Top 10 Holiday Songs of 2011: My iPod, Seasonal Edition

Ho Ho Ho my Holiday readers, and a Merry Christmas Eve! In the spirit of the season, I’ve decided to innocuously share a (once again) entirely subjective playlist – this time of my favorite holiday songs – spinning on my iPod this Christmas season. These songs have been discerningly qualified, and sequenced, as the Top 10 Christmas Songs of 2011, ranging in genre from singer-songwriter to urban pop. Enjoy the countdown by clicking on the song titles below or Click here to listen to all these songs in a consecutive playlist and a very Merry Christmahanakwanza to you and yours!

The Killers - The Cowboys' Christmas Ball

#10 The Killers – The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball Over the past six seasons, The Killers have consistently delivered what now amounts to a diverse schmoragsborg of standalone seasonal tunes. Releasing a Christmas single each holiday season, their 2011 offering – which supports the (RED) Campaign fighting AIDS in Africa – is a light-hearted, appropriately campy cut decked out with a litany of Wild West and “Home on the Range” lyrical references and a strum-along, rolling banjo beat. This may divert from The Killers’ signature sonic template just a bit, but ’tis the season to shake it up, Springsteen-style I say.

OneRepublic - Christmas Without You

#9   OneRepublic – Christmas Without You Offering up their first seasonal single to date, OneRepublic delivers an original, bluesy mid-tempo piece that may not conjure up many cheery seasonal sentiments (with lyrics like “I don’t feel so wonderful on this cold winter night”) but is a winning combination of heartfelt storytelling and old-school sound. Fashioned with a faint organ background and emotive vocals, creative force Ryan Tedder has crafted a genuine, expressive song that comfortably sits as one of the season’s most original works.

#8   Jack Johnson – In the Morning In his typical singer-songwriter fashion, Jack Johnson delivers a holiday song that could otherwise be confused for just another cut from his extensive back catalogue of acoustic-leaning tunes. On this sleepy, breezy track, Johnson sets the Christmas morning scene for us – with some clever wordplay and love-another-declarations like “these moments are the only gifts we need.” While Johnson’s sound can be criticized for being consistent to a fault, his original lyrics and enjoyably relaxed performance here is perfectly suited for a quiet moment by the roaring fireplace and sipping some hot cocoa. Cheers!

#7   She & Him – Christmas Wish When deciding which She & Him selection to pull from their 2011 full-length A Very She & Him Christmas record, I was rendered utterly indecisive for quite some time. Upon listening to the folk/indie pop duo – made up of New Girl Zooey Deschanel and musician M. Ward – each and every song off of their fine seasonal debut album bleeds together, consisting a sound so unified that it demands your closest attention to even discern when the next track has arrived. That said, “Christmas Wish” was the winning selection from the Starbucks-favored record (if you’ve been to Starbucks this holiday season, you’ll undoubtedly have heard this song) as its amalgamation of perfect harmonies and whimsical strum-along qualities make a simple delight that goes down smoothly.

#6   Haley Reinhart featuring Casey Abrams – Baby, It’s Cold Outside American Idol Season 10 alums Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams may have forged divergent musical identities during the season’s early-going – and, in the case of 8th-place finisher Abrams, never fully realized his identity – but after listening to the duo share amazing jazz vocal riffs on-stage this season, a standalone duet recording post-Idol was inevitable. Thankfully, the wait only had to last until this holiday season, as 3rd-place finisher Reinhart and Abrams deliver a jazzy, understated performance of the timeless Christmas duet. Their recorded vocals may not be characterized by the same passionate vigor that their live performance possessed, but its a delight to simply hear the two skillful singers share a seasonal song this year. Now if only Reinhart’s label will hurry up already and get her solo debut album recorded…

#5   Kelly Clarkson – I’ll Be Home For Christmas Never releasing a full-length holiday record to-date, the American Idol Season 1 winner has, over the years, a smattering of warm holiday recordings to her name. This season’s offering, a jazzy, rhythm & blues-infused interpretation of the well-worn holiday classic, is an inviting track – not for its unconventional treatment, but rather due to Clarkson’s intimately powerful vocal performance. Featuring a minimalist accompaniment of light percussion, piano, and very welcomed trumpet section, Clarkson’s vocals are brought to the forefront and truly offer a fresh rendition of a song that, quite frankly, has a growing-stale expiration date. Kudos to Clarkson and her production team for favoring the understated over the bombast.

#4   Sarah Bareilles – Love Is Christmas Fresh off of her winning turn at the judges table on NBC’s The Sing Off, singer-songwriter delivers a heartfelt, wonderfully intimate ballad this holiday season – a piano performance that, similar to Johnson’s above, could comfortably sit alongside her varied catalogue of keyboard-driven pop songs. Bareilles’s vocals on this beautiful recording are angelically layered, creating a heavenly sonic atmosphere that beckons for repeat plays. One of the most tasteful performances of this holiday season, cherish this holiday chestnut for numerous Christmas seasons to come.

#3   Justin Bieber featuring Boyz II Men – Fa La La It is quite ironic that, as 2011 comes to a close and Justin Bieber’s career trajectory has never bulleted higher, the soon-to-be-eighteen year old has yet to release a proper, non-holiday studio LP, with only numerous EPs and a barrage of standalone singles to his name thus far. That said, throughout much of this his first proper LP – the chart-topping Under The Mistletoe – Bieber demonstrates an artistic fortitude and vocal progression that is quite impressive. While there  were several deserving cuts that could have been pulled for this countdown – see originals “Mistletoe”, “Only Thing I Ever Get For Christmas” and “All I Want Is You” as prime contenders – the Boyz II Men duet “Fa La La” gets the nod by a nose, as the vocal harmonies and indelible chorus of fa-la-la-las is just too hard to dismiss. Couple this with a buoyant production from Bernard Harvey and you have a suitable formula for holiday fun.

#2   Michael Bublé featuring The Puppini Sisters – Jingle Bells Similar to Bieber above, Michael Bublé has enjoyed tremendous blockbuster success this year with his first full-length holiday record, the October-released Christmas. Likewise, choosing a singular highlight from what critics have agreed is one of the strongest modern holiday records ever released was quite the arduous process (see “It’s Beginning To Look Like Christmas”, “Blue Christmas” and Thalia-duet “Mis Deseos / Feliz Navidad” as other clear standouts). That said, “Jingle Bells” featuring The (exceedingly peppy) Puppini Sisters was the obvious choice upon first-listen, as this throwback track’s frenzied energy harkens back to an Andrew Sisters-era of big band swing and pristine harmonies. Equipped with a full orchestra and the dynamic Sisters’ accompanying vocals, Bublé shines on an exuberant track to keep the holiday party in full-swing.

#1   Mariah Carey & John Legend – When Christmas Comes After giving birth to her twin son (Moroccan) and daughter (Monroe), Carey returned to the studio this summer to add additional vocals, alongside R&B veteran John Legend, to this album gem pulled from Carey’s 2010 holiday release Merry Christmas II You. With little time to give it the single-treatment last season, Carey and her label, Island Def Jam, have deservedly re-released the Motown-leaning cut as a single duet this Christmas season, with a terrific, Charlie Brown Christmas-featured music video to boot. Featuring some very appealing Bacharach-sounding horns and efficacious vocals from Carey and Legend alike, this song is deserved of perpetual play throughout the holiday season.

So there you have it folks! I read every single comment you leave below, so let me know what you thought!

One thought on “Top 10 Holiday Songs of 2011: My iPod, Seasonal Edition

  1. Pingback: Songs Spinning on My iPod: February 2013 « The Social Sonic Traveler

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