The Playlist: 10 Holiday Songs to Get Your (Mistle)Toes Tapping
Whether you think it’s the most wonderful time of the year or you’re afflicted with a Scrooge-sized case of bah humbugitis, ’tis the season for Yuletide ditties galore.
1. For Unabashed Sweet-Talkers
There are as many great renditions of this classic duet as there are lights on the tree at Rockefeller Center. And while the cover performed by Zooey Deschanel and Will Ferrell in the film Elf is adorkable, this he-said, he-said version featuring Glee‘s high-school lovebirds Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Criss) puts a timely twist on an old favourite.
2. For a Quick Hit of Kitsch
Just one of many campy duets featured on the pair’s 1984 holiday album Kenny & Dolly: Once Upon A Christmas, this down-home ho-ho-hoedown is both profoundly earnest and irresistibly peppy.
Bonus: Watch the original clip from their TV special, A Christmas to Remember, for a glimpse of Rogers as Santa and Parton as his elf.
3. For a Kitsch Overload
As a reward for years of being hopelessly devoted to Sandy and Danny, Grease fans are receiving a very special gift in their proverbial stockings. Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta have teamed up for This Christmas, an album-length collection of seasonal offerings, including this brand-new original duet (!!). You’re the one that we want, indeed.
4. For Sleigh Bells Sans Santa
This lovely confection from Minnesota slowcore band Low is the soundtrack you’d want if you were snowed in with a crackling fire and a killer stereo system. The production is a glorious riot of sleigh bells and echoing tympani drums, and the lyrics dreamily call up scattered flurries in Scandinavia.
5. For Nostalgia That’s Not Dated
Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips are pre-millennial heroes: He was in the indie-rock bands Galaxie 500 and Luna; she was the singing voice of the leader of the Holograms in the cartoon Jem. Their contribution to the Kris Kringle canon, however, dates back to the mid-20th century. Written by honky-tonk Texan Roger Miller for his young son, this winsome tune centres around a tot’s yuletide excitement.
6. For a Good Cry
Joni Mitchell’s timeless ballad “River” isn’t a feel-good ditty. But it is appropriate, given its exploration of the emotional kickback that comes with being separated from loved ones during the holidays. This sublime version by Madeleine Peyroux and k.d. lang makes the Christmas connection even more explicit with a restrained piano intro that derives its melody from “Jingle Bells.”
7. For Making the Best of a Blizzard
Billie Holiday can do no wrong. And this jaunty, jazzy, cold-weather classic in which Lady Day pooh-poohs overcoats (who needs parkas when your heart’s on fire and the flame’s growing higher?) is simply divine.
8. For Novelty Value
This take on the seminal kiddie carol is the musical equivalent of that stop-motion Rudolph TV special from the ’60s: They’re both charmingly low-tech and a little weird, and they take you back to a different time.
9. For an Awesome Diva Moment
She may be judging American Idol and raising twins now, but back in 1994, Mariah Carey was an untouchable R&B diva who infused va-va-voom into what was basically an open letter to Santa. Her seasonal single was Britain’s most popular Christmas song of the last decade.
10. For Exorcising the Ghosts of Christmas Past
The ’80s were a great era for sad songs you could dance to, and “Last Christmas” is no exception. A breakup ballad with a dusting of empowerment-anthem on top, this is one of George Michael’s finest bruised-but-not-broken creations.