By Jack Rico
Every Christmas holiday that comes and goes, we always hear the usual classic standards of the genre on the radio and malls such as White Christmas from Bing Crosby, Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee and Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms, amongst others. But Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You ushered in a changing of the guard for Christmas music, making it possible to listen something else than the classics. Regrettably, her 1994 global hit phenomenon was it. No other producer, lyricist or singer could even come close to her and her holiday success. But 20 years later, the music industry has amassed a repertoire of holiday songs that could become classics in their own right and even rival Mariah Carey Christmas fiefdom.
Here are the Top 5 we are banking on to keep us singing their songs into the next generation:
5. Leona Lewis – “One More Sleep”
Leona Lewis, the former UK X-Factor winner, has managed to ingratiate herself in Christmas music lore with this wintery wonderland melody that gets you right in your pine loving heart. Brimming with jingle bells and Motown brass, it’s hard not to sway your hips all over the living room singing, “I’ve got five more nights of sleeping on my own/ Four more days until you’re coming home.” The result is more twinkles than you and your Christmas tree can handle.
4. Celine Dion – “Christmas Eve”
You can never deny Celine Dion’s power vocals and the feeling she brings to a song. “Christmas Eve” is a power pop song cloaked in a holiday tune filled with a catchy hook and some nice, warm and fuzzy lyrics. Today’s artists usually sing new Christmas songs without a hint of Christmas flair, but not Celine. She gives it all the mistletoe goo you need for December while maintaining her trademark nasal imprint on the song.
3. Dave Barnes – “Holiday Made For Two”
I had never heard of Dave Barnes (who John Mayer really seems to like a lot) until I was searching for some good new Christmas music online. I stumbled onto his Verry Merry Christmas album and instantly fell for his raspy voice which reminded me a bit of Bryan Adams. As I played all the songs, 3 songs stood out – Christmas Tonight (ft. Hillary Scott from Lady Antebellum), Meet Me at the Mistletoe and my favorite of the lot, Holiday Made For Two. This last tune occupies a cross between pop, R&B, acoustic folk, and an after-hours jazz vibe. Barnes voice is soothing and soulful and the whole album is a gem for finding some wonderful Christmas covers and some new melodies.
2. Jordin Sparks – “Christmas Time to Me”
No other song or artist on this list has been influenced more by Mariah Carey than Jordin Spark’s Christmas Time to Me. As soon as we’re introduced to her first vocals, it’s almost impossible not to think it’s Mariah singing the sequel to All I Want For Christmas Is You. Everything about the song suggests it and that is a good thing. Even if it sounds eerily like Carey’s classic, anything that sounds remotely near that song is going to be catchy and memorable. I first discovered the song while watching The Best Man Holiday movie and immediately was hooked. I found it on Spotify and have burnt a hole on my iPhone from playing so much. Same will happen to you.
1. Kelly Clarkson – “Underneath the Tree”
In my opinion, this is the best Christmas song since Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. Influenced from its retro sound and energetic tempo, as soon as I heard “Underneath the Tree” it already sounded like a classic that was unearthed from the lost Motown archives from the 1950’s. And then hearing it sung from Kelly Clarkson’s voice (who I think has the best female voice in the buisness, sorry Xtina), it will eventually cement it as a true holiday classic, you just wait and see. This is not just a great Christmas song, it’s a great song period. Full of head-bopping melodies, mellifluous harmonies, biting rhythm changes and a wonderful jamming orchestra, this contagious energy will make snap your fingers straight through the New Year.
If you have other songs that you think are better than these selections, please leave your suggestions below in the comments section.