12 Days of Earworm-Worthy Christmas Music

One of my Thanksgiving traditions, in place for as long as I can remember, is seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade on television. As a young adult, I would wrap Christmas presents while I watched it. Now that I have children and host the holiday at my house, I don’t catch the whole parade, but I do make sure it’s playing so my kids can see it if they want — Dear Husband is indifferent to this one — and so I can drift in and out of the room to take in snatches of it while I’m preparing dinner or getting the house ready for guests.

This year I happened to see Gwen Stefani performing “White Christmas” in celebration of her new Christmas album. I’ve always liked Stefani well enough: I liked a lot of the music she made with No Doubt and on her own, and I’m a fellow red lipstick devotee. It was a cute performance. Nothing spectacular, but the parade’s singing performances often aren’t, seeing as the artists are lip-synching in sometimes frigid weather and moving around on floats. But I was intrigued by the idea that she’d put out an album.

I don’t follow celebrity gossip all that much, but it has been tough the last year or so to go to the grocery store and not see Stefani’s personal drama splashed all over the checkout aisle. Apparently she’s with a country music singer now? And there’s some ugliness with his ex? I try not to get involved. Well, if I hadn’t known that before, just listening to the song previews of her new Christmas album — which did not list “White Christmas,” by the way — would have told me things had changed format.

The album is a mix of traditional and new, original songs. Just listening to thirty seconds of each song clued me in to a new twang in her voice on all the standards and a mention of God in just about every single new song. Ska this is not.

When I was a child, my younger siblings and I fought all the time. So much, in fact, that I’m not sure how we managed to become friends as adults, except that we all live in different cities. And when I began teaching and read my students’ essays about the good times they shared with their siblings and how they cared for and played with one another, I didn’t see how something like that was possible. It felt like my siblings and I had grown up as outliers.

But there was one utterly magical moment, during a December when we were all in grade school, that I hope I never forget. The three of us had gotten out of bed one night, just randomly and without consulting each other first, and all sat down in front of the huge, lit, decorated Christmas tree in the otherwise dark living room, and we just started singing “Silent Night.” To this day I have no idea how or why we started doing it, but there it was, just one perfect and peaceful moment. Then we all went back to bed. It’s the only time, I think, we ever did anything like that, and I have no idea whether our parents knew about it, since they neither interrupted the moment nor commented on it afterward.

But I like that song.


12 Days of Earworm-Worthy Christmas Music

Last year my friend J.F. requested this song for this series, but it didn’t make the cut.

This summer he unexpectedly passed away.

Now this song keeps going through my head, and I’m guessing it’s because J.F. is wishing me a Merry Christmas from wherever his spirit is enjoying his afterlife. (J.F. was a holy man and a Christian, so I’m guessing he’s with God.)

Hold your loved ones close.

12 Days of Christmas Music to Improve Your Playlist (Day 9)

Today is the day for requests. (Okay, actually, there are several requests of this series each year, which I kinda like, but today I’m indulging two of them.)

Day 9 features a fantastic song that has been suggested to me many times by multiple people, and this year it made the primary list. It’s “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues, featuring Kirsty MacColl.

Please also click here to see a bonus song suggested by Marie Marshall, who mentioned it in the comments to an earlier day’s post. It’s a marvelous jazz rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” that reminds me of the old Pink Panther cartoons in the best way, although that doesn’t really describe it well enough. Just give it a listen; it’s fun.


12 Days of Christmas Music That Won’t Turn Your Brain to Goo (Day 2)

If I told you Bad Religion had made a Christmas album, you might have one of the following responses:

  1. I’ll bet it’s offensive.
  2. If not offensive, it’s probably at least ironic.
  3. Was this a dare?
  4. I don’t believe you.

Fine, fine, but it’s TRUE, and the music is GOOD. With the exception of one original song, the playlist is all traditional carols, performed in a completely sincere way, just not in a traditional way. The force of their playing style only highlights the strength of the songs they’ve included. They made this album for charity, and I strongly recommend you go and buy it now. It’s become my family’s new favorite holiday album. There are so many good songs on it — including one track with the first verse done a capella in harmony — but because I’ve had so many other good entries this year for the 12 Days list, you’ll need to go and check out the whole album yourself to hear them all.

I’m presenting today one of my favorite carols, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Rock on, and enjoy.


12 Days of Christmas Music That Won’t Turn Your Brain to Goo (Day 1)

It’s that time of year again! The time when “Houston’s Christmas Music Station” sets their radio dials to stun with the most tired, limp, overdone Christmas carols you can imagine. And honestly, it’s past time, because they started it the Friday before Thanksgiving, as is their villainous wont.


Behold, your antidote: I have curated a dozen songs here this year which will not turn your gray matter to mush in a zombie-haze cocktail that’s one part hatred and two parts despair. I hope you like them. I’d like to take this moment now to thank everyone who wrote in on my Facebook pages with some fantastic suggestions for this year’s series. Quite a few of the entries this year come from their choices, and it’s just unfortunate that I couldn’t use all of their great ideas. This series is, after all, only twelve days. (Some of their songs may show up next year, though.)


I feel the need to begin this series, as I do every year, with a song whose themes are near and dear to my heart. I suppose I might pass on it some year when this season doesn’t feel insanely rushed to me, but until then (i.e. for as long as I’m still teaching), this is my go-to pick-me-up.


Happy holidays!



For more fun tunes, check out previous year’s offerings here and here.


12 Days of Christmas Music That Doesn’t Suck, 2014 Edition (Day 8)

So don’t hate me for today’s post.

The first time I heard this song was in a movie, and I assumed it was a song written for the movie. It was a movie I really, really enjoyed (and highly recommend), and the scene where the song appears is crazy-charming and filled with warm fuzzies. I loved it.

Fast forward a year or so, and I hear this song on the radio. It’s being sung by someone whose music I don’t generally listen to. But I still love the song, and I like her version, too. I know this song annoys a lot of people — and I know this is in part because of who’s singing it — but I think it’s really fun in a way that lots of older carols just aren’t anymore. Maybe in a few years I’ll be tired of this one, too.

Just a spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen the movie Love Actually but are planning to, watching this scene is going to spoil some of the ending for you. Bear that in mind before clicking play, if you care about that sort of thing.