So…there are a lot of Christmas carols. Yeah, I know that’s kind of an obvious statement, but really, I was just thinking about it and I realized that if I tried to make a list of every Christmas carol I know, I don’t think I could do it. Even if I listed the 125 songs on my Christmas playlist, I know I’d still forget some.
But there are, of course, two categories of carols. There are the traditional carols, whether they be the religious ones (“Joy to the World,” “O Holy Night,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Away In A Manger,” “What Child Is This,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” etc.) or ones about Santa/family/Christmas prettiness (“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Silver Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Sleigh Ride,” “The Christmas Song,” etc.).
But then there are the radio carols. The ones that a popular artist records to get some guaranteed airplay for a month. They may only marginally have to do with Christmas, and may not even completely make sense, but you still listen. Sometimes, you even grow to love them as much as the traditional carols.
Of course, there are some truly atrocious radio carols. “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” “The Twelve Pains of Christmas” (seriously, I want to strangle the guy hanging up the lights by the time the song’s over). I can’t stand “Santa Baby” no matter who sings it. And I went through a boy-band phase like every other girl of my generation, but for the love of God, NSync actually has a song that includes the lyrics, “I never knew the meaning of Christmas until I looked into your eyes.”
But there are some awesome radio carols, too. The ones that get stuck in your head. The ones you turn up when they come onto your car radio. The ones you dance around the room singing with your friends. You know what I mean.
Now, I don’t normally do top 10 lists. I’m not David Letterman, or even Greg Behrendt. But I do, as I’ve mentioned, have a 125-song Christmas playlist, so I figure that qualifies me as much as anybody to make this list. Here they are, in no particular order.
Mariah Carey, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”
This is the ultimate radio Christmas song. It’s one of those love-song-with-a-lot-of-Christmas-words-in-it tunes, and it’s perfect for blasting at full volume or singing at the top of your lungs.
Vince Vance & the Valiants, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”
Same title, same sentiment, totally different song. The first one is by the Queen of the ’90s and the Tabloids and goes, “I don’t want a lot for Christmas/There is just one thing I need/I don’t care about the presents/Underneath the Christmas tree.” This one is by some band no one’s ever heard of and goes, “Take back the holly and mistletoe/Silver bells on strings/If I wrote a letter to Santa Claus/I would ask for just one thing.”
John Lennon, “Happy X-Mas (War Is Over)”
Although the state of the world today makes it easy to focus on the “war” part, this song makes me happy. Actually, it makes me want to sway back and forth, maybe because I remember doing just that freshman year of college as I sang it with Christina and our friend Carr. If you really listen to it, the lyrics aren’t that great, but for some reason the first line draws you in.
Band Aid, “Do They Know It’s Christmas”
A whole bunch of famous people raising money for famine relief. Also a very nice song, except for one line that’s bugged me ever since I first heard it: “Well, tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.” …WTF? That is maybe the most poorly-worded line in a Christmas song ever. They want you to thank God that people are suffering because you’re not one of them? Doesn’t that line kind of defeat their whole point?
The Carpenters, “Merry Christmas, Darling”
I have a soft spot for this one. It’s deliciously cheesy and sappy, which makes it that much more fun to sing. It turns “Christmas” into a verb (“I’m Christmasing with you”) and includes the line “The logs on the fire fill me with desire.” Awesome.
Boney M, “Mary’s Boy Child”
More religious than the average radio carol, but just as catchy and fun. It’s by a West Indian group, and you can’t hear it without getting it stuck in your head.
Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman/We Three Kings”
Bouncy and fun, and distinctively Barenaked Ladies. They actually have another version of this without McLachlan that doesn’t get radio play, and on that version they muse about the creepiness about the myrrh verse of “We Three Kings” before they sing it. (Seriously, have you ever listened to the words of that verse?)
Jose Feliciano, “Feliz Navidad”
I’ve liked this since hearing it on Sesame Street when I was little. I wanna wish you a merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart, and I wanna sing this song at the top of my lungs whenever I hear it.
Trans Siberian Orchestra, “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)”
This is an awesome instrumental version of “Carol of the Bells” that’s very hard to describe unless you actually hear it.
“Christmas Is All Around”
I recently re-watched Love Actually (which, by the way, is much better upon second viewing), and this song is hilarious. It’s the song “Love Is All Around” with “Christmas” substituted for “love.” (Sample lyrics: “So if you really love Christmas/Come on and let it snow.”) It’s a radio Christmas song making fun of radio Christmas songs, so you’re not meant to take it seriously…but there’s something kind of endearing about it just the same.