Most Christmas music is not particularly good. Sure, many of these tracks are steeped in tradition and are outright institutions at this point, but longevity doesn’t necessarily equal quality (see Texans GM Rick Smith for proof of this notion on a local level). Worst case, songs like “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” are flat-out terrible. Best case, they’re played out. But that’s not the case for all holiday-related music. These ten tracks are worth a listen.
JAMES BROWN, "Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto"
They called him the “hardest working man in show business” for a reason; James Brown didn’t take holidays off. The message is actually a good one. Brown, who came from an impoverished background, urged Saint Nick to visit the ghetto and bring gifts to all the children, for he was once one of those children himself. “Tell ‘em James Brown sent you.” Damn right.
MARIAH CAREY, "All I Want For Christmas Is You"
Yeah, this song is hokey as hell, and it kinda is venturing into played-out territory (thanks a lot, Love Actually). That said, Mariah Carey was at her absolute apex when this track was recorded; despite the dissenting opinion of fellow Houston Press music writer Brandon Caldwell, it's actually brilliant. Plus, it’s the perfect track to play when cheesily trying to express to your significant other that you really don’t want any gifts for Christmas...even though you do.
THE KILLERS, "Don't Shoot Me Santa"
The Killers release a holiday-themed track every year to raise money for charity. They’ve had their hits and misses along the way; this is by far their biggest hit. It also showcases something rarely seen from the band — a self-deprecating sense of humor (front man Brandon Flowers is one talented dude, one who occasionally takes himself a tad too seriously). Plus, this track is downright weird in the best way possible. Dude is seriously trying to talk Santa out of putting a cap in him.
DOLLY PARTON, "Hard Candy Christmas"
For many, the holidays are the worst time of the year. For reasons personal, professional and financial, or perhaps a combination of the three, December is the month of woe for a number of people. This is their song. Dolly is “barely getting through tomorrow,” but dammit, she’s not going to let it break her. Instead, she’s gonna knock down some apple wine and push on. Point being, we could all stand to take some life lessons from the legend that is Dolly Parton.
ELVIS PRESLEY, 'Blue Christmas"
Man, no one crooned a sad song like the King, as evidenced by this and numerous other tracks of woe. On this one, Elvis is feeling down because his true love won’t be with him for Christmas. Of course, judging from the reaction of the ladies in the crowd during a live recording of the single, Elvis would only lack for female company if he chose to.
THE RAMONES, "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight")
God bless the Ramones, who put into words what many already felt...namely, the holidays are a stressful pain in the ass sometimes, and can cause a little friction on the home front. Plus, this video treats us to another holiday staple — that couple who really needs to break up but refuses to do so until after the holiday because, well, loneliness.
RUN-DMC, "Christmas In Hollis"
Jesus, the '80s were the salad days for cheesy music videos. And while Run-DMC’s ode to Christmas in their native Queens certainly features a cheesy video, the song is actually pretty solid, with an uplifting message. But man, that elf in this video is terrifying in the creepiest way possible.
ADAM SANDLER, "The Chanukah Song"
Say what you will about Adam Sandler and the decline of his career, but two things are for certain. One, The Wedding Singer is underrated as a romantic comedy and should be mentioned alongside the likes of When Harry Met Sally and Pretty Woman. And two, dude knows how to write a song about Chanukah, so much so that he did it successfully four times over. “O.J. Simpson — not a Jew.” No, no he isn’t.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"
As mentioned previously, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is not a good song. However, the Boss gives it such an enthusiastic go — he knows no other way; Springsteen is the full-throttle type — that you can’t help but get into it. Simply put, Bruce Springsteen’s energy can lift even the worst tracks out of mediocrity.
KANYE WEST, "Christmas In Harlem"
This song provides something you often get from Kanye, as well as something you rarely get from Kanye. For starters, it’s a damn good track, as Kanye is prone to produce. It also features him having a little fun at the holidays and even showing a bit of humor, something he’s rarely done since the College Dropout/Late Registration days.