Modern Christmas Hits
More Christmas music, please!
Musical Saturday once again with a selection of unique holiday-themed
videos from contemporary artists.
As I noted last Saturday, when it comes to Christmas music, I lean heavily toward the classic songs written a hundred-plus years ago that contain strong religious themes within the lyrics. Those hymns, in all the varied renditions, will always be my favorites, hence my highlighting them in a plethora of blog posts over the years. Links to past posts, which always include history facts, lyrics, and YouTube videos can be found in the Pemberley Library under the “Holiday Blogs –» Christmas Carols” section.
Despite my preference for the super-oldies but goodies performed in a traditional style, I also love non-religious Christmas songs. Whether about Santa Claus or jingling bells on sleighs or roasting chestnuts over an open fire, I honestly adore just about every Christmas related song that has ever been written. Maybe not every rendition, mind you, but the multitude of winter wonderland classics by crooners like Bing Crosby all the way through the years to contemporary pop artists are part of my complete YouTube Christmas Music Playlist (click link to the right).
The word “modern” as defined by me are those written in the 20th century onward, whether classics or one-offs. Artists of all music genres dive into recording holiday songs, many writing fresh material or recording an established song in a unique peppy style. Today I continue the trend from last Saturday by selecting upbeat songs and lively videos.
I confess I have yet to watch The Christmas Chronicles starring Kurt Russell as Santa Claus. I know I will love the movies — Part One in 2018 and Part Two in 2020 — but simply haven’t gotten around to them. I definitely need to remedy this oversight, especially after watching this hilarious and entertaining clip from the first movie. Here is the always amazing Kurt Russell singing Santa Claus is Back in Town.
In 1970, blind Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano wrote a traditional Spanish Christmas and Happy New Year song titled Feliz Navidad. The peppy song has simple, heartfelt lyrics, the first line in Spanish: “Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad” (which translates in English as “Merry Christmas, a prosperous year and happiness”) and then followed by the next line in English: “I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart.” Released that same year as a single and as a track on the Christmas album of the same name, Feliz Navidad has become a pop Christmas classic. Others have sung and recorded the song, but IMO no one does it as well as Feliciano.
When it comes to Michael Bublé, I could devote three lengthy blogs to his Christmas videos and still not cover them all. His voice is delicious, warm and smooth, so perfect for holiday songs of all types. Out of the plethora of choices, my favorite is his duet with singer Idina Menzel for Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Not only is the song delightfully sweet, this video from 2014 is sooooo cute! The song was written by Tony Award winning American songwriter Frank Loesser in 1944 and was introduced to the public in the 1949 film Neptune’s Daughter. The lyrics do not mention any holiday, however the winter theme fits perfectly into the Christmas season so the song has become a standard recorded by dozens of artists, as well as in movies, most notably sung by Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone in Elf.
This next one I passed by a couple of times as I thought sure it had to be a joke. Then I gave it a shot, and have to say, this young man is outstanding! Mason Ramsey was born in 2006 so is now 15 years of age. In this video, dating to 2018 when he was 12, he sings the classic White Christmas with a country twang for what was a single release. It is truly adorable with the dancing children and the baby-faced Mason in retro cowboy-style.
For the final entry today, I’ve appropriately chosen Darlene Love’s final performance of Baby, Please Come Home on The Late Show with David Letterman from December 19. 2014. The song was written in 1963 by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and famed record producer Phil Spector, specifically for the 1963 album A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. Gathering a bevy of singers from his Wall-of-Sound record label, Spector featured artist Darlene Love on four songs. The album was a huge success with reprints and re-releases numerous times over the subsequent decades.
Darlene Love’s relationship with Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer on Broadway led to her first appearance on The Late Show in 1986. According to Shaffer, David Letterman was not a fan of novelty songs for any holiday, but he was so taken by Darlene Love as a person, as well as her incredible performance of Baby, Please Come Home, that he invited her the following year… then the next, and the next… until it became an annual Christmas tradition lasting 28 years. Since The Late Show with David Letterman ended its run in May of 2015, the 74-year-old singer Letterman crowned the “Queen of Christmas” has performed the song annually on The View and in many other venues.