Saturday, December 17, 2016

20 Favorite Holiday Music Videos

It's that time of year when airwaves and store music stations are filled with holiday songs.  And let's face it, a lot of it is crap.  But they're not all bad, and presented below are twenty of the holiday song versions I can listen to over and over.

1. Vanessa Williams: What Child is This?

It's the smooth bass line, the Big Apple at Christmas feel, and of course the soft tones of a talented singer (who also happens to be one of the world's most beautiful women).

2. Leon Redbone and Dr. John: Frosty the Snowman

It takes an amazing effort to outdo Jimmy Durante's take from the classic cartoon, but these two jazz/blues greats team up for a lively version that introduces just a bit of zydeco.  

3. U2: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

The lads from Dublin were at peak momentum when they recorded this during their Joshua Tree tour.  I'd like to think Phil Spector would be proud of the big sound they got from such few instruments.

4. Olivia Olson: All I Want for Christmas

I admit it: Love Actually is one of my favorite holiday movies, and a staple in my DVD player each December.  Olivia Olson brings to the song an innocence that Mariah Carey just doesn't have in her.  Olivia is now known more for voice acting in Phineas and Ferb and Adventure Time, but for one year, hers was the voice of Christmas.

5. Under the Streetlamp: Here We Come A-wassailing

Four former cast members of Jersey Boys band together to bring that Frankie Valli early 60s energy to a classic English Christmas carol.  

6. Mike Tompkins: The Christmas Rush

An original from the a capella king, it's a fun, bouncy tune that pokes fun at today's consumerist holiday tradition.

7. Slade: Merry Xmas Everybody

It's just a little hilarious to think of Noddy Holder, the voice behind the songs that Quiet Riot built a career from covering, crooning a Christmas song, but this one's as sweet as it is catchy.

8. The Mighty Blue Kings: All I Ask for Christmas

When it comes to holiday songs, I immediately think of jump blues, don't you?  Ross Bon and his band provide a killer rendition of a song that, when I once found myself separated from my love for Christmas, I had on heavy repeat.

9. Alex G: Snow

A cover of the song by Sleeping at Last, the Colorado singer's version has benefits from her softer, more vulnerable vocals.

10. Fleet Foxes: White Winter Hymnal

Not a song of celebration, this indie product invokes the stark nature of winter through foreboding lyrics.  I was introduced to the song the Pentatonix cover, but the original is truly haunting.

11. Pentatonix: That's Christmas to Me

It's one of the quintet's softest vocal performances, with Kevin Olusola singing melody rather than beatboxing, this PTX original should become a holiday standard.

12. Silas Bjerregaard: Thank God It's Christmas

The original by Queen was as close to perfect as one could ever want.  Sadly though, Freddie and company never made a video of it.  So instead, here's a powerful live cover by the Turboweekend singer.

13. Trombone Shorty and Friends: O Holy Night

Probably the high point of the entire Studio 60 television series, their Christmas episode featured a subplot in which New Orleans musicians, displaced by Katrina, play a haunting version of the 19th century classic while various other subplots are resolved.  Trombone Shorty is the player that always gets mentioned, but his bandmates also provide a knockout performance.

14. Nat King Cole: The Christmas Song

I refuse to believe that anyone will ever do a version superior to the man who was the first to record this Mel Torme hit.

15. Kenny Loggins: Celebrate Me Home

It's amazing how many Christmas songs are about loneliness or missing loved ones. 

16. The Maccabeats: Candlelight

This a capella group from Yeshiva University are known for their clever parodies of hits that put a decidedly Jewish spin on the lyrics, producing one for almost every major Jewish holiday each year.  Their best is undoubtedly the one that put them on the map, a simple direct adaptation of Taio Cruz's Dynamite to celebrate Hanukkah.

17. Postmodern Jukebox: Last Christmas

PMJ always puts an interesting spin on their covers, and this swing version of the Wham! classic is no different.  This gets bonus points for everyone seemingly really enjoying performing this.

18. The Monkees: Ríu Ríu Chíu

Combine the original boy band with a villancico from the 16th century and you've got unexpected magic.

19. Walk Off the Earth: Little Drummer Boy

Leave it to Walk Off the Earth to do a send up of those Christmas carols sung by dogs with this well-orchestrated version of this 20th century composition.  Or, if you prefer, instead watch the classic David Bowie/Bing Crosby mashup with Peace on Earth.  Either way, you're a winner.

20. Enya: Adeste Fidelis

Enya creates a hauntingly beautiful version of the 18th century carol, singing it in its Latin form.