Between SiriusXM’s Holly and my modern Christmas hits Pandora playlist, I can’t help but learn about what the kids of the last two decades (or more) have been serving up for holiday music. I’ll go on the record to say it’s a good thing that these efforts almost always include at least one new song–I’d much rather have that than yet another version of “Holly Jolly Christmas.”
So I’m gonna step out of my lane today and rank a few of these original tunes, focusing on big female pop stars. It’s subjective in multiple dimensions, I’ll admit, but for the most part, I’m not here to gripe and snipe. (As fine a voice as Christina Aguilera has, I’m glad I can’t think of what original Christmas tune she’s done, as I’d have to dock her for her unwillingness to stay on any one pitch for more than a hemidemisemiquaver in her take on “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” I find that one unlistenable.)
Here are the six under consideration today:
6. Katy Perry, “Cozy Little Christmas”
She’s been huge for well over a decade, but I still can’t say, “Oh, that’s Katy Perry” when one of her songs comes on whenever I’m at Culver’s–I guess her voice just isn’t that distinctive to me. That goes for this piece, too.
5. Taylor Swift, “Christmas Tree Farm”
As formidable a talent as TSwift is, I find this effort pretty unremarkable–it could use a much stronger melody.
4. Ariana Grande, “Santa Tell Me”
Now we’re starting to get somewhere. The theme is similar to that of “Last Christmas” (which I’m on record as not really liking), but I can get more behind Grande’s upbeat, pro-active approach to avoiding pain.
3. Mariah Carey, “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
Maybe should be higher–it’s become a go-to song for other artists to cover already–but I’d be alright with about 33% less airplay. Carey came on the scene just as I was turning away from pop, so I’ve never attempted to fully appreciate her talent. She gets full marks for this one, though.
2. Leona Lewis, “One More Sleep”
It’s the peppier music being favored as we move forward. But I’m also noticing a progression in relationship status as we go through the top four:
Grande: Do I trust you?
Carey: Sure hope you show up!
Lewis: You’ll be here soon!
Based on “One More Sleep” and “Winter Wonderland,” I need to put Lewis’s Christmas, With Love near the top of my wish list. She sounds so buoyant, so happy.
1. Kelly Clarkson, “Underneath the Tree”
Clarkson: You’re here to stay…
I live too much in the past to know a lot of Clarkson’s body of work, but I do really like what I’ve heard. And I hope “Underneath the Tree” makes the Christmas canon someday; the energy, that sax solo, the chimes…it all works. Programmers could maybe take 10% of Carey’s spins and donate them here?