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Whether you’re planning a holiday, or need some inspiration for your Christmas decorating or baking, a good Christmas playlist will help. CKUA radio host Lisa Wilton dove into the vaults for a few songs to kick-start your seasonal soundtrack.
Her & Him – All I want for Christmas is you
Mariah Carey’s platinum-selling holiday juggernaut is polarizing. Either you love it, or you try to avoid it at all costs from mid-November to New Year’s Eve.
Its popularity is not surprising, however; it is an extremely catchy earwig. So if you secretly enjoy blasting All I Want for Christmas Is You, but also want to maintain a bit of music snob reputation, try She & Him’s indie pop cover. Zooey Deschanel may not have Mariah’s range, but her smooth, resonant voice suits the song just fine.
Slade – Merry Christmas everyone
In 1973 the economic situation for the working and middle class in the UK looked dire. Strikes broke out all over Britain and many people looked for ways to forget their problems.
Enter Wolverhampton glamor band Slade with a blazing rock ‘n’ roll pestle that cheered up the crowd (at least three and a half minutes).
It’s a boisterous, happy sing-along that has become a Christmas staple. And if you like this one, try Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, which was released the same year and in the same glam rock style.
Hawksley Workman – First snow of the year
It’s been two decades since Juno Award-winning singer and songwriter Hawksley Workman released his now-classic Canadian Christmas album Almost a Full Moon. First Snow of the Year is one of the most whimsical tracks on the record. It evokes nostalgic feelings of early snowfall – the promise of thrilling sledding rides for kids and the tedious chore of shoveling the driveway for adults.
A quirky, sympathetic song.
Sarah McLachlan – River
River, another quintessentially Canadian Christmas classic, was written by Alberta-born music legend Joni Mitchell. Her version should be on every holiday playlist, but Sarah McLachlan’s beautiful mezzo vocal range and unique tone and timbre add a certain magical quality to the oft-covered track. River isn’t exactly a happy party song (Mitchell wrote the song after her split from Graham Nash), but it’s surprisingly comforting.
Shaye Zadravec – Silver bell
Described as a “rodeo song with a Christmas twist,” Silver Bell is a charming roots ballad written by Canadian folk-songwriter and country music legend Ian Tyson.
This newer version from singer Shaye Zadravec from Calgary is awesome. Shaye’s plaintive vocals perfectly encapsulate the regret and homesickness of a “south Texas cowgirl” unable to return to Alberta for the holidays.
Shaye adds warmth to the song, which also features a verse sung by the gruff Tyson.
Khruangbin – Christmas time here
Little did jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi know in 1965 that the opening number he composed for the animated TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas would become a Christmas standard.
While the original still holds up, this more recent rendition by the psychedelic Austin trio Khruangbin is soulful, sophisticated and utterly cool.
Ella Fitzgerald – Sleigh Ride
Composed by Leroy Anderson during a summer heat wave in 1948, Sleigh Ride is one of the most recorded Christmas carols in the Christmas music canon. Ella Fitzgerald’s version is a hit thanks to her playful tone and vintage swing jazz sound. Whip out the Jello mold, hang the mid-century Christmas decorations, and bang on the singer’s iconic Christmas album, Ella Fitzgerald Wishes You a Swinging Christmas, for a vintage-style holiday season.
Louis Armstrong – ‘Did you sit, Santa?
Like Ella’s Sleigh Ride, ‘Zat You, Santa Claus’ is a merry Christmas tune from one of jazz’s greatest musicians.
It’s not one of the more widely known Christmas offerings, but it’s so cheeky fun it should be added to more Christmas playlists.
The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping
For those who like their Christmas carols with a dollop of wit and irreverence, this 1981 single by Akron, Ohio new wave band The Waitresses is the way to go.
Frontperson Patty Donohue sings from the perspective of a busy modern woman, who decides she’s just going to skip Christmas this year, but eventually warms up when romance enters the picture.
It’s funky, funny, and probably the most danceable Christmas song you’re likely to find on your holiday playlist. Well, except…
Boney M – Mary’s Boy Child / Oh My Lord
Similar to Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You or Wham’s Last Christmas, Boney M’s 1978 epic holiday standard is either maligned or adored.
Count me in the latter camp. Was my love for the song cemented after witnessing the regulars at the Ship & Anchor singing along loudly as they made their way through the pub in a conga line? Possible. But maybe it’s because it’s fun and unpretentious and Christmas isn’t the same without it.
Other songs to include:
The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl – New York Fairy Tale
Low – just like Christmas
The Kinks – Santa Claus
Grant-Lee Phillips – Winter Glow
Pentatonix – Carol of the bells