Sunday, December 25, 2011

My Christmas Playlist

It's long seemed strange to me that, with such a surfeit of good Christmas carols and songs available (in sharp contrast to Channukah, which only has one song and not a particularly good one), radio stations and shopping malls persist in just playing Walking In A Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bell Rock, Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, and Drummer Boy over and over again until everyone wants to throw up. With breaks for annoying kid's music like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.

No wonder some people wind up feeling grinchy. So as a public service, I have decided to offer a list of underplayed Christmas songs. Each song title is linked so that you can buy the MP3 download if you choose, although granted that could get a little expensive....

Oh, who am I kidding? You're all using Bit Torrent to download pirated copies, and nothing I say is going to change that. Go ahead, then, acquire these songs in whatever way you prefer and download them to your player. Then, when the repetition of the well-worn standards gets to be too much, you can pop your earbuds in, have an escape and remind yourself that Christmas music, as well as Christmas itself, need not suck.


  • Adeste Fideles (Oh Come All Ye Faithful)
    Oh, you can get the English version if you want. But isn't it more fun to listen to the original, in medieval Latin?*
  • Three Ships
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
    This and the previous are good sing-along songs because they have a ton of verses that are all sung to the same tune, and so are easy to learn. Why not print out the lyrics and go caroling?
  • Hark The Herald Angels Sing
  • Ding Dong Merrily On High
    Aside from the tune, what I like about this carol are the bizarre lyrics. Isn't it great that something written back in the nineteenth century includes, "Yo, yo, yo,"? It's like primitive hip-hop. Plus there's Latin in this one too. Hosanna in excelsis!
  • Tannenbaum (Oh Christmas Tree)
    Again, listening in the original German is more fun.


  • Mary's Boy Child
    Just in case you were confused and thought Mary had a girl.
  • Petit Papa Noël
    As far as I'm aware, this hasn't been translated into English, but if it has... you know it... it's more fun to listen to in the original French. Come on. Broaden yourself culturally.
  • Santa Baby
    There aren't enough sultry Christmas songs, don't you think? Here's one. Much better than the insipid I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.
  • Welcome Christmas
    Yes, from the cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But it's a good tune. Why not a good tune, from a toon?


  • 2000 Miles by The Pretenders
    My favourite Christmas rock song. I think I've heard it on the radio all of twice.
  • A Mistress for Christmas by AC/DC
    Who the hell would want a hippopotamos for Christmas? What for? Imagine how it would destroy your house, and how much you'd have to feed it. The AC/DC boys have more sense. I have never heard this song played on the radio, much less in a mall. Why on earth not? If there were more Heavy Metal Christmas music blasting out of the speakers at this time of year (which is to say, if there were any at all), the world would be a better place. Really. Just think what a great antidote it would make for all the sickly sweet stuff on offer at this time of year.

    This song is off The Razor's Edge album, and shockingly, HMV Digital does not have that album, and therefore does not have the original version of the song. What better proof of how underappreciated it is? So no link for this one.

  • A Wonderful Christmas Time by Paul McCartney
    This one gets less airtime than Happy Christmas (War Is Over) by John Lennon. That's why it's on the list.

And that's my list. If you think I've missed out a worthwhile and underplayed Christmas song or carol, please comment below. Heavy metal or hip-hop offerings particularly appreciated.

* Medieval Latin is not genuine Latin. It is a creation of the Christian church, coming after true Latin had died. There is a tendency to use different verb forms, but more importantly, the pronunciation is altogether different, which is to say wrong. You see, nobody had invented the gramophone yet, so medieval speakers were unable to determine how Latin was actually pronounced. Scholars eventually were able to recover some (who knows how much?) of the correct pronunciation through the study of poetry (i.e. which vowel sounds were long and which were short), and spelling (for example, Caius and Gaius are alternate spellings of the same name, which shows that c's and g's were hard, not soft). But that must have happened post-medieval times.

One of the big medieval errors was to change the short terminal e into a long e (as in, Et tu, Bruté? Caesar never said it like that). Another was to pronounce every syllable. The ancient Romans didn't do that. They elided adjacent vowel sounds. The sad result of this error of the medievals is that you can't sing Adeste Fideles with classical Latin pronunciation even if you want to; with the elisions in place, it won't scan. I know—I've tried. (I majored in Classics at university.) Back

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