My Top 5 Traditional Christmas Songs

On Wednesday night I gave you my Top 5 Non-Traditional Christmas Songs. Last night it was my Top 5 Worst-Ever Christmas Ditties. Tonight, Christmas Eve, it’s time for my top 5 traditional numbers. Here, it’s more about the song and words themselves and less the artist — although I can’t say that strong performances by various artists over the years haven’t influenced my choices here. Anyway, let’s roll …

5. ‘We Three Kings of Orient Are’

I like how, as a song, “We Three Kings of Orient Are” starts out all SERIOUS and then pops into the peppy “star of wonder” part. This Beach Boys version is pretty damn good, IMO. As a bonus, here’s a cool version of them doing a snippet of it on a TV show:

And now let’s shift to this:

I wanted bring you THE BEST versions these songs. But that would have pretty much meant a post filled entirely with Mariah or Beach Boys videos. So I did some googling for alternate versions. And the people out there recommended this one of “We Three Kings.” It’s from Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Celebration, which I have never seen, but I was surprised at its quality.
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My Top 5 Worst-Ever Christmas Songs

Yesterday I gave unto thee my Top 5 Non-Traditional Christmas Songs. Today, I’m going in a different direction, because I’ve been driven absolutely mad by some of the following songs, which are on seemingly endless repeat in every bodega, deli, grocery store, and pizzeria I’ve been in lately. Yes, today I’m being a Scrooge, because it’s the last day I can do it — no hatin’ on Christmas Eve or Day…

5. ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over),’ John and Yoko, The Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir

I know I’m going to take some flak for this, but I do not like this song. It pretty much falls into my definition of “hippie music,” and I do not like “hippie music,” all of which depresses me in a mild and indescribable way. Like most hippie music (almost anything played at Woodstock, if you need examples), it expresses sentiments that, in my heart, I completely agree with but that are so naive as to be eyeroll-inducing. I think it depresses me exactly because it delivers its message effectively — most “hippie music” (as I define it) presents either an ideal world or laments the world as it is, sometimes both at once. On top of that, “hippie music” is nakedly earnest. There’s no wink-wink back door of irony to slip out of. It’s the disconnect between reality and idealism that depresses me, because I feel like “hippie music” is always urging me to do something I feel powerless to do anything about. Why can’t it just let me be blissfully ignorant?!?

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” elicits this feeling in me — it’s also completely overplayed (see next two songs for that rant).

I also think that Lennon is just so damn smug in his delivery: “Oh, another year over, huh? And what have you done? … Play Angry Birds for hours on end?” I guess if I’m going to be preached to in a Christmas song, I’d prefer the old-fashioned carols, thankyouverymuch. (Note: Check back tomorrow for my Top 5 Traditional Christmas Song list.)

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My Top 5 Non-Traditional Christmas Songs

I love all forms of Christmas music — traditional/religious carols and poppy secular songs alike. It was too difficult to make a Top 5 list that drew from the entire Christmas songbook, so here are the poppy ones first.

5. ‘The Little Drummer Boy’/’Peace on Earth,’ Bing Crosby and David Bowie

OK, so this one is pretty much traditional as most people would define it, but I think the fact that it’s a David Bowie and Bing Crosby duet, complete with cheesy banter at the beginning, puts it into post-modern pop territory. For a while, you think Crosby is going to overpower Bowie, but then the Thin White Duke pipes up, and … wow, that’s some beautiful harmonizing there.

From as early as I can remember, “The Little Drummer Boy” has always gotten to me. There’s something I’ve always found moving about stories like the drummer boy’s — people of modest means offering up all they have. Blah blah blah.

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