Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like... A Christmas Playlist Post!

Christmas is my favorite time of the year. It’s always been my favorite holiday (and that has nearly nothing to do with the fact that Christmas marks a month and a day until my birthday). It’s a special time of year when families come together, eat, sing carols, and open presents. For me, there’s always been something wonderful and magical about Christmas.

I grew up in a Catholic family, so church has always been a part of my life. Not until I was older and switched churches though, did I actually enjoy going to services. My favorite tradition, without fail, is still going to Christmas Eve candlelight service with my entire family. The hush that falls over a congregation and swooping feeling when everyone quietly and tentatively begins to sing “Silent Night” is just beautiful. And as I’ve grown up, a lot of things have changed – I’ve moved from Pennsylvania, where I spent the first thirteen years of my life, to Florida. I don’t have snow at Christmas, anymore, but that doesn’t bother me so much.

(Snow on Christmas is fun, you guys. … and then there’s slush and ice and snow for the next four months to follow and it’s not so nice anymore.)

When I moved to Florida, however, I got the unique opportunity in to perform with my high school choir (and many others around the area) at Walt Disney World’s Candlelight Processional during Christmastime. This was one of the best experiences in my high school career, as I was able to share the stage with hundreds of other singers and celebrity guest narrators each year. Hearing the Christmas story read by people like Neil Patrick Harris and Chita Rivera was really something quite special. And hearing a powerful chorus of voices sing carols was truly awesome.

What will always remain the same, in spite of everything that may change throughout the years, is how much I love and adore Christmas music. And so, under Amber’s (@amtrak112) suggestion, I decided to do a blog post tonight about some of my favorite Christmas songs and renditions!

#10: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays – *NSYNC

Growing up, my favorite boy band was *NSYNC (so I heartily empathize with Sage’s boy bands post at Head Over Feels). As much as I did – and do – love the Backstreet Boys, there was always something special about the connection and harmonies that *NSYNC brought to their albums. (Well, that and the fact that I was convinced for the longest time that I’d be the future Mrs. Justin Timberlake.)

So when *NSYNC released their Christmas album in 1998, I jammed out to the boy band’s holiday tunes. One in particular still makes it to my Christmas playlist every year – “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.” As I cheesily jam out to the song at my desk or while decorating the house, I can’t help but feel like a kid again. It’s just not Christmas without playing this song!

#9: I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Michael Bublé

I absolutely love and adore Michael Bublé. I whip out his Christmas album as soon as Thanksgiving is over and begin to listen to it non-stop until I tire of the holiday melodies, or until someone makes me change the station on my car radio. The crooner has a perfect voice for a holiday album – the songs are heartfelt, meaningful, while still being sing-along worthy.

“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” is one of the slower songs on Bublé’s album, but it’s always been a favorite of mine, in general, to listen to. There’s a special sentiment that accompanies the song, and a heartfelt yearning for home – to be with loved ones and celebrate. There’s a sadness tinged to the song, though, with the chorus revealing that the singer will be home for Christmas “if only in [his] dreams.”

Regardless of the mellow melodies, I do love “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” and especially adore Bublé’s version of it.

(Sidenote: Does anyone else remember the movie with the same title starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Jessica Biel? No one? Just me?)

#8: Do You Hear What I Hear? – Carrie Underwood

I love traditional Christmas songs, because of their power and meaning to me. And one of my favorite songs is “Do You Hear What I Hear?” I love the progression of the story – how the news of the birth of the Christ child gets spread from the wind to the little lamb, to shepherds and wise men and kings.

It’s a lovely progression, as the music swells and builds in power the further the story is spread, so that the crescendo is when the king delivers news to all of his people, instructing them to pray for peace. It’s a lovely song and Carrie Underwood does a wonderful rendition of it.

#7: Away in a Manger – Casting Crowns

Another traditional Christmas song, “Away in a Manger,” is a sweet manger lullaby. And I just love Christmas songs because of how simple they usually are in terms of melody and words, but also how profound. We memorize lyrics so often day-to-day that we never really pause to contemplate the meaning of what we are actually singing.

“Away in a Manger” is one of the quieter, more mellow Christmas songs. There’s no real crescendo throughout the verses, but it’s a gentle reminder of what happened that first Christmas night. And I truly enjoy the version that Casting Crowns does of the song.

#6: The First Noel – Josh Groban (feat. Faith Hill)

Here’s yet another traditional Christmas song that I love so much. “The First Noel” is one of those songs that nearly everyone knows, and – much like I explained above – yet rarely contemplate the meaning or importance of. It’s a beautiful portrait, once more, of the Christmas story which focuses on the shepherds who were out in the fields at night, tending to their flocks. And I really do enjoy those Christmas songs that are written about characters we’d least expect to hear about – the shepherds, or the animals in the stable, or a little drummer boy.

It’s no secret or surprise that I adore Josh Groban and anything that he sings. I love his rendition of “The First Noel,” which also features Faith Hill. The voices of the pair blend unexpectedly spectacularly together.

#5: All I Want for Christmas is You –Jimmy Fallon, Mariah Carey & The Roots

Kim showed this video to me at work one afternoon, when I was struggling to feel particularly joyful about anything. Needless to say, it cheered me up. FAST. “All I Want for Christmas is You” is one of those fun, upbeat Christmas songs that just makes you feel bouncy and good (or at least it does for me). And I absolutely adore this version of the song because: 1) Mariah Carey can still sing, 2) The song is performed entirely on children’s instruments, and 3) Jimmy Fallon.

Really, just enjoy this song and rendition.

#4: Rejoice With Exceeding Great Joy – Epcot’s Candlelight Processional

Ah, this is a song that those familiar with Epcot’s Candlelight Processional will know about, because it is usually everyone’s favorite. It’s a song that is… fun, for lack of a better word. When you’re up on stage at Candlelight, it’s not as glamorous as you’d expect – the lights are extremely hot, you’re sandwiched next to a person you (likely) don’t know, and you have to hold a faux candle for an hour, while consciously not locking your knees to avoid passing out.

Glamorous, no?

But when “Rejoice With Exceeding Great Joy” (which is also a partial mash-up of “We Three Kings” at one point) begins, all of those uncomfortable feelings dissipate and the choir comes alive – we bounce along (mildly) to the drums throughout the song and enthusiastically sing about the joyful night of the first Christmas.

Really, it’s just a FUN song.

#3: Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Darren Criss & Chris Colfer

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is one of those duets that succeeds or fails depending on who sings the song. And, well, I love Darren Criss so this song automatically made it onto my “best” list before I heard it. And truly, it’s a fun duet between Criss and Colfer – their voices compliment each other so well. And though I currently detest “Glee” and everything that has been done with the show, I can’t help but adore the smooth rendition of this duet.

(Additionally, this song really brings out the jazzy quality that Criss’ voice has and that we don’t get to hear too often. And I love it.)

#2: The 12 Days of Christmas – Straight No Chaser

“The 12 Days of Christmas” is a song that would normally not make my Top 10 cut. It’s a song that barely anyone (including myself) remembers the lyrics to. Except, for the one phrase we all enjoy belting at the top of our lungs (“FIVE GOLDEN RINGS!”).

So, you may be surprised to find that it made my list after all. Why, you may ask?

Watch this rendition and all of your questions will be answered. That is all.

#1: O Holy Night – Lea Michele

“O Holy Night” is my favorite traditional Christmas song. It is beautiful and powerful – moving in its nuances, crescendos, and message. It really encompasses everything about the first Christmas. While other songs focus on the baby in the manger, the wise men visiting, or modern-day Christmas joys, this is a song that reminds us how powerful that first night was. It was more than just powerful and moving, however. It was monumental – a turning point for Heaven and earth.

It’s difficult, then, to choose a favorite rendition of this song. But it’s not really a challenge when I listen to Lea Michele sing it with such power and precision. She hits all of the notes with perfection and deep emotion, making hers my favorite version of this song.

Honorable Mention:

Santa Baby – Michael Bublé

“Santa Baby” is a song that really annoys most who listen to it, especially if you happen to stumble across a rendition that’s breathily sung by a female. So, when I heard this track on Bublé’s Christmas album, I was curious… and then overjoyed to find that he amended the lyrics to fit a male singer. Take a listen to the perfection that is this rendition of “Santa Baby” and forgo all those other baby-talk ones.

So now that I’ve listed some of my favorite Christmas tunes, what makes YOUR playlist? Do you have a favorite Christmas song or album? Drop a comment below and let us all know what you think. :)


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