Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Five Holiday Tunes That Soothe the Grinch in Me


We all know the holiday season can be a rather stressful time.  You've got gift lists to consult, crowds to fight with, long lines to wait in, and everywhere you turn, there's Christmas music blasting some fa-la-las into your poor, befuddled brain.  As someone who has worked in retail and discovered the (lack of) joy of 24-hour Christmas radio stations, I know how much hearing the same songs over and over again can wear you down. 

I mean, a person can only hear Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" so many times before she snaps and starts whittling candy canes into shivs.  However, there are some songs so full of holiday cheer that they never fail to make my heart grow three times in size, no matter how many times they may loop on the radio.  I've listed 5 of my favorites here for you, and I've even included where you can purchase these tunes for yourself in case you're in need of some holiday spirit. 

5.  "White Christmas" - Otis Redding

I've actually been known to listen to this one year-round.  Sure, you can go with the more traditional versions of the song, but as far as I'm concerned, Otis's is the best.  It's got an undeniable groove that's pretty rare for your standard holiday tune.  You can find this track on a lot of albums, such as several greatest hits compilations, but it's also available on the Love, Actually soundtrack (aka one of the greatest holiday movies in recent years) which has several other great holiday tracks.  (Album, Amazon, $8.69; Single only, Amazon, $0.99)

4.  "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" - Billie Holiday

Ok, it may not be an outright holiday song, but it's close enough.  All I need is Billie's gorgeous voice, accompanied by a swinging jazz orchestra, and suddenly I don't care how cold it is outside.  I've got this classic tune to keep me warm.  (Amazon, $0.89)

3.  "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan

I must confess, I don't get the claims that this song is too "date rapey" (due to the "Say, what's in this drink?" line Ella utters).  If you ask me, she's dragging her feet, trying not to leave, looking for any excuse to stay even though she knows she shouldn't... and he's just playing devil's advocate.  I'm not alone on this, either. This is another one that's been covered by many, many different artists, but I've always loved Ella & Louis's version the most.  (Amazon, $0.99)

2.  "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" - Judy Garland

There's always something a little sad about the holidays, especially for those who can't spend it with their loved ones.  Judy Garland's mellifluous, melancholy take on this holiday standard can bring a tear to my eye as I think about how lucky I am to be surrounded by my friends and family at Christmas time.  Even when I'm dealing with the madness of the season, this song never fails to make me stop and reflect.  (Amazon, $0.99)

1.  "The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)" - Nat King Cole

It's not truly the holiday season until I've heard this song, sung by the legendary Nat King Cole.  The piano sounds a chord, the strings swell, then that voice, smooth as velvet, comes in, crooning the opening line, and suddenly, it's Christmas, even when I'm miles from home.  If this song is playing, I'm suddenly transported to my living room, where, as a kid, I'd bask in the glow of our Christmas tree as Cole lulled me with his holiday wishes.  If ever there were a song that completely embodies the holiday spirit, to me, this is it.  (Amazon, $0.99)

I hope I've helped you to get into the holiday spirit.  Now, I'll turn it over to you.  What holiday songs are your favorites?

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