This year, thanks to Spotify, my fondness for Christmas music has escalated to something of an addiction. I was born Jewish but raised less observant than probably any other Jewish person I have ever met, with the possible exception of my sister. Still, why Christmas music, when I could be listening to alternative hits of the 80s? I think I enjoy the ultimate content of the songs—peace, joy, love, celebration, and togetherness. Besides, many of the classic Christmas songs were written by Jews, so maybe my affection isn’t that odd.
I have listened to so much Christmas music since the day after Thanksgiving that I can now tell the difference between the voices of Perry Como, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra. Some artists, like Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, and Michael Bublé, are naturals at belting out Christmas tunes. Others, unfortunately, have made less than positive contributions to the collective catalog of holiday standards (I’m talking to you, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John).
Often, as I listened, I would find myself thinking, “You know, I have heard 20 or 30 versions of this song, but this one is really special.” The marriage of performer and material was just right. Such recordings were no longer Christmas songs but good songs, even great songs. For example, the only natural response to Josh Groban’s live performance of “O Holy Night” is “Oh, holy s#!t!” It’s that phenomenal. I began to formulate a fantasy “mix tape” (sorry, young’uns, if you don’t get the reference) of standout renditions:
- Michael Bublé, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”
- Sammy Davis Jr., “Jingle Bells”
- Dean Martin and Martina McBride, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
- She & Him, “The Christmas Waltz”
- Brenda Lee, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”
- Amy Grant, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”
- Kelly Clarkson, “Blue Christmas”
- Lady Antebellum, “A Holly Jolly Christmas”
- Mary J. Blige, “My Favorite Things”
- The Drifters, “White Christmas”
- Harry Connick Jr., “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”
- Josh Groban, “O Holy Night”
These festive songs, thoroughly vetted by a discerning Jew, are worth seeking out. Happy Holidays!