HAGERSTOWN, MD (CelebrityAccess) – ♫ “Christmas time is here. Happiness and cheer. For all the holiday music lovers. Their favorite time of year.”♫ Have you also been listening to Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe” since November 1? Well, I have … and it isn’t the only holiday song I’ve been enjoying. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, odds are you already have or will come into contact with some holiday music this time of year. As an adult, I stretch the Christmas season out for as long as possible. Twinkling lights, advent calendars, and holiday cheer, anyone?
So, I’ve decided to round up 10 of what Simons Says (that’s me) are the best holiday records ever released. So, sit back, grab some whiskey-infused eggnog (or don’t), a warm blanket, and your dog and enjoy.
This one didn’t make a list but I would only feel right if I included it.
NKOTB/New Kids on the Block: Merry, Merry Christmas – (Go ahead, I will wait until you’re done laughing and scratching your head over my HM pick.) The ONLY holiday album released by the Dorchester, MA, raised group in 1989 – AND it went double-platinum. Please skip over the ridiculous Jamaican-themed “Funky, Funky Xmas,” but, please listen closely to “This One’s For the Children.” It’s just as relevant NOW as it was back then. The boys and producer Maurice Starr (New Edition) did well on this album. The original material is “lacking” per se, but the classics and stand-out single – Bravo!
10. Backstreet Boys: A Very Backstreet Christmas – Go ahead and continue to laugh; I want you to! Have a holly, jolly laugh over my No. 10 selection. However, I would like to challenge you to clear your mind, listen to it, and THEN come and talk to me. Enjoy.
9. Pentatonix: A Pentatonix Christmas – The renowned acapella group’s second full holiday album was arranged by Grammy-winning Jacob Collier and released in 2016. This group’s voice effects range from light-hearted, with the R&B sounding “Up On The Housetop” to the darker feeling of “Coldest Winter.” It really doesn’t matter what emotions flow; this album will keep you entertained. “Hallelujah” is an absolute show-stopper showcasing each member’s vocal abilitites.
8. She & Him: A Very She & Him Christmas – The first of two Christmas releases by the duo M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel is filled with classics like “Silver Bells,” “The Christmas Song,” and “Blue Christmas,” yet done in Deschanel’s sultry voice in collaboration with Ward’s retro style. Together, they sound as if holiday classics were always meant to be recorded, and this record proves my point. Sidebar: Yes, that IS Zooey Deschanel singing in the shower with Will Ferrell in the movie Elf.
7. ANY Christmas album released by Mannheim Steamroller.
6. Elvis Presley – Elvis’ Christmas Album – I credit my Aunt Brenda with turning me onto Elvis. Otherwise, he wasn’t known in my household growing up, and I am so thankful she did. There will never be another artist who can sing “Blue Christmas” the way “the pelvis” can. He’s helped by the harmonies and talents of The Jordanaires but make no mistake; this IS a Presley record. He sounds alive on this album with Christmas cheer blended with his rock and roll and blues roots.
5. Mariah Carey – Merry Christmas – The want to be the copyrighted name of “Queen of Christmas” nailed it with this collection of holiday songs. From the always present “All I Want For Christmas Is You” to the fantastic version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” Carey’s 5-octave voice does not disappoint. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is the first-holiday song to ever receive the RIAA’s coveted Diamond award. If you do not recognize that song after the first few handbell tinkles, buy this album NOW! (Well, or stream it – whatever works).
4. Various Artists – A Very Special Christmas – I was 12 years old when Jimmy Iovine oversaw the release of this Christmas album. My Uncle Jeff had just introduced me to Run DMC a few years earlier, and I thought I had hit the gold mine of holiday albums. Springsteen sings in his gritty, NJ voice on “Merry Christmas, Baby,” and Madonna did her best “Madonna” on the Eartha Kitt-owned – “Santa, Baby.” But, the superstar on this album belongs to Rev. Run, Jam Master Jay, and the man who put the D in DMC – Darryl McDaniels, with the song, “Christmas In Hollis.” I dare you to listen to this track without dancing, laughing, or feeling reminiscent.
3. Frank Sinatra – A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra – Listening to “ole’ blue eyes’ sing the holiday classics we all know creates the picture of fresh fallen Colorado snow, twinkling lights on the backyard tree, and Santa delivering the presents we’ve waited for all year. There are no other descriptions needed.
2. Burl Ives: Have a Holly Jolly Christmas – Every time I play this, I believe with all my 8-year-old heart that it is Santa singing it to me. Released in 1965, one year after Ives became the iconic narrator for the TV show Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, even 57 years later, it hasn’t lost any charm, and in my opinion (IMO), won’t ever lose it. It’s slower, nostalgic, and a collection of sweet, festive tunes that make me wish I lived the year it was released.
And Number ONE:
The Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Charlie Brown Christmas – As a writer, I may admit to feeling things “deeper” than others or “overthinking” things more than the average person. However, it only takes a few notes from “Schroder’s piano” to feel what this record brings.
Even if you don’t know it by heart – it’s familiar … it’s quietly played in the background of every store you’ve ever entered during the holiday season. You know it, your parents know it and your grandparents probably know it. That is why it’s No. 1 on my list. I pray my generation plays it for their kids, and then their kids for their kids, as this deserves to stand the test of time – Just like Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang do.
“Of all the Charlie Browns in the World – You’re the Charlie Browniest” ~ Linus
A Charlie Brown Christmas is the SOUND of childhood, memories, and Christmas magic – no matter what age you celebrate this year.