etween the months of October and January, music about mistletoe and mangers takes up a radio residency—radio stations dedicated entirely to Christmas music come out of hibernation, streaming services release carefully curated playlists to serve as the soundtrack to Christmas tree lighting and gift wrapping traditions, and stores everywhere get shoppers in the holiday spirit by flooding their floors with the sound of silver bells.
Although at times annoying, holiday music plays a special role during the “most wonderful time of the year.” Christmas classics such as “Little Saint Nick” and “Jingle Bells” conjure up special memories of time spent with family and friends under the glow of lit-up trees, and new-age holiday hits by top artists ranging from John Lennon to Tyler the Creator serve as a reminder of the holiday season’s enduring appeal.
“Another Christmas Song” by Stephen Colbert – Jack Goldman, News Editor
n 2008, while Stephen Colbert was in the prime of his Stephen Colbert character, he released A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All. The lead song? “Another Christmas Song”—a song that follows the same beats you would associate with a wonderful holiday tune, but it is actually just Colbert singing about the following: how Christmas songs play for only a month—and yet are played quite literally to death in that 30-day span—how Christmas songs make bank, and how Colbert really wants to make bank. Isn’t capitalism the true meaning of Christmas anyway?
The Christmas tune really descends into madness when it enters the world of baby Jesus crying “ho ho ho!” because the manger is on fire, starving children who happen to be Colbert’s children caroling (which is really begging for money for their oh-so-kind father), cash registers, how literally anyone can write a Christmas song, and that this album could be the heart of Colbert’s retirement income.
So why does this ridiculous but amazing song resound so much with me? First of all, Colbert closes the song by singing “Copyright Stephen Colbert,” and Lord knows I adore anything regarding copyright law. But the thing is, I took the liberty to play this song approximately a thousand times for the other four members of my family for the next year. Yes, over the course of a year, I spread the Christmas spirit through this song whenever the opportunity presented itself. Did I pay for this decision for years? Of course I did, my family hates me now, and I haven’t received a Christmas present since the day this song came out, but I’ve never felt closer to the people I care most about when I was screaming at them to sing along to a song about making Colbert as much cash as possible.
That’s the consumerist, holiday spirit I truly can believe in.
“Run Run Rudolph” by Chuck Berry – Andy Backstrom, Sports Editor
ou say Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, my head turns. Ever since I was a kid, I have adored the fictional reindeer—partly because I believed in Santa until I was 14 years old, but also because the creature starred in one of the earliest rags to riches stories that I can remember. Originally ostracized by his reindeer friends, Rudolph—shining red nose and all—eventually found his place in North Pole, becoming Santa’s right-hand man, leading the big man’s sleigh every Christmas Eve.
A lonely and quiet child, I somehow related to reindeer, as bizarre as it sounds. While I wasn’t bullied in elementary school, I was certainly far from popular. And, for what it’s worth, my nose was never really normal either—it’s not red, but rather is as sharp as a bird’s beak. Call it silly if you will, but watching a magical reindeer prove his peers wrong was inspiring. Every Christmas season, I watched Rudolph movies like there was no tomorrow, and when I got in the car with my mom, “Run Run Rudolph” would often play on the radio to my delight.
Chuck Berry’s upbeat voice serves as a foil to practically every Christmas song there is. Whereas most holiday tunes, like “Silent Night” and “White Christmas,” are slow and rely on bells and strings to set the mood, “Run Run Rudolph” falls under the category of rock and roll. A jolly Berry spews out lyrics about Rudolph leading the pack and helping Santa deliver presents to children across the world, as guitars and drums create a backdrop to what is typically regarded as one of the more unique holiday songs. Although Berry’s record may pale in comparison to Johnny Marks’ “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” it comes in a close second. Remember, Rudolph serves a reminder that, regardless of your appearance, you can make a difference—or in his case, help the most important person in the whole wide world, St. Nick.
“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” by Bing Crosby – Colleen Martin, Copy Editor
h, Christmas. Heralded as the most wonderful time of the year, it conjures up images of snow-covered trees, red bows, and fireplaces. The entire month of December seems to take on a rosy glow as people take a temporary break from the hamster wheel of their lives and refocus that energy into the hullabaloo of the holiday season.
But the overwhelming cheer always seems to be accompanied by a more subtle feeling of sadness. It’s something that can’t really be described, but can be felt in Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” The song sounds beautiful—it’s smooth and soothing and makes promises that you hope, for the sake of whoever Crosby is singing to, are kept. But there’s an underlying tone of melancholy that’s so strong it can’t be ignored.
“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” takes the mood of the entire season, and consolidates it to its two minutes and 55 seconds. It’s a nice song—it makes its way into seemingly every Christmas playlist and has been redone a few too many times. It’s good, but not because of that. It continues to be something that people reach for during the Christmas season because of its ability to balance the feelings of Christmas cheer with a duller sadness, something that a lot of its listeners are trying to do, too.
“Last Christmas” by Wham! – Emerson DeBasio, Multimedia Editor
espite 2019 creeping up quickly, my mother still lives in the ’80s, and has for as long as I can remember. As a result, the soundtrack to my childhood consisted entirely of music released between 1979 and 1992. No matter the season or the mood, I have found that there is an ’80’s song to fit any situation perfectly, and the Christmas season is not immune to this: The most iconic Christmas classic from the era of Walkmans and John Hughes is Wham!’s hit song “Last Christmas.”
Though I was not actually alive in 1984, the way I imagine the vibe of the ’80s is best reflected by this synth-driven, melodious George Michael ballad. At a technical level, “Last Christmas” is as basic as it gets and showcases virtually the same tune and chords for the entire four minutes and 27 seconds on repeat, which explains why it is impossible to listen to without having it stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Lyrically, “Last Christmas” compliments the angsty, sentimental vibe of the melody with lyrics about longing and restless heartache akin to those that continually litter the top of the pop charts.
Another reason I love “Last Christmas” is the music video. Despite the fact that the song’s lyrics are about getting over a girl, the video actually showcases George Michael getting back together with the aforementioned woman who gave his heart away “the very next day” the year before. Filled with a cast of characters rocking feathered mullets and turtlenecks, the best part of the video is the ending, where the couple makes up and exchanges the quintessential accessory to any outfit in 1984—diamond brooches.
I think “Last Christmas” by itself is a stand-alone Christmas classic, but the reason it will always be my favorite isn’t just because of its catchy chorus or nostalgic music video—it’s the memories of belting it out with my mom every time it comes on the radio.
“The Hanukkah Song” by Adam Sandler – Jillian Ran, Heights Staff
s Jews don’t have a lot to work with in the holiday song department. You take what you can get, and, in our family, Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” has always been the gold standard. The song is more of a humorous lament about the alienation that Jewish kids feel during the holidays than an actual Hanukkah song, but my wise-cracking dad loves it.
The song evokes memories of spending Christmas eating Chinese food and marveling at what seemed like the entire world shutting down. But despite its portrayal of a specific Jewish experience, this is still a song with universal appeal. Anyone, no matter their religion, is bound to chuckle at the line “O.J. Simpson–not a Jew!”
A large portion of the song is just Sandler listing off famous Jews in an effort to console “the only kid in town without a Christmas tree,” and listening to the song again, I realize that this is a habit of my dad’s that he must have picked up from Sandler. Ever since I can remember, every mention of a famous Jewish person—from Leonard Nimoy to John von Neumann—has been followed with “He’s a member of the tribe!” These little asides always made me feel less alone, and so does this goofy song.
Featured Image by CBS