Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Christmas songs: the best ones you don’t hear on the radio

If you were to turn on the radio now and wait for the inevitable Christmas songs to come on, it would be the usual suspects; the ones that everyone knows off by heart.  Mariah Carey, Michael Buble, Ariana Grande - all clear classics, but what of the Christmas song that aren’t on constant rotation?  This is a round-up of some of the best of those under-appreciated Christmas songs that you don’t hear on the radio.

First up is Don’t Shoot Me Santa by The Killers, a bizarre, festive plea to Father Christmas to not murder the narrator.  The music video depicts a terrified Brandon Flowers being held hostage in tinsel by a deranged Santa (played by The Killers’ assistant and tour manager at the time, Ryan Pardey, who is also a musician in his own right).  Indisputably catchy and festive, the song features an amusing call and response between the desperate Brandon Flowers and the nefarious Santa Claus.  This one is a great track for the cynics and contrarians to hijack their family or friends’ Christmas playlists and bring some life to the (coronavirus-friendly) party via a song about death!

Blue Christmas by the Lumineers embraces the more melancholy aspect of the holidays - when the coming of Christmas punctuates the lack of someone you love.  A beautiful rendition of Elvis Presley’s classic Christmas song, Blue Christmas still manages to retain both the Lumineers’s signature sound with the acoustic guitar and Wesley Schultz’s distinct vocals.  

When it comes to Sufjan Stevens and Christmas music, it would be an understatement to say one is spoilt for choice.  Stevens has taken his trademark inventiveness and melancholy and applied it to over a hundred Christmas songs, but we’ll narrow it down to two for you.  For those that are fond of something mellow and classic, you can’t go wrong with the haunting and beautiful rendition of Silent Night, where Stevens trades some major chords for minors and leaves the rest of the song untouched and delicate.  For those that want something more left-field, and even more haunting, Do You See What I See sounds like what Wall-E must have listened to at Christmas alone in a junkyard in a post-apocalyptic Earth.  But somehow it works.  

In a return to normalcy, we go to Wolf Alice’s cover of the naughty Eartha Kitt Christmas classic, Santa Baby.  The result is a faithful and gentle version that still retains the fun of the original song and its many iterations.  This is the kind of Christmas song that you wind down and sip your drink to.

And the next, and final, song is the kind of Christmas song that you get up start dancing to - Is This Christmas by The Wombats.  Another one for the 2000s rock-loving cynic, and while it may not be a groundbreaking Christmas song, it’s certainly a fun, danceable and oxymoronic track about how dysfunctional family coming together for Christmas can become.

- Zayna Mansuri


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