Archive for December, 2010

Notable Mentions

As I found out writing this article, there are boatloads of Christmas songs out there.  While I can call the above list my favorite Christmas songs, there are several worthy mentions, which, though good, did not impact me as much.  Most of them are the ones considered “classics”, such as “Angels We Have Heard on High”, “Christmas Canon” (which I have a hard time associating with Christmas, seeing how it’s actually “Canon in D”, a wedding procession), “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”, “Go Tell It on a Mountain”, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “Little Drummer Boy”, “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”, “Silent Night”, “Away in a Manger”, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, “Let it Snow”, “Ding Dong Merrily on High”, “Jingle Bells”, “Jingle Bell Rock”, “The Christmas Song” (what the heck does “nipping at your nose” even mean?), “Joy to the World”, “White Christmas”, “winder Wonderland”, “Blue Christmas”, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, and “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas.”

Then there is the more modern songs that I didn’t feel like adding to this list.  It’s just too much!

Through this research, I found out about the performers most often associated with Christmas music.  There’s the oldies-but-goldies, such as Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, the Carpenters; and there’s the new talent, such as Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Amy Grant, and other Christian singers.

And then there’s Celtic Woman.  Seriously, do yourself a favor and watch their videos of their Christmas concert at the Helix Center in Dublin (where Chloe Agnew always seems to steal the show for me).  They made for me some of the “classic” Christmas songs enjoyable.

Wow. I’m beat.  Merry Christmas and stuff!


And now, for our feature presentation:

Most Favorites

Initially, I was gonna do a top ten countdown, but then I decided against putting these ones in any sort of order, because, truthfully, it’s not a competition.  Except for the first one, these are my faves in no particular order (click the titles to see a YouTube video of that song):

“Mary, Did You Know?”
Lyrics by Mark Lowry.
Music by Buddy Green.
Performed by various.
I heard said once that this song has become “a new Christmas standard.”  It’s true.  I fully expect this song to be played all time and am disappointed when it’s not.   It’s somber.  It’s biblical.  It’s powerful.  It’s thought-provoking.  I like it.  There is not a “definitive’ version, in my opinion, even though it’s been interpreted by different Christian singers and celebrities, such as Clay Aiken.  I heard the Kenny Rogers/Winona Judd version, and it was awful.  They totally made it about themselves instead of Jesus and Mary.  If you’re going to pick a version, go with the rendition in the link above, performed by the original authors, which also includes a killer harmonica solo by Green.

“O Holy Night”
Performed famously by various, including Martina McBride and Celine Dion.
I just love this song.  There’s a certain majestic feel to it.  It really evokes that feeling of standing in awe at the miracle of the birth of Christ.  And I love when it gets to the lines “Fall on your knees” and “Christ is the Lord.”  Good stuff, man.  Now, apparently the Celine Dion rendition is one of the most famous, but I’m more familiar with radio-favorite Martina McBride.  I have no idea who she is, but it would appear she’s a big deal in the country music realm.

“Do You Hear What I Hear?”
Lyrics by Noel Regney.
Music by Gloria Shayne Baker.
Performed famously by Bing Crosby.
I may sound here like I’m contradicting myself, but I love this song, even if I’m not quite clear on how exactly this is a Christmas song (apparently it had something to do with the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Look it up!).  It’s that Bing Crosby, man.  Some people just have a cool voice.  In particular, that version also has that “marching band” melody going on for it, which I dig.  Other versions include one by Carrie Underwood, which is good too, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Crosby’s.  So yeah, this one is here sorely on the merits of the music.

“Grown-Up Christmas List”
Music by David Foster.
Lyrics by Linda Thompson.
Performed famously by Amy Grant and Kelly Clarkson.
Next to “Mary, Did You Know,” I’d put this one right up there with the songs that best encapsulate the best things about Christmas.  It’s true, when we grow up and start thinking about others instead of ourselves, we tend to think of our wishes for the season differently.  It’s totally the polar opposite of “Santa Baby.”  It’s got a soulful melody, too.  While Amy Grant made this song popular, I’m torn between her rendition and that of my favorite singer, Kelly Clarkson.  Oh. My. Goodness.  That girl can sing.

“Carol of the Bells”
Performed by various, including David Foster, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Celtic Woman.
I know next to nothing about this song, but I like the melody.  I’m more familiar with the TSO version of it, since it blasted my ears off when I was at Six Flags that one year.  The David Foster version is pretty popular, too, and I generally prefer it over TSO, simply because the former sounds more grandiose and elegant compared to the “judgment day”, “let’s rock and roll” feel to the latter.  I should note that those two have no vocals.  Celtic Woman, whom I will talk about in greater detail later on, sings an amazing version, complete with violins playing.

“The Twelve Days of Christmas”
Performed by various, including John Denver and the Muppets.
The only reason this is even here is because of the Muppets.  John Denver just came with the package deal.   The song coming originally from a ’70s TV special, you just gotta love it when Miss Piggy sings her part. “Five Gold Rings! Badum-dum-dum”

“All I Want For Christmas Is You”
Written by Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff.
Performed by Mariah Carey.
Before she went crazy, Mariah Carey was a pretty good, successful singer.  I honestly didn’t know this was her own work, and regardless of what you may think of her as a person, you gotta admit this is a fun song.  Much like “Grown-Up Christmas List” (though I hesitate to lump both songs together), this is a song about wanting something other than the material, in this case just to spend time with a loved one (which resonates with me, not living in the same town as my girlfriend).

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane.
Performed by Judy Garland.
Performed famously by Frank Sinatra, Carrie Underwood, and the Carpenters.
There are many different versions to this song.  Some may like the Frank Sinatra.  There’s that rendition by Celtic Woman.  Personally, I like the one by the Carpenters (Karen sings while her brother Richard plays the piano).  When I first introduced my dad to those awful Christmas songs, he in turn showed me this by Karen Carpenter, loved by many for her fantastic voice.  And he was right.  She was awesome.  This is a good feel-good song.

“Sleigh Ride”
Performed by various, including the Carpenters and Amy Grant.
Another Carpenters hit.  Also, another song that apparently had nothing to do with Christmas (at least originally).  While I picked other songs in this list because of their tune, this one is here because of Karen Carpenter.

“The First Noel”
Performed by various, including Elvis, Carrie Underwood, and Jaci Velasquez.
Of the songs most considered Christmas classics, I like “The First Noel” because it makes me feel serene.  That’s a good thing.  And believe it or not, Elvis did record a version of this song.  The version I heard on the radio that made me put this up here was that of Jaci Velasquez, but Carrie Underwood’s is good, too.  Anyone have any idea why is it called “The First Noel” though?

“Silver Bells”
Written by Jay Livingstone and Ray Evans.
Performed famously by Bing Crosby and Carol Richards.
Performed also by various, including John Denver.
Oddly enough, I found the version by Crosby and Richards to be, well, dull.  Denver’s version is a more folksy, and I was far more entertained by that one.  So there you go.  Yeah, I don’t know what the song is about either.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
Performed by various, including Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and Celtic Woman.
I don’t know what it is about some songs, where one famous artist ruins it for me while another makes it awesome.  Such is the case here, where Bing Crosby makes this kinda dull for me.  Nat King Cole, on the other hand, makes it very entertaining.  I also get a kick out of the chorus.  They sound like they are chanting at Masonic Temple or something.

“What Child Is This?”
Written by William Chatterton Dix.
Performed by various, including Carrie Underwood.
Another slow and serene song, sung powerfully by Carrie Underwood (the version I’m most familiar with through the radio).

Sometimes, I feel like I’ve been living under a rock.  I realized last year that I never bothered to learn the lyrics to ANY Christmas song or carol (this coming after I failed to lead my bus children into any of them).  I really don’t know what to say.  I’ve been living in Texas for nearly 10 years, but every Christmas time there just wasn’t a lot of opportunities to engage in caroling.  I never tuned to the Christmas stations on the radio.  Even at church, we don’t sing them often enough to get them stuck in my head.  And I never thought it was a big deal.

But I was missing out.

To me, the catalyst that got me started down the path of discovering Christmas music was when I heard the song, “Mary Did You Know?” for the first time.  It completely captivated me in a way no other song had done before.  It became my favorite song, Christmas or not, but when you play the same song over and over again, you tend to yearn for more.

In recent years, I’ve come into contact with people that absolutely LOVE Christmas music, even outside the regular season (I’m thinking of a few people right now who might be reading this).  The more I thought about it (and when I REALLY have to think anything, I become borderline obsessive about it, like it happened last year with vampires), the more I wanted to look for more great songs to add to my playlist.

As it turns out, most Christmas music is wonderful.  It was like a whole new world was opened to me.  My friend Tim first introduced me to Christmas radio stations.  This year, I was eagerly awaiting for the time to listen to them again.

And then I was disappointed.  “Why were they playing these lousy songs?” I said to myself.

Turns out, they are both good and bad Christmas songs.  Your preferences may vary, but as for me, and because I want to put a rest to my Twitter rantings, I present to you, in the total and controversial style that you’ve come to expect from this site, my least and most favorite Christmas music.

Least Favorites

Of course, this is my opinion, and you may not agree, but I found these songs to be completely insufferable for details in which I will go to now:

“It’s Cold Outside”
Music by Frank Loesser.
Performed by various.
My original rant concerned the fact that this song had absolutely NOTHING to do with Christmas time.  Upon further research, I found out that it was just lumped together with other Christmas songs because it was usually played during wintertime.  I still don’t like because it sounds like a couple bickering about nothing.

“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”
Music and lyrics by Tommie Connor.
Performed originally by Jimmy Boyd.
Performed most famously by The Jackson 5.
First of all, I “get” the song.  I know it’s the dad that it’s dressed as Santa Claus and kissing the mom.  That’s not the point.  Maybe 50 years ago it would’ve been funny for a kid to see his mom kissing another guy that was not his dad.  Maybe it would’ve been a laugh when he told his dad about it the next day.  But if you think about it, if that happened today, wouldn’t the child go through immediate, SERIOUS emotional issues or be scarred in other ways?  That’s just hitting too close to home when most kids nowadays deal with situations where one parents might be unfaithful to another.  Maybe I’m overthinking it, but I just can’t get behind a song that makes light of something like that.

“Santa Baby”
Written by Joan Javits, Philip Springer, and Fred Ebb.
Performed originally and famously by Eartha Kitt.
Also performed famously by Madonna.
Yes, I’m also aware that it’s a “joke” song, giving us a glimpse of what a frivolous woman desires for Christmas as opposed to, say, peace on earth and stuff.  And if you go for that of thing, hey, more power to you.  The melody is what bothers me.  It makes me uncomfortable because it has a decidedly sultry feel to it.  As it mentioned elsewhere, it sounds like something that came out of a ’20s bar, sung by a woman in one of those cocktail dresses completely with bobbed hair, pearls, and a martini, for good measure.  Yeah, I’m okay thanks.

Thankfully, those are the only ones I can’t stand.

Farewell to Cliff Lee

I realize that this is the first update in a long hiatus… again.  I will try to remedy this problem soon.

As you may remember, my friend Tim Ingram was a collaborator for this blog for all of three weeks (you can see his posts under the Tim’s Two Cents tab).  While he’s not directly contributing to this site anymore, he’s still an active online personality maybe.  I happened to run into this video he did recently, and while this site is not usually associated with sports and/or current events, I figured this would be relevant and/or funny.

The video description reads “A true Texas Rangers fan bids an emotional farewell to fulfiller of dreams.”

Leave your comments and share with others who might care!

~My Two Cents