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The Best Covers Of My Favorite Christmas Songs
Santa Buddy -- An Introduction
With this article I attempt to bring the inanity back into blogging by taking classic Christmas songs, beloved the world over, and finding updated versions sung by flavor-of-the-week "musicians" who are more synthesizer than voice. So if you were bored of hearing Burl Ives, Bing Crosby, and Wham incessantly playing on your radio all month but for some reason still love all those incredibly thought-provoking lyrics and wish they would just be sung by someone else--perhaps someone who you grew up with, and not your grandparents--this is certainly the article for you! If, however, you were looking for new Christmas music--such as Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christmas Is You'--you would be disappointed since that song is nowhere near a classic, even if it's already been covered more times than 'The Christmas Song' by Nat King Cole, which itself was a cover of the original version written by Mel Torme.
Incidentally, the subtitle for this post--Santa Buddy--is a reference to Michael Buble's cover of 'Santa Baby', which would have been forgettable if it had not been for the fact that Buble refers to Santa as his buddy instead of his er, baby. What's wrong with a guy calling another guy his baby, especially if that baby is going to bring with him a platinum mine? I would call anyone a baby for that. I guess most of these songs would be classified as 'carols', though I'm not sure what a song has to do to become a carol, or if it's merely a classification reserved for songs out of copyright that can be sung for free. Anyhow, let's get down to the inanity with the Christmas covers!
Away In A Manger
I was initially going to try including dates of first recordings and by whom, but as it turns out it's hard to track down the information behind songs that have been in the public domain for over 130 years. Still, this is a classic song that needs a facelift to bring it into the 21st century with all the other poppy Mariah Carey-esque Christmas music. Therefore for this cover we look to Cascada, who, in 2006, became known for her dance floor remake of Everytime We Touch.
Because that's, that's just totally a good fit.
Carol Of The Bells
Did you know that apparently this quintessential Christmas carol was originally written as a pagan song to usher in the New Year? I know, it's a very inane and trivial piece of information. Have fun finding space to cram it into your brain. The best cover of this song, however, is definitely by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which amusingly enough, without any lyrics would put it as a pagan melody.
The Christmas Song ("Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire")
This is an interesting song as it's still very much in copyright having only been written in 1944 with the author, Mel Torme, still very much alive. Oh wait, according to Wikipedia he died in 1999. Well, his very attractive daughter is still alive at any rate. When I think of Christmas I always think of two things: spoiled kids getting things they don't deserve, and black rappers trying to stay relevant. Therefore, my choice for this song's cover goes to Justin Beiber and Usher who, for some reason, recorded it together.
Here's another lovely song that gets old about the 3rd day of December. Incidentally, this song was originally written as a Thanksgiving carol. But as it turns out people don't sing Thanksgiving carols because that would be silly--so it was shifted into Christmas. For me there will only be one version of Jingle Bells worth listening to and that's by the Brian Setzer Orchestra. The great part about his version is that it doesn't even sound like Jingle Bells anymore--it's some sort of jazzy, big band remix.
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Christmas isn't a happy time for everyone as it turns out. I'm not talking cheesy sadness like Blue Christmas either. I mean Christmas can be a really lonely, isolated time if you have no friends or family. A little known fact is that the original version of this song, written by Ralph Blane, was a lot more depressing before Frank Sinatra demanded rewrites for his album. Because the initial song had lyrics such as "Have yourself a merry little Christmas / It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past", it is fitting that Bright Eyes (Connor Oberst) sings a very depressing cover.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
In doing my "research" (what research?) I listened to a classic version of this song by Bing Crosby, so I could appreciate the song as it is generally accepted. It's a slow, somber song with a backup choir, all singing about the birth of Jesus. It's even a song sung in churches! With that, the perfect cover is by the Barenaked Ladies, who turn it into a snappy, upbeat song that you will catch yourself tapping your foot along to. Oh, and Sarah McLachlan makes an appearance for some reason.
Joy To The World
Two songs exist with this title--the classic Christmas carol, and a 1971 song by Three Dog Night that has nothing to do with Christmas. So naturally people wanted to know what would happen if both songs were mixed together. The result, recorded by Chuck Negron (of Three Dog Night) in the '90's was a cover that makes listening to this quintessential Christmas song actually bearable after the 50th rendition is played on the radio. Mariah Carey also covered this version for some reason.
The Twelve Days Of Christmas
The twelve days of Christmas begin on Christmas day and end on Epiphany. These are the kinds of things I learn while researching my articles--though I'm sure I'm the only one who didn't know this already. This song, while quickly becoming grating, can usually be appreciated by all listeners with The Muppets' version which was incidentally recorded by John Denver, who sings the first line. Just try listening to this song and not saying 'ba bum bum bum' after Miss Piggy sings about her five gold rings.
Auld Lang Syne
This is not a Christmas song and yet it always crops up around this time, doesn't it? We can't have Thanksgiving carols but a song celebrating a holiday that only exists for the split-second between 11:59 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. is alright? Also maybe it's just me, but at 30 years old I still have no idea what the lyrics to this song are. I just repeat 'la la la Auld Lang Syne' over and over until people stop staring at me--or start staring at me. It's hard to find a good version of this song since it hasn't been covered much, therefore we must look to Relient K and their a capella version which is reminiscent of boy-band 'N Sync.
Now that you have a nice, diverse collection of classic covers, why not burn them all to a CD, or make a special Spotify list of them, and play them at your next family gathering? Make a game out of seeing how few people notice that you switched out the standard musicians for the new ones. Then you can see how many people complain that Christmas songs are just too loud nowadays and that back in my day..
Whatever you choose--to listen for pleasure or annoyance--make it Christmas covers! Burl Ives and Irving Berlin have already got enough royalties to last them a lifetime. Isn't it about time we gave a little of those royalties to the musicians who couldn't be bothered to write their own Christmas songs? I think it is; I think it is about time.