Essential Dos and Don’ts for Your Holiday-Party Playlist

The holiday-party season is in full effect. Across our city, businesses and friends alike are gathering for various celebrations of the holiday season. These parties will feature any number of staples, from finger foods to cash (or, fingers crossed, open) bars to ugly sweaters. Of course, they will also feature one component that can make or break a holiday party — the music. Are you the person responsible for the music at this year’s holiday party? Choose wisely; one wrong turn could send the whole party down the drain. Here are some tips for putting together the perfect holiday-party playlist.


Are you hosting a party for a bunch of longtime friends and well-wishers, many of whom have known one another for years? Or maybe you’re hosting a work party chock-full of colleagues, and perhaps even a boss or two. Point being, your party’s audience is crucial when determining a holiday playlist. Is there an inside joke among friends that necessitates Snoop Dogg’s “Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto” on your holiday playlist? By all means, have at it. However, if surrounded by colleagues with whom you spend very little time outside the office – or God forbid, you are surrounded by in-laws or folks along those lines — maybe blaring Eazy-E’s “Merry Muthafuckin’ Xmas” isn’t the right play.


Look, the holidays are a time to gather with friends and loved ones and celebrate your good fortune. It’s a time to look back on the previous year – the ups and downs – while hoping for a better year next time around. The holiday season is many things to many people. It is NOT, however, a time to get uppity when it comes to compiling a holiday party playlist. Look man, “Santa Claus Is Coming Town” and “Jingle Bells” are but two of many overplayed, cliché, some might even say terrible holiday songs. That said, they’re holiday staples, and, like eggnog, belong at the holiday party. Leave ’em in.


There’s a certain art to crafting a holiday-party playlist. Early in the evening, when folks are arriving and chatting among themselves – not to mention knocking down a few pops – keep the playlist on tracks better served as background noise – think tracks like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” or “Silent Night.” These are not songs designed to elicit much excitement from the crowd. However, as the night wears on, and as the booze takes effect (it always does), crank it up a notch. In short, later in the evening is the time to turn on a holiday hit and watch a few drunks scream the song at the top of their lungs whilst holding phantom microphones. Speaking of which…


Fellow Houston Press contributor Brandon Caldwell is a talented writer, one who knows way more about hip-hop than just about anyone. That said, he was wrong when he said that Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is not a good song. The song is cheesy, for sure, but it isn’t bad. It’s catchy, hits all the holiday notes and features one of the greatest singers of her era at the top of her game. Plus, it was featured prominently in Love Actually, and that movie is kick-ass.


The Killers annually release a holiday track, many of which are pretty damn good as novelty tracks go. The Flaming Lips released a pretty good track in “Christmas at the Zoo.” Even Kanye rang in the holiday season with “Christmas In Harlem.” These are all good tracks; they are all also incredibly obscure tracks that most folks in attendance won’t know. Holiday parties are not the time to turn your friends on to new music.


Just because it’s a holiday party doesn’t mean it has to feature exclusively holiday music. People are looking for a good time at holiday parties, and more often than not, that good time is aided by a few spirits. And when folks are drinking, many are looking to sing along. So cue up a little “Don’t Stop Believing” or “Sweet Caroline,” then transition into a little “Gangsta’s Paradise” or “Forgot About Dre.” Sure, these songs have absolutely nothing to do with the holiday season. Nevertheless, they are popular tracks that generate reaction from a liquored-up crowd, which really gets to the heart of the holiday season.


By this, I mean play the original version of Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song.” That song is the best.
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Clint Hale enjoys music and writing, so that kinda works out. He likes small dogs and the Dallas Cowboys, as you can probably tell. Clint has been writing for the Houston Press since April 2016.
Contact: Clint Hale