’Tis the season for holiday classic tunes from “All I Want For Christmas Is You” to “White Christmas” to be played ad nauseam. Heck, there’s even a website (whamageddon.com) that challenges folks to go as long as they can without hearing the original Wham classic “Last Christmas.” (Yes, we’re tempting you with that link…)
Yet while overplayed classics spin repeatedly on the radio, TV specials, and countless Spotify playlists all season, there are various songs, off the beaten path, that can get you in that yuletide mood without making you cringe like Scrooge at your yearly ugly sweater office party. Thankfully you don’t even need an excuse to skip that this year.
Here are seven songs that are sure to shake your pandemic blues away and get you decking those halls. The list follows in no particular order. But speaking of the holidays…
1. “Dominick the Donkey”
Chances are you heard this song before. Think of it as a distant cousin of the ever-annoying “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” but with more lunacy and better execution. The song, written by Ray Allen, Sam Saltzberg, and Sandra Merrell, and performed by Lou Monte, was recorded in 1960 and tells the tale of a donkey who helps deliver presents in Italy because Saint Nick’s reindeer can’t “climb the hills” there.
The song is a cult hit of sorts — it was featured in Family Guy, and in 2011 a campaign on BBC Radio 1 sought to make it the #3 song of the season (it landed at #3 in the UK). With a beautifully annoying chorus of “chiggity-chiggity ching, hee haw, hee haw,” you won’t even need to try to make an ass of yourself this year at Christmas.
2. “The Closing of the Year”
The teaser trailer for Robin Williams’ Toys was hilarious. It was the comedian simply doing his schtick but putting placing the word “toys” in titles of other movies; like for example, riffing on “Toys in the Hood.” Okay, maybe it was just funny then. Anyway, when the film arrived in 1992, critics tore it to pieces and it tanked at the box office.
One bright spot, however, was this quirky holiday collaboration by Prince sidekicks Wendy and Lisa and Hans Zimmer with an assist by a then-rising star Seal. The song is fun, weird, poignant, and the music video (below) features Seal in a feathered hat gloriously lifting his arms from his sides — foreshadowing his efforts in the “Kiss from a Rose” vid. The movie was ambitious and fun to look at. The song is ambitious and fun to listen to.
The above Spotify embed is actually a cover by Mike and Christian Love of The Beach Boys. Here’s Wendy and Lisa’s original:
3. “F*ck You, It’s Over”
How many holiday classics include the lyrics: “now you’re dead to me”? If you said many, well you’d be wrong. Glasvegas released a Christmas-themed EP in 2008 entitled A Snowflake Fell (and It Felt Like a Kiss), and the title track and others on it are festive, melodic, and quite simply — beautiful.
This track, however, is the ultimate kiss off song to the holidays. A slow rocker that screams, it’s the ultimate anti-holiday song. While Mariah sings of wanting you for Christmas, this Scottish band is crying out how they want nothing to do with you.
+ Read more on Flypaper: “10 Musical Charities to Give to This Holiday Season”
4. “Christmas Time Again”
This isn’t a quirky song or even offbeat like this post’s title suggests, but it’s so over the top and schmaltzy, it screams out to make the cut. Off the A Very Special Christmas Vol. 2 record, the Boston band, Extreme, led by Gary Cherone, tells us we have to do whatever it takes to make the spirit of Christmas stick around long after December 25.
“It’s up to us…make it last,” he tells us before going on a wonderful rant about how we should “pretend” this feeling lasts all year.
The song wasn’t quite as well received as their #1 hit “More Than Words,” but it’s hard not to feel “la di da, da di da” about it, because it’s so well-intentioned and the music sounds like the Radio City Christmas Show, with its masterful musical and choral arrangement. It even ends with a “Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel.” Cue the Nativity scene.
5. “If It Doesn’t Snow for Christmas”
What’s weirder than the CGI in The Irishman but not as strange as a mafioso dropping endless F-bombs in a Christmas song? Joe Pesci recreating his Vincent LaGuardia Gambini character from My Cousin Vinny some six years after the film came out for a musical comedy album. This track from the little-heard 1998 album sounds like a classic 1950s holiday song centered on a man concerned Santa won’t make it if it doesn’t snow for Christmas. The only difference is Gambini calls Saint Nick a “fat f-ck” and “fatso” throughout the song. The album plays like a really bad Saturday Night Live skit from the Jim Breuer years.
6. “Don’t Shoot Me Santa”
The Killers can be a little hit or miss, but this Christmas song is a great shot with an even better music video (that’s eerily similar to the video from this post’s header image). This wonderful pop song is essentially a duet between “Santa” and lead singer Brandon Flowers, it’s all about how Flowers doesn’t want Santa to, well, shoot him.
Oh the chorus? “Don’t shoot me Santa Claus, I’ve been a clean living boy… I promise you, did every little thing you ask me to… I can’t believe the things I’m going through.” It’s not exactly “White Christmas” is it?
The Killers have been perfecting their offbeat Christmas song game for a while now. Here’s their little collaboration with Jimmy Kimmel entitled “Joel, the Lump of Coal.”
7. “The Season’s Upon Us”
Holiday cheer very much in the spirit of Dropkick Murphys. On this song, the bad boys of Boston spin tales of dysfunctional family fun off their 2013 Signed and Sealed in Blood album, and it’s hard not to sing along with lyrics like: “There’s mischief and mayhem and songs to be sung.” Plus, in no other song will you hear of someone “defiling” a teddy bear or bringing home a big broad.
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