The Root's Holiday Playlist
An irreverent listening guide to some Christmas classics.
I believe in the power of Christmas music, which is why I keep a Christmas mix in my car at all times; it is the one thing that can make me feel like a child instantly. It is the only music that doesn't discriminate by age or race. A Christmas mix is just as likely to have Ol' Blue Eyes next to ODB. So, I give you Christmas.
I still believe in Christmas. It is the one time of the year that I believe the world will stay upright, that people are inherently good and kind, and that slow drivers aren't out to deter me from getting to my destination as fast as possible. I believe in the Christmas spirit, the idea that it's infectious and that smiles and "thank yous" are a direct symptom of catching it. I believe in Santa and flying reindeer and unexpected gifts. I believe in macaroni and cheese with a nicely crusted top. I believe in getting a tree and trimming it, even if the wallet is tight. I believe in the power of Christmas music, which is why I keep a Christmas mix in my car at all times; it is the one thing that can make me feel like a child instantly. Christmas music is my yoga. It is the only music that doesn't discriminate by age or race. A Christmas mix is just as likely to have Ol' Blue Eyes next to ODB. So, I give you Christmas.
Top five Christmas songs that people need to stop trying to copy
1. "This Christmas" by Donny Hathaway
Donny Hathaway, whose voice held all the pain of blackness, opens himself into this song to make Christmas soulful and loving. This song makes you wish you could sing. Because voices like his, Marvin's and Stevie's hold a pain as tangible and fragile as a perfectly crafted snow angel.
2. "Silent Night" by The Temptations
They filet'd it, barbecued it and then killed it. Especially at the end when the lead starts explaining how he sits alone at the fireplace. This song is the song I wait to hear every Christmas.
3. "Santa Baby" by Eartha Kitt
Can you name another Eartha Kitt song? Seriously. That is how you know she owns this song. Some people have tried. All have failed. They may have had a stronger voice than Kitt, but they can't pull off the soft seduction that makes Santa want to give up that red bag with all his earnings.
4. "The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole
I have never had a chestnut. I have never roasted a chestnut, but I know Nat King Cole can sing about it and make me want them because that's how smooth he was. This is one of those songs that makes your ears happy. There is no Christmas without this song. Although it's been sung many times, many ways, not one is better than Nat King Cole.
5. "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" by Perry Como
You can't see Perry Como, son! This song is the song that marks the end of Thanksgiving and the beginning of breaking the bank. It makes me want to put on some one-piece PJs with the built-in feet and slide around the linoleum kitchen floor of my past.
Top Jackson 5 Christmas Songs
No one put out a bigger Christmas catalog than Joe's little boys, so here are the best of the best.
This will get the ornaments up with speed because Mike has that kind of authority in his voice. That old soulfulness. Even though he has bleached his skin and lost his nose, Christmas is about wishing. I wish he hadn't done that.
Little Michael. Poor Michael. Man, I miss him. This song really shows what he used to be and will never be again. It's one of those songs that gets play for no reason other than it bangs.
This version is the best because little Michael is a still a child. So when he sings it, you don't get a creepy vibe of some perverted old man making reference to some weird Santa scene.
OK, this isn't the best version of this song, but at least Tito gets some shine singing lead. I actually like this version better.
This song "click click clicks."
Top 5 Christmas songs that you have never heard and need to.
1. "Be Thankful" by Nate Dogg
OK, so his voice is weak, he doesn't really hit all the notes and this song was on the Death Row Christmas CD featuring a picture of Santa Claus in a hood, sitting in an electric chair. Bottom line: Nate Dogg is singing for the thugs, and thugs need Christmas, too—maybe more.
2. "Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg
This song is pure Christmas pimpetry. It's the story of running into an old flame and pondering a life once lived. That is what Christmas is all about: remembering for a day the mack that you used to be and then settling back into the parent that you are.
3. "The Christmas Waltz" by Frank Sinatra
Three words: OL' BLUE EYES.
4. "Wonderful Christmas Time" by Paul McCartney
This song makes me want to get a scarf from Gap and go running through the mall handing out dollar bills and smiles with a face that says, "Yes! That's right, kiddies, that dollar's for you." Then I give their heads a messing and scurry off.
5. "Charlie Brown Christmas" by Vince Guaraldi Trio
Sure, you watched the television show, but if you don't do anything this Christmas, BUY THIS ALBUM! This is some of the best jazz ever compiled and makes you look real Christmas grown-and-sexy when you can put this on with the mistletoe hat.
The 5 Best Christmas Raps
1. "Christmas in Hollis" by Run D.M.C.
This was the first rap that I could say around my grandmother and not get smacked in the back of the head. Rev. Run and DMC made Santa come to Hollis even if didn't want to, and they breakdown a soulful Christmas in one verse: "It's Christmas time in Hollis Queens/Mom's cooking chicken and collard greens…"
2. "Sleigh Ride" by TLC
OK, so technically this isn't a rap but Left Eye does drop a verse, and they also sing about Santa driving in a Cadillac, which is a very rap-oriented vehicle. This song goes back to a simpler time when jumpers, stocking-cap hats and condoms-as-accessories were all the rage, a consumerism Christmas complete with product placement.
3. "Christmas Rappin'" by Kurtis Blow
Talk about Christmas! Rappers and R&B groups have thoroughly combed this song for beats. Kurtis Blow is like the Santa of rap in this one song. Don't believe me, check out the instrumental.
4. "Christmas Song" by Juelz Santana feat. Skull Gang
Just when you thought hip-hop was dead, Juelz and the Skull Gang drop this little classic—probably the first Christmas stripper song ever written. The word play on this is amazing. I have never heard "Ho, Ho, Ho" or "gift wrapping" used in such ways. Their moms would be proud.
Sorry, I couldn't resist.
Top 5 Most Depressing Christmas Songs
1. "The Christmas Shoes" by Bob Carlisle
Easily one of the most depressing songs ever written. I will just tell you, so you don't have to listen to it and cry at work. It is about a boy wanting to buy his dying mother a pair of shoes on Christmas Eve because, "she's been sick for quite a while/I know these shoes will make her smile/and I want her to look beautiful/if Momma meets Jesus tonight."
2. "Happy X-mas (War is Over)" by John Lennon
"So this is Christmas and what have you done?"
Nothing. This is Saint Lennon asking you to confess that you could have given more of yourself. That you could have volunteered. That you could have passed out sandwiches to the homeless. There is something eerie in the children's voices in the background that can really make you feel selfish, which might not be a bad thing, but I usually skip this one when it comes on.
3. "Another Lonely Christmas" by Prince
For all those Christmas wishes that didn't come true. For all those times you swam naked in your father's pool.
Wait. That's a line from the song and only Prince can make a Christmas song that includes swimming naked. This song is for those who lost a lover and have to deal with Christmas present thinking about Christmas past.
4. "Please Come Home for Christmas" by Charles Brown
I think the first few lines sum it up:
Bells will be ringing
The glad, glad news
Oh, what a Christmas to have the blues
My baby's gone
I have no friends.
5. "Every Year, Every Christmas" by Luther Vandross
Beautiful, beautiful song.
Wrong season. This song should mark heartbreak season, which is usually after tax returns and before Saint Patrick's Day. Lutha can teach us about hanging onto love and the pain of being alone after we open the gifts. Christmas is about lying. Sure, you can afford that $300 Xbox. Sure, Santa ate the cookie you left out for him.
The 5 Dumbest Christmas Songs Ever Made
OK. Wait. I love How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but let's just take a little look at the lyrics to this Christmas ditty. Shall we?
Your soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing
with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable
Mangled up in tangled up knots.
You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch.
With a nauseas super-naus.
You're a crooked jerky jockey
And you drive a crooked horse.
You're a three-decker-sauerkraut and toadstool
sandwich with arsenic sauce.
And, on that note, I'm signing off. Merry Christmas!
Stephen A. Crockett is a regular contributor to The Root.