When I first moved out on my own, I roomed with a guy who was a radio DJ. He worked for a station that played a lot of current Top 40 hits, but when the holidays rolled around, for some reason they’d break out Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” I asked him, “why don’t they play songs by some of their current artists?” and he responded, “We’d need about 100 good ones to form a playlist and make that happen.”
Since that time, I’ve been evolving a playlist I like to call “Christmas Present.” The main ways a song can make the playlist are:
- The rendition is by a current or relatively recent artist. Up until recent years I had a generous 20-year arc, because artists like Mariah Carey are still active today, but songs by artists who were big in the 90s are still relatively current by holiday music standards.
- It’s fun or upbeat. A lot of the Christmas music played when stations go into 24-hour mode is lower tempo, softer music which can be left on in an office in the background. If I want that, I can turn on the radio. But I also don’t want over-the-top humor. Alvin’s amusing the first time, but not so much the 40th.
- It adds something new to the song. If an artist finds a unique and enjoyable way to present a classic, that’s certainly worth consideration.
- New compositions. “Feliz Navidad” is a wonderful song in its original form, but we’ve lost our way when Celine Dion belts it. (It’s even worse when heard, repeatedly, echoing through the halls of the mall, as it did when I worked at one in college.) Great additions to the musical landscape appear throughout the year; why can’t they be found, and enjoyed, today?
- Lightly sprinkle in a few classics. It’s hard to top the originals in some cases. I personally think The Carpenters’ “Merry Christmas Darling” should be left as is. Christina Perri attempted to tackle it this year, but the arrangement was too close and she’s no Karen Carpenter.
This is certainly a subjective list and set of criteria, but like most times when I write about music, the discovery part, and sharing those discoveries, is what makes it fun.
So as I attempt to blog daily again, Christmas Present entries will dot the blog’s landscape in its first month (and hopefully be revived as a tradition each year), where I’ll share some selections from the playlist. In some cases, I’ll add additional listening for those who like more where that came from. If I’m feeling adventerous I may get social and throw together a Spotify or YouTube playlist, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
We’ll kick off the fun later this week, but let me know in the comments if you’ve got selections that might fit!