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Merry Christmas! Before you begin unwrapping presents, it’s essential to create the perfect Christmas playlist. Now, I’ve already outlined what songs shouldn’t be on that list—and should be taken off the radio immediately—but what, you ask, should be included? Well, here’s your answers, the BEST 5 CHRISTMAS SONGS OF ALL TIME (AS OF RIGHT NOW):

5. “Blue Christmas” by either Elvis Presley or Bright Eyes
This one is a tie between the two because both bring something positive (or, well, negative) to the song. Presley made this song a classic, and for good reason: Presley’s twang and rhythm make the song distinctly and quintessentially Country, a genre fitting for a kind of morose song about missing one’s loved one on Christmas. He mixes the perfect amount of performance and nostalgia to make this song fun to listen to. Connor Oberst, on the other hand, with his nasal whine and constant flatness (when he misses the high note during the line “with your Christmas of white”, it SLAYS me), brings a level of maudlin that transforms the sort of downer song into this heart-rending dirge about how we should cry on Christmas because Oberst, as is his wont, is talking about he will probably die alone. Both are totally incredible.

4. “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” by Billie Holiday
A classic song sung by many different artists (including my other favorite version by Ella Fitzgerald), “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” is a wonderful song with a great amount of jazz and a melody open to interpretation. But few voices were made for this song in the way that Billie Holiday’s is. Anything but dulcet, her nasally, throaty, frog-like tones just bring out the best parts of this song. Dean Martin does a great job as well, but no one can rival how simple and jazzy Holiday makes this song. It fits her voice almost like a glove, and is a must-have on any holiday playlist.

3. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews
As a recovering hipster, I had to have at least one ironic song on this list, and this is it. I’ve been telling people for years that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is essentially a song about date rape, but few versions highlight that fact better than this recording. Tom Jones is hugely pompous and loud, while Cerys Matthews sounds progressively more cracked out as the song goes on. From, “Say, what’s in this dri-ank?” to “I have to go home,” Matthews is sloppy and hilarious. It certainly casts an awkward hue onto the happy-go-lucky versions by Dean Martin or Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton, but then one can just watch the hilarious music video, see that Cerys Matthews is just totally crazy, and have a good laugh. Those flames, the outfit change, and the reversal of the motivations? Sheer genius.

2. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Judy Garland
She sang it first and she sang it best. It’s easy to get lost in the niceness of the song—yes, Garland is wishing us a merry Christmas—but the lyrics and the context of Meet Me in St. Louis (the movie this song originated in) are more about persevering in the face of adversity than anything else. This song is good when sung by anyone, especially if they highlight the hopefulness-beyond-the-present-circumstances, but Garland captures that sense of strength in one’s family and friends when she sings, “Through the years, we all will be together, if the fates allow / until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.” Frank Sinatra changed these lines in his more-famous recording of the song, but I think Garland’s insistence on the will of her friends and family makes her version the most touching and heart-warming.

1. “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey
An unorthodox choice, I know, but it is impossible not to acknowledge the completely un-ironic awesomeness of this song. Mariah Carey, regardless of her diva antics, is a phenomenal singer, and her entire “Merry Christmas” album is pure quality pop. This song embodies everything great about Christmas: Santa Claus, loved ones, back-up singers, jingle bells, unbridled dancing, unadulterated joy, and it’s impossible not to sing, dance, and smile when this song comes on. I know I’m kind of into depressing Christmas songs, but “All I Want for Christmas is You” is so happy and Christmas-y that I love it almost as much as Christmas itself. It is, in fact, the best Christmas song of all time.

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  1. Blogger nicole | 11:48 AM |  

    Those are great choices; I have two more! For early in the Christmas season, when I'm stressed out and feel like there's no end in sight: "Hard Candy Christmas" by Dolly Parton, from "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." And when it's closer and I feel more hopeful, "Maybe This Christmas" by Ron Sexsmith.

  2. Blogger Sam | 10:21 PM |  

    Those are both great choices and contenders for the list. Dolly Parton is a goddess, and Ron Sexsmith's song is one of those wonderfully hopeful songs that I adore.

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