Reviewing & Rating 20 Christmas Songs

By: Deborah Jin (Grade 12)

I’ll let you know what I think about some of the most iconic Christmas songs!vsco5bfdceeca5ddf.jpg

The holiday season has already begun, with Christmas right around the corner. Stockings have been hung, trees have been decorated, and perhaps your gifts have already been bought — but are you listening to the right music? I listened to 20 Christmas songs that you may or may not know already, and reviewed and rated them! 

 

 

 

 

@kassxtrotz/VSCO photo credit 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams:

Apart from starring in some back-to-school commercials, this original recording by Andy Williams has become a big standard during the holiday season. Staying true to its enthusiastic title, the song gets you in the Christmas spirit by portraying scenarios of “parties for hosting” and “much mistletoeing.” Along with Williams’ graceful voice, there are features of background choruses and explosive instrumentals. (Rating: 9/10)
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White Christmas by Bing Crosby:

Bing Crosby’s Christmas songs have become staples throughout the holidays. Though originally written by Irving Berlin, “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby became the most popular version. Through its melancholic instrumentals and nostalgic lyrics, Crosby sings of an old-fashioned Christmas setting. In the second verse, his notable light-hearted whistling over the layered choruses evokes feelings of joy and comfort. (Rating: 8/10)

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Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Judy Garland:

Judy Garland, despite having released uncountable records for a variety of movie musicals including The Wizard of Oz, accumulated an abundance of attention solely from “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Despite its seemingly cheerful title, the ballad holds tear-jerking lyrics with hopeful connotations. Garland’s voice, heavy with vibrato, reassures a loved one that their troubles will be gone and that for now they should enjoy the Christmas season. (Rating: 9.5/10)
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Frosty the Snowman by Ella Fitzgerald:

Apart from being known as “The First Lady of Song” worldwide, Ella Fitzgerald’s jazzy rendition of “Frosty the Snowman” is unbeatable. Its catchy introduction with a chorus will have you immediately hooked before transitioning into Fitzgerald’s dynamic verses. The tone and pitch of her resonant voice changes often throughout the song, adding charisma and making this cover more fun to listen to than others. (Rating: 8.5/10)
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Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! by Frank Sinatra:

A Christmas playlist is never complete without Frank Sinatra. The B. Swanson Quartet, a feature in this cover, alternates verses with him and adds to the jazzy and joyous atmosphere. The song is full-off grandeur and elaborate instrumentals, and Sinatra’s swinging voice matches perfectly as he sings of lovers holding each other by a warm fire in the middle of a heavy snowfall. (Rating: 8.5/10)

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Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt:

In this jazzy song with amusing lyrics, Eartha Kitt gives Santa Claus her Christmas list filled with extravagant gifts including a sable, a convertible, and a yacht. There are a few lines that may be interpreted with sexual connotations, but the ironic and humorous lyrics sung by Kitt’s whimsical voice still make this song a fun one to listen to. “Santa Baby” has been covered by almost 50 other artists, proving just how iconic the song is. (Rating: 8.5/10)
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Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee:

Many people will be surprised to know that Brenda Lee first recorded this original at the age of 13, because of her mature voice. “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” has no doubt become a Christmas standard, with its instrumentals sounding like rock-and-roll and featuring guitar, piano, saxophone, bass, and drums. The distinct saxophone solo in the middle of the song will have you literally rockin’ around the Christmas tree. (Rating: 8.5/10) 
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The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You) by Nat King Cole:

After a magical orchestral introduction, Nat King Cole’s deep and resonant voice immediately sings of chestnuts “roasting on an open fire” and “Jack Frost nipping at your nose.” These images create the perfect cozy Christmas scenes alongside twinkling piano and electric guitar solos. Regardless of age, he assures that Christmas brings joy to children and adults alike, which is why “The Christmas Song” will continue to remain a holiday classic. (Rating: 10/10)

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Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes:

After the distinctive clip-clop and whinny of a horse in the introduction, the upbeat tempo of “Sleigh Ride” sets a jazzy foundation for the Ronettes’ sultry voices. Their version of this song has become the most popular one outside the traditional pop genre, and features fun background vocals of “Ring-a-ling a ding-dong-ding!” The clip-clop and whinny of the horse return for a perfect ending. (Rating: 8/10)

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A Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives:

Featuring an acoustic guitar solo in the beginning, Ives’ rendition has a somewhat slower production than the original recording with its country-sounding instrumentals. It has a hearty melody with lyrics that are easy to sing along to, and the twinkling background chorus gives the impression of a group of carollers announcing the start of Christmas. (Rating: 8/10)

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Feliz Navidad by José Feliciano:

Almost everyone knows the lyrics to this iconic Spanish tune because of its simplicity and its catchiness. Its well-known chorus “Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad” means “Merry Christmas, a prosperous year and happiness.” While this song has his song has become one of the most popular picks when conducting sing-alongs. (Rating: 8.5/10)
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I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by The Jackson 5:

The rendition by The Jackson 5 is understandably the most popular one of all, known for the talented Michael Jackson’s voice. His voice is able to bring out the child-like wonder and excitement as he exclaims, “Wow! Mommy’s kissing Santa Claus!” in the introduction. With the song’s amusing lyrics, plus the group’s own (“I’m gonna tell my dad”), it is no surprise that this cover became a huge success. (Rating: 8/10)
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Winter Wonderland by Bing Crosby:

The uniqueness of this cover’s instrumental arrangement is immediately apparent in its introduction, not long before Crosby’s beautiful baritone starts to sing of a winter wonderland. Apart from the abundance of background chorus, the song features jazzy solos and a sequences of triplets as it transitions into a more apparent swing rhythm. (Rating: 9/10)
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Happy Xmas (War Is Over) by The Plastic Ono Band:

A Christmas song that was also a protest song against the Vietnam War, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” has become both a Christmas standard and a holiday favourite. This recording by John Lennon and Yoko Ono with the Harlem Community Choir is filled with hopeful melodies and lyrics emphasizing the campaign for peace, with the youth choir singing background vocals, countermelodies, and sing-along choruses. (Rating: 9/10)
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Last Christmas by Wham!:

The backing music of “Last Christmas” by the English pop duo Wham! is so simple that it became the perfect, unique foundation for the strong melody and George Michael’s vocals. With a sophisticated tension between the cheerful instrumentals and the sad lyrics of unrequited love, this song expresses a theme of how easily love can delude one into forgiveness. “Last Christmas” has definitely become a treasured 80s Christmas classic. (Rating: 10/10)
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Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer by Burl Ives:

In the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” TV special in 1964, Burl Ives voices Sam the Snowman, the narrator. He also sings multiple songs on its musical soundtrack, including the very well-known and catchy title song. With its magical introduction, simple and heartwarming lyrics about the story of Rudolph, and instrumentals maintaining a somewhat country sound, the uniqueness of this cover is displayed. (Rating: 9/10)
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All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey:

This iconic single is unsurprisingly the best-selling modern-day Christmas song, and continues to become more popular each and every year. Despite the song’s popularity it still receives backlash, possibly because it is often overplayed. Nevertheless, its abundance of cheerful bells and rhythms, festive harmonies and counter melodies, and the strength of Mariah’s five-octave voice make this song a timeless classic. (Rating: 10/10)

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Silent Night by Carpenters:

This sentimental carol begins with a radiant chorus before transitioning into Karen Carpenter’s calm and lush vocals. Between each of her verses, the background chorus sings countermelodies with rich harmonies. At the time when the original carol was created, most Christmas music was written to reinforce class distinctions. “Silent Night,” however, served to encourage hope for ordinary people, and Carpenters’ rendition perfectly portrays that. (Rating: 9/10)

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas by Michael Buble:

After an enchanting introduction, Bublé’s supple vocals invite you to hear and see the true magic in Christmas with “candy canes and silver lanes aglow.” His rendition of the original song is heavily fused with pop, orchestral, and jazz elements, conveying cozy feelings of home and the company of loved ones. This is a must-have for a Christmas playlist. (Rating: 10/10)

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Christmas Time Is Here by Vince Guaraldi Trio:

From the 1965 TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas comes a classic Christmas song with calm and charming jazz instrumentals. Contrasting with the upbeat rhythms of other Christmas songs, “Christmas Time Is Here” has slower and laid-back melodies. The angelic vocals provided by the choir at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the minimal use of instruments depict the peaceful beauty of the holiday season. (10/10)
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Please remember — the ratings that I’ve given to these Christmas songs do not define their overall quality as they are based on my personal opinions! Ultimately, it is your choice whether or not you want to use any of them for the ultimate Christmas playlist. Have a wonderful winter break while listening to your favourite holiday tunes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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