Friday, December 16, 2011

MEL's 12 PICKS FOR XMAS: Modern Day Staples

As previously stated in this 3-Part Special, I'm not really a Christmas Music Person. My Holiday Playlists are pretty static from year to year. The main focus is largely placed on contemporary spins of Holiday Classics. I've already spoken about my four favorite classics. Now, take a listen to my four most modern-day staples. Apologies if these four are about as predictable as the nose on my face...

STEVIE WONDER - "What Christmas Means To Me"
Back in 1967, the prodigy that was/is Stevie Wonder could literally do no wrong. With a catalog of utter musical standards, it should be little surprise Mr. Wonder would be able to contribute an original holiday song worthy of Classic Status. It's by and far one of my most favorite Holiday songs ever, and is an absolute must when decorating the Christmas Tree (just saying). In the years since, it's been covered by no shortage of people, including Hanson, En Vogue and Jessica Simpson. The song is so cheery, any of version of it would make me smile -- but to be honest, no one can really top Stevie, can they? Check out Stevie performing the song live in 2009, more than 30 years after it was originally recorded and released, and still sounding better than all your faves.

2000 was such a glory year for me. I was 13, and all of the Modern-Day Pop Greats were at the top of their game. You didn't have to wait very long to hear a Max Martin-penned song on the radio. Bubblegum Pop was shamelessly popular, and you better believe I was in the perfect target demographic to eat it up eagerly. Coming off the high of her debut album, Xtina officially debuted her "Xtina" moniker with her Christmas album My Kind of Christmas, full of  revised classics including a supreme version of "Merry Christmas, Baby" with blues legend Dr. John. "Christmas Time," co-written by Christina, was released as a holiday single from the project. Below is from a live television special from 2000.

MARIAH CAREY - "All I Want For Christmas Is You"
I think only a handful of people at this point don't own a copy of Mariah's Merry Christmas holiday album, released back in 1994, in some shape or form. It has sold over 15 million copies worldwide in the years since (and that number increases every year). The vast majority of the entire album has been spun and spun vigorously on radio stations across the world. The original songs were all co-written by Mariah and there was even talk of a movie adaptation of the album as some point. While I'm quite fond of her cover of  Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)", there's no cut quite like "All I Want For Christmas Is You". Believe it or not, but the song peaked at #83 on the Billboard Hot 100 back in 1994. Despite this, there is no question something about it remains timeless and to not call it an obligatory Holiday Anthem would be total and utter farce.

The song has been covered an unbelievably long list of popstars, including Play, The Cheetah Girls, Alexandra Burke, John Mayer, Jessica Mauboy and Lady Antebellum. Just this year alone, Michael Buble included a jazzy, lounge version on his holiday disc Christmas, Big Time Rush performed their acoustic version at the lighting of the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center, Glee included a version on their second Christmas compliation, and Justin Bieber released a version with Mariah, dubbed "All I Want For Christmas Is You (SuperFestive!)" for his release. Mariah herself released a re-recorded version on her second Christmas release, Merry Christmas II You, last year.

*NSYNC - "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays"
You are all very much aware of my *NSYNC stanning, right? Three live concert experiences, every album/single available in the US (plus some "rare" imports from Germany and Australia), countless posters of the group and Justin Timberlake ripped from teen magazines adorning my walls -- this was my life from 1998-2002. In fact, a few of the posters might still be up in my childhood bedroom at my parent's house back Upstate. Home For Christmas, *NSYNC's holiday set released in 1998 (pre- "Bye Bye Bye" hysteria), is a Christmas masterpiece if I ever heard one, focusing more on the group's harmony with a decidedly more Hot A/C sound than any of their other releases.

Sexy "Under My Tree", one of the album's many original cuts, was my personal favorite of the set, despite being just 11 years old when this record was released (it makes you shiver, doesn't it?). Their acapella cover of "O Holy Night" is not even up for debate -- the arrangement has been covered multiple times around the world (including by a baby-faced version of TVXQ! way back in the day). "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" is as close as the Cheiron Generation will get to contributing a Christmas Classic to the masses, co-written by Justin and JC Chasez. It may be chock full of cheddar, but come on -- you know you love it. And yes, that is Gary Coleman (RIP) as the lead elf. ("What you talkin' 'bout, Gary?")

1 comment:

Lilly said...

i will admit, i have 3 out of 4 of those albums :P - great picks, Mel!

Follow Me on Instagram via @melismaticdiva