It’s been a hard year. Not just for me personally, but for the world in general. For our country. We’ve had surges in gun violence (specifically against African-Americans), surges in hate crimes. We’re looking at a very frightening inauguration. We’ve had to fight to keep oil companies from destroying our environment and the health and safety of our people. And we’ve lost musical icons who were our heroes; they left us when we most needed them.
Even though some new horror dominates the news each day, Christmas should be a respite from the pain and fear and darkness. Even if just for a day. Even if just for a few hours spent with family or friends. I’m pretty sure we’re all ready for a few moments of joy, no matter what holiday is being celebrated.
December 20: Queen, “Thank God It’s Christmas”
One of my favorite Christmas albums is a compilation called A Merry 1940s Christmas. It’s got such a great selection of songs not commonly heard, and it starts off with Kate Smith’s “A Merry American Christmas.” I hadn’t heard the song before listening to this comp, but I fell in love with it immediately.
December 18: Kate Smith, “A Merry American Christmas”
Truly one of the greatest things about the holidays is pulling out the Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters album and giving it a spin.
December 17: Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters, “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town”
Wham! You either love them or hate them. And you either love their song, “Last Christmas,” or you cringe when it comes on the radio. I happen to fall into the first group, which is why I was excited to pick up the anniversary reissue of the single on red & green vinyl a few years ago.
If you’re with me, watch the video below. And even if you hate the song, well, it’s probably already in your head so you might as well watch it anyway.
December 16: Wham!, “Last Christmas”
I’m obsessed with Christmas movies. And Christmas music. And Christmas in general. I have a spreadsheet of 48 holiday movies/specials, and I time our December to fit in as many of them as possible. One of the must-haves is the film “Home Alone.” It’s been a favorite of mine since I was younger, and it just doesn’t feel like Christmas until it’s been viewed at least once.
Not only do I love the film, but I love John Williams’ score and theme. When I was in high school, my then-boyfriend and I used to plan elaborate Christmas parties and go all-out decorating his parents’ basement to entertain our friends. While we decorated, we would always have the Home Alone soundtrack playing in the background. Those were some good times. And seriously, in my book, you can never go wrong with John Williams.
December 15: John Williams, “Home Alone Theme”
One of my favorite singers, Natalie Prass, just today released a holiday track called “Everybody’s Having Fun (It’s Christmas Time).” Not only is it a fun tune, designed to counter the very horrible 2016 we’ve endured, but the proceeds go to SPARC (School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community). Go here to buy the song and support the arts.
December 14: Natalie Prass, “Everybody’s Having Fun (It’s Christmas Time)”
A year ago yesterday, I saw Sleater-Kinney perform for the first time at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, NY. It was a magical evening, complete with Carrie Brownstein jumping over onto the odd orchestral barrier between general admission and the stage and singing down to a group of us crazy fans wearing “Carrie’s Coven” t-shirts. I’d been to hundreds and hundreds of concerts, but none quite so melt-your-face-off amazing. And then they melted my face off even MORE the next night at Terminal 5.
During that first show, though, the band played a cover of the Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight),” and in honor of that concert anniversary, here’s that fun cover.
December 13: Sleater-Kinney (live), “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)”
Leave it to Rilo Kiley to make the saddest Christmas song ever, right?
December 12: Rilo Kiley, “Xmas Cake”
Anyone who knows me knows that I adore Idina Menzel. I’ve been a fan for 20 years now, and I’ve seen her grace the Broadway stage and dazzle audiences with stories and reenactments of her days as a wedding singer. I love her album of holiday tunes, and just picked up a copy on vinyl this weekend. All the covers are fantastic, but I really love this original song written by Idina and Charlie Midnight.
December 11: Idina Menzel, “December Prayer”
The first time I ever heard this song was on an Indigo Girls album. It wasn’t until later that I learned it was a Joni Mitchell song, and then I was introduced to the album “Blue,” which is a true masterpiece. It’s a sad little holiday-adjacent song, but it’s beautiful, and it deserves a place on this list.
December 10: Joni Mitchell, “River”