Kyle Loomis is a journalism senior and Mustang Daily music columnist.
It’s an exciting time of year. After finals week, fall quarter will finally be over with, and we can return home to celebrate the winter holidays. To help you all get in the holiday spirit, this Polyphonic features my favorite Christmas (and Hanukkah) songs (in no particular order).
New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen adds a rock and roll twist to “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” turning an old-fashioned, childish carol into a Christmas jam all ages can enjoy.
Springsteen’s raspy, raw vocals add a tough-guy edginess to the track made famous by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie in 1934, and is one of the more enjoyable upbeat Christmas songs.
This version of “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” also has stellar saxophone and percussion performances by the E Street Band, which has been the primary backing band since the early ’70s.
What began as a song protesting the Vietnam War following its 1971 release has become a regular on Christmas playlists.
John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono composed “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” with a large ensemble that included the Harlem Community Choir, plus the couple’s musical project, the Plastic Ono Band, a supergroup that once included famous musicians such as Eric Clapton and The Who drummer Keith Moon.
“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” has a powerful anti-war message, and does well in delivering that message due in large part to the choir’s contribution of a counter-melody to Lennon’s lead vocals.
This 1983 Hanukkah hit by folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary is a beautiful, inspirational reminder of Jewish heritage and the history of Hanukkah.
Similar to Lennon and Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” Peter, Paul and Mary’s tune is accompanied by a choir that adds dramatic effect to the hopeful message in the lyrics.
Though the song was produced well after the group’s heyday, “Light One Candle” gives Hanukkah the same uplifting, constructive attitude the trio used so effectively during the civil rights movement in the ’60s.
4. “White Christmas” — Bing Crosby
Sometimes the best Christmas tunes are the old ones.
In this case, it’s hard for me to argue against that. If you’re looking for a relaxing evening during the winter break, sit down in your comfiest chair and listen to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” while sipping your favorite winter beverage.
Famous for his soothing bass-baritone, Crosby was one of the most successful singers of the ’30s and ’40s. “White Christmas” remains one of the most popular singles of all time, and a must-have for all holiday playlists.
Another great Crosby holiday tune, “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” (1977) has the same virtues as “White Christmas,” but with an added counterpoint by David Bowie.
The two distinct voices mesh well, creating a unique version of the Christian classic about a young boy who played his drum for the infant Jesus at the Nativity scene.
This track, like many others on this list, has a slow-tempo and is borderline sleep-inducing, but holiday songs such as these are my favorite because of the feelings of tranquility they evoke.
“Jingle Bell Rock” is an incredibly popular song, having been performed and recorded by dozens of artists including Rascal Flatts, Billy Idol, Hall & Oates, Hilary Duff, Neil Diamond and many more. Each version has its merits, but my favorite is the 1957 original by Bobby Helms.
Helms’ version has a catchy, rockabilly attitude that works well at holiday parties, not to mention it lacks the annoyingly repetitive nature of “Jingle Bells,” on which the track is loosely based.
7. “Blue Christmas” — Elvis Presley
Bringing the tempo back down to quiet-night-at-home levels, Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” is another classic that will help keep the stress out of the holiday season.
The subject matter is a tad more depressing than the typical holiday carol, but the King’s famous voice and blissfully simplistic and minimalist instrumentals have made “Blue Christmas” one of my favorite holiday tracks for many years.
Say what you will about Adam Sandler’s hit-and-miss movie choices these past few years, but when Sandler was a “Saturday Night Live” cast member, he was pretty hilarious.
“The Hanukkah Song” is drenched in Sandler’s slapstick humor, with pop-culture references and absurdly funny rhyming schemes (shockingly, he actually finds lots of ways to rhyme with “Hanukkah”).
This classic Christmas carol, like “Jingle Bell Rock,” has been reproduced by dozens of artists, so it was difficult to pick my favorite. Normally, I prefer the traditional versions — even a capella — but I recently discovered this rendition by Sixpence None the Richer and was hooked.
Singer Leigh Nash forms a nice pair with Dan Haseltine to maintain the serenity of the song while adding a little spice with acoustic guitar.
I generally prefer secularized Christmas carols, but something about “Silent Night” has always struck a chord with me, no matter who performs it.
10. “Little Saint Nick” — The Beach Boys
Maybe it’s just because I grew up near the ocean, but I have always loved the Beach Boys and the group’s style of music. In 1963, the Beach Boys applied surf rock sounds to Christmas spirit, resulting in “Little Saint Nick.”
The Christmas track is molded from the same structure as the band’s single “Little Deuce Coupe,” which was released in the same year.
“Little Saint Nick” is a great holiday song for anyone who (like me) will be celebrating Christmas in the warm, sunny weather of Southern California.