Christmas music is absurd. What if every holiday was celebrated with music dedicated to it that began a month in advance, played in all major stores and public places? Can you imagine a Fourth of July that began on June 1 with radio stations playing nothing but Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Grand Funk Railroad? (Actually, we are, and it’s kind of awesome.) But regardless of your stance on Christmas music, you probably need a new playlist for your holiday party. Well, ask and ye shall receive: here are five Christmas songs that kick ass, and a whole Spotify playlist for your next party.
1. “Christmas in New Zealand,” the Long Ryders
The Long Ryders are a deeply underappreciated Paisley Underground band with a wicked sense of humor and songwriting chops to match. “Christmas in New Zealand” appears on their 1985 album State of Our Union, and it just seems incredibly bizarre at first (the “Feed the world” bridge, the spoken-word interludes, and the closing line “I hope Santa’s not a skinhead”), but we defy you to listen to it without a smile on your face.
2. “Let’s Make Christmas Merry, Baby,” Amos Milburn
“Christmas” and “sexy” rarely go together, but there’re enough innuendos packed into this slow-burning Christmas jam to make Mae West blush. (Old-timey reference: nailed it) Milburn’s sultry voice and drunk-sounding piano solo (his “Jingle Bells” quote at the beginning made me laugh out loud the first time I heard it) provide the perfect accompaniment to a long evening in front of the fire.
3. “Everything is One Big Christmas Tree,” Magnetic Fields
Most Christmas songs fall into two categories: entirely too cheerful and thus depressing, or depressing and thus depressing. But this one manages to acknowledge that while Christmas can suck, if you have a beer and try not to dwell on the sad stuff, everything will be just peachy. It doesn’t hurt that Stephin Merritt imbues humor (and German?) into the lyrics — because Christmas should never be taken too seriously if you don’t want to end up bawling into your milk and cookies.
4. “Fairytale of New York,” the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl
It’s not news that “Fairytale of New York” is a Christmas song that doesn’t suck. It’s beloved in Ireland and the UK, and often voted as the #1 Christmas song of all time in polls by media outlets over there. It’s my personal favorite Christmas song, mostly because of the alternately tender and abrasive lyrics, but also because of the divine contrast between Shane MacGowan’s growl and Kirsty MacColl’s mature, feminine vocals.
5. “Another Lonely Christmas,” Prince
There are a lot of Christmas songs about loss and loneliness, but only one that will inspire the kind of sadness that makes you want to drink banana daiquiris ’til you black out. Prince tells the story of a sad, lonely man pounding down said daiquiris on Christmas as he mourns his lover’s death. I mean, can you picture that image? Prince thrives on this kind of high-camp absurdity (“Batdance,” anyone?), and “Another Lonely Christmas” is hysterically overwrought, but it has convinced me to drink a banana daiquiri on Christmas more than once.