 17) are singing the song to each other. However, the clip is set in a department store, with Mariah and Justin placed in display areas in lieu of actual merchandise, suggesting that they are all we want (to buy) for Christmas. Genius.
For anyone who grew up watching Macaulay Culkin as young prankster Kevin McCallister in the Home Alone films, these soundtracks probably formed your basic introduction to some of the best, and what seem now to be the most familiar, Christmas carols of your life. Twenty four years on, ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘Carol of the Bells’ still bring Harry, Marv, and that nice old pigeon lady vividly to mind. The movies also brought popular classics like ‘Silver Bells’, Bobby Helms’ ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ and Brenda Lee’s ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ to a new generation of listeners, and encouraged kids everywhere to attach a life-sized cardboard cut out of Michael Jordan to a moving train set in order to trick their parents (or any lurking thieves) about how many people were in the house.
‘Mary Did You Know’ by Pentatonix
If you can look past the overly earnest facial expressions and the fact that one of the members of this group looks like the love-child of Nicolas Cage and Chad Kroeger, this is actually a great song. Pentatonix sings totally a capella, with Kevin Olusola providing some killer beat boxing (he does a good job on their version of ‘Little Drummer Boy’, too). The rest of the group are also amazing singers, and part of the reason I like this song because it’s actually about Jesus’ birth – unlike most Christmas pop songs these days – which I personally find important, considering it’s the reason why Christmas exists.
‘Wonderful Christmastime’ by everyone who’s ever covered it
Nearly twenty different artists have covered this song since Paul McCartney penned it in 1979, and I don’t think anyone really knows why. ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ is one of my least favourite songs ever, and though it hasn’t yet earned my respect, it has garnered my begrudged admiration (and a place on this list) due its sheer, dogged longevity. It just won’t die. Other terrible Christmas songs stay in the past where they belong. Jessica Simpson singing ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ with ex-husband Nick Lachey? Gone. Robbie Williams’ ‘Walk This Sleigh’? Dead and buried. Demi Lovato’s version of ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ from six years ago? Still receiving mainstream airplay, even during non-Christmas months. I heard it twice on the radio during September of this year. ‘Christmastime’ isn’t even a word, and McCartney has earned about USD $15 million in royalties from this song alone. I challenge all other artists to write a song so irritating and have it generate income for so long.