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Tweak the Playlist: 8 Festive Tunes to Light Up Your Holiday…or Not

Words by Caitlin Tremblay.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for music. Everything is low-pressure, festive and fun. Some artists release albums full of covers, while others strike out on the path —paved by Mariah Carey and John Lennon— to release the next ‘great modern holiday classic’.

But let’s be real; while some holiday-themed musical endeavors become instant classics, others fall severely short, leaving us plugging our ears and ducking for cover. Here, back from the deep underbelly of YouTube and SoundCloud, we go through the best and worst holiday tunes found around the world. Some in genres not necessarily known for contributions to the holiday music canon, but worth a listen (or two) nonetheless. From Christmas dubstep and catchy K-Pop to Iroquois legends about evergreen trees and very bad europop, here are some do’s and dont’s for spicing up your holiday playlist.


Reggaeton’s Yule Log

Reggaeton goes Christmas is an easy way to feel festive without having to give up a good beat. A stand out on the Christmas-ton mixtape is “En Esta Navidad” by Cruzito. The beat is infectious–enough to warrant more than a little bump and grind under the mistletoe. Probably not the best choice for your office holiday party but perfect for your own Christmas soiree. Other standouts on the mixtape include the first 20 seconds of “La Chimenea” by Andy Boy and “En Navidad” by Jowell & Randy.


Dubstep Into the Holidays

Ah, the little album that couldn’t. Released in 2011 this album gets points for its wide-range of holiday songs, but alas, the bass drops are only mediocre at best, though the “Linus & Lucy” remix is a pleasant surprise, as is “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” Someone make a whole Dubstep Nutcracker, please and thanks. The main thing this album proves is that “12 Days of Christmas” is the most annoying holiday song of all time, especially in a dubstep remix. “Deck the Halls” is so bad that it borders on good. It’s got a twerk-y bass drop that takes too long to show up to the party. Stick to the Nutcracker tracks, they seem to work the best as dubstep remixes.


The Wonder Girls Catch the Spirit

Just released this past October is an impossibly catchy holiday song from the Wonder Girls called “Best Christmas Ever” off of A Very Special Christmas 25th Anniversary album. The K-pop song, which appears on the album sandwiched between Rascal Flatts and Amy Grant, holds its own. Plus it embodies the excitement of the holiday season the way only a K-pop beat can; slowly, but surely getting stuck in your head from now until Sunye’s wedding. Also on the album? Train, Jewel and Dave Matthews Band.


Jeremy Fisher Likes Snow, Apparently

Canadian folk crooner Jeremy Fisher’s “Snowflakes” is a little more pop than fans are accustomed, but it’s a refreshing take on a holiday song. Like “Let it Snow” and “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” the song is a simple celebration of the magic of snowfall and being in love during the season of snow. Secular celebration. A musical Festivus. “Let me kiss snowflakes off your tongue” is possibly both the coolest and weirdest holiday lyric ever. Plus the church bells at the end are a nice touch, even if they feel slightly out of place.


A New Take on a Classic from Ellie G

Ellie Goulding is the perfect singer to revamp a classic, and revamp she does. Her version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” doesn’t stray too far from the original, but it doesn’t have to because her uniquely raspy voice does the job just fine. YouTube commenters want the girl to do a Christmas album, which is perhaps the only thing YouTube commenters have ever been right about. Ever.


Europop Does Santa via Aza

Released last year, Ukrainian singer Aza’s “Hunky Santa” is quite possibly the worst “sexy” Christmas tune this side of “Santa Baby.” She speaks more then sings plus, based on the lyrics, it’s not even about being attracted to Santa, it’s about a role-playing situation. Basically, it’s a Santa fantasy. A Santasy? The over 600,000 views this little gem has on YouTube are probably due to exposure Aza received this fall when she sued Carly Rae Jepsen. Aza says “Call Me Maybe” copied “Hunky Santa.” Our humble opinion: It does not. At all. Not even a little.

Listen at your own risk.


Jack Parow’s Xmas Rhymes

South African Rapper Jack Parow’s “Merry Xmas” is great for one main reason: The stunningly seamless use of the “Joy to the World” orchestral and chorus. It’s pure production craftsmanship. Found on the special edition of Eksie Ou, the track is mellow and super-festive. The best line? “Merry, merry Christmas and happy, happy times….” “Happy, happy times” is the new “happy holidays.”


Sappy Spoken Word Songs

Grammy award-winning Iroquois singer Joanne Shenandoah has a truly beautiful spoken-word story about the evergreen tree set to music. It’s a story of why the evergreen tree never loses its color. The Creator asked all the trees to watch over the earth while he attended other worlds, and the trees promised they would. It took the Creator a while to get back to the earth, and some of the trees grew tired of waiting and fell asleep. When the Creator came back he found only the evergreen trees were still awake. And now every fall and winter all the trees lose their leaves except the evergreens to serve as a reminder to keep your promises. It’s a beautiful story with a message that hits home hard, at a time of year when giving thanks and reconnecting with family is what it’s all about.

Need more to do during the holiday season? See the top 10 Winter Festivals that are kicking off now, here.

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