Okay, so I seriously don't think there is anyone on this earth who knows more about Christmas music than me. I usually don't like to say such bold, broad and self-aggrandizing remarks, but in this case it's true. My mother is a musician, and I'm certain that I have been to more Christmas concerts than you.
Since I'm such an expert, I am pleased to share with you the ultimate list of the best and worst of Christmas music. Here goes, and as per usual, I dare you to tell me that I'm wrong.
1. Paul McCartney - Wonderful Christmas Time
In the always heated McCartney vs. Lennon throw down debate, the point for best Christmas song goes to John Lennon. Actually, we might actually have to dock Sir Paul 20 points for his terrible holiday romp. The lyrics are fine; it's the wonky synthesizer that drives me crazy. To me, this song always sounded like someone is rhythmically throwing shoes at an electrical wire. What is that noise? I don't know, but it's unpleasant.
2. NewSong - The Christmas Shoes
Okay, the spirit of the season is about charity and giving. But, this song is less about charity than it is an awful study in middle class guilt inducement. An annoyed shopper's heart grows three sizes too big when he remembers what Christmas is all about from a little boy buying shoes for his dying mother. Worst part of it, if you've seen the made for TV movie based on the song, which you know I have, the shoes are the ugliest shoes ever! The song might have worked if it didn't include creepy kid singing and over earnest vocals, but instead it's grating and just makes me really uncomfortable.
3. Gayla Peevey - I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
OMG! This song is terrible. I'm sorry to ten year old girls who record terrible novelty Christmas songs, but what is wrong with this child's voice? Is she ill? Does she have some sort of speech impediment? The vocals are so nasal, I can't handle it. I think this song single-handedly is the reason why people hate Christmas radio.
4. All versions - My Favorite Things
This is not a Christmas song, and I don't understand when it became one. It's about the scared Von Trapp children waiting out a storm with Fraulein Maria. End of story.
5. All versions - Last Christmas
I like a lot of modern Christmas music, I promise (modern meaning made after 1960). But I'd rather hear George Michael's Father Figure over and over at Christmas time than this terrible breathy lover's lament. Why are there so many versions of this terrible, terrible song? Ish.
1. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton - Once Upon a Christmas album
Epic. A great mix of classic Christmas songs and fun originals, this album is Christmas to me. Sorry, I couldn't pick just one representative song. Originally released as a soundtrack to an incredibly cheesy early '80s Christmas special, this album's sweetness and optimism is the perfect holiday kick off. The music is unpretentious and warm, and delivers every time.
2. Bing Crosby - White Christmas
For a lot of us, Bing Crosby is Mr. Christmas. This song debuted in Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire's kinda racist classic movie, Holiday Inn. It originally spoke to WWII soldiers away from home, but has lived on for every person who has been away from home at Christmas. I get chills every time I hear that music box opening, which creates the perfect introduction to the rich caramel tone of Bing's voice.
3. Harry Connick Jr. - This Christmas
There have been many versions of this super sexy and smooth Christmas song, but no artist gives it that extra oopmh quite like Harry. Harry Connick Jr. has three Christmas albums, and they're all fantastic. His albums never insult the intelligence of the listener, which is just enough to make us believe that he didn't make the album for the money. He makes them for us.
4. Mariah Carey - All I Want for Christmas is You
This year, Mariah re-released an extra festive version of our generation's Christmas anthem. Trust me, stick to the original. This pure and simple song captures pre-Honey/pre-breakdown Mariah in all of her glory. For the past 20 years, every artist who puts out a Christmas album writes their own throw away original song. It's so satisfying that Mariah acutally tried and nailed it. This brilliant mix of pop with festive jingling and jangling is just perfect and always puts me in the Christmas mood.
5. Judy Garland - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
No other version of this song delivers as much longing and sadness as the original. Christmas is supposed to be merry and bright, but it can't always be. If you are cheeseball like me, Christmas is a promise, and I don't mean this in a religious sense. It's a promise that people can come together and we can all be our best. This song, better than any other represents the hope that we all put on the Christmas season. Also, Judy's version uses the lyric about muddling through - and that's awesome.