Saturday, December 24, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Pop Songs- #2

Making the decision for which song would be number one was tough between the top two... but in the end I had to make a decision.  One reason in the "pro" column for the following song is because its related to a super fun memory from my past... but ultimately, it had to be the runner-up.  Good effort Mariah.  You were close to that top spot... but in honor of your twins, you'll be representing the #2. 

My number two Christmas pop song is "All I Want For Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey.  Sure... it's over played.  Sure... its been remade.  But let's be real.  For my generation, this song is the pinnacle of holiday classics.  Mariah is the last big pop star to release a holiday album where a single instantly has become a holiday staple.  It takes a lot for a contemporary artist to be considered amonst the old-time greats like Bing Crosby or Johnny Mathis... but Mariah's song is one of those that you hear everywhere, in every store, on every station, every year. 

The reason it's towards the top for me is for a couple reasons.  Well first of all, back in the day I was OBSESSED with Mariah Carey.  I mean... my freshman year of college (as many of my current friends can attest) I had an entire two walls covered with Mariah Carey posters and photos.  She was my ultimate artist.  I knew every song to every word.  My uber-fan status was so well known that during my freshman year, that is probably one of the main descriptors people would have used if you asked them about me.

Mariah released "Merry Christmas" when I was still in high school, and it was played on repeat starting in November until mid-January.  I believe it was my freshman year when it came out... and somehow I was able to talk a group of my girl friends to back me up as I took the solo and lip-synched this song at the Mendon High School holiday talent show.  My mom made me a silky santa-inspired robe... I wore a hot dress... bought some girly heeled shoes at Goodwill... and I even borrowed a bra from my well-endowed neighbor lady so I could stuff it.  In hind sight... I was a drag queen.  Yep.  I was a drag queen before I even knew what a drag queen was.  I was so clueless about my sexuality as a 9th grader that I just thought that I was paying homage to my favorite artist by dressing up as her and lip syncing it in front of the entire school.  I knew it would get some laughs... and I was so competitive that I really just wanted to win.  But let me tell you... that stage got WORKED!  :-)  Hahahaha.....  I went out there and I felt like I WAS Mariah Carey.  I sashayed.  I shimmied.  I belted.  I performed every word with so much gusto and heart that I had the audience on their feet at the end.  Long before anyone knew of RuPaul's Drag Race, I was out there "lip syncing for my life".  :-) 

Although embarassing to watch on video now, I still love that clip.  I love that I was this clueless 9th-grader who was performing for the rush and the thrill of the crowd.  I love that I wasn't afraid to get out there and be myself.  And in hindsignt, I love that I brought a little bit of diva to my small town high school.  I call that a gay victory.  :-) 

Fast forward a few years.... after Mariah's semi-insane ice-cream-cart-pushing, tshirt-stripping, word-slurring pit stop at TRL, my love and dedication for all things Mariah started to waver... but still to this day, I know most all the lyrics (pre-2000), and I can't get enough of her Christmas album at the holiday time.

For these reasons, I present to you my #2 Christmas Pop song of all time: "All I Want For Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey: 

Friday, December 23, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Pop Songs #3

Only three songs left in the countdown!  This one is by the legendary Elton John.  I first came to really love and appreciate this song in college.  During my first year, I was living in the residence halls, and I totally remember a girl on my floor, Megan Stojic, talking about how "Step Into Christmas" was her favorite Christmas song.  I think I even remember her telling us all some story about how her and her sister used to put on their favorite Christmas socks and dance around the house to it.  She put the song on and danced around her dorm room.  :-)  One of those random things that just always sticks with you.

I'm pretty sure right after that I went and downloaded Step Into Christmas (for free... on like LimeWire or something... because that's how it was done in 1999 baby... hahaha).  Ever since then, its been on rotation every year for Christmas.  I just love how fun and carefree it is.  One of those songs that you can't help but bob your head to.... or put on your Christmas socks and dance around the house to.  :-)

A quick funny story about this song...  You know that commerical that is out right now where they show the people singing along to Elton John's "Rocket Man" and getting the lyrics completely wrong?  Well I sang a line to "Step into Christmas" wrong for the longest time.  For some reason I thought the lyric "Hop aboard the turntable" was actually "Hop aboard your chimney, boy"... as if Elton was singing this song directly to Santa Claus, hopping from chimney to chimney.  Hahaha!  I mean, the lyric was definitely wrong, but the chimney reference applies to Christmas, so it sorta made sense.... right?  Right?... (*crickets*).... Alright, I'm an idiot.  :-)

Enjoy song #3: "Step Into Christmas" by Elton John

Thursday, December 22, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Pop Songs: #4

So you know I take things like these countdowns very seriously... :). Almost just as serious as the decision of what song will be number one is what song will be number FOUR. Hahaha!

The song at #4 is one I consider to be one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded... Holiday or otherwise. From start to finish, this song has a delicate beauty to it that makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Add in the lyrics that exude such a hopeful spirit for the season, and you've got one amazing holiday tune!

The song is "Light a Candle" by the contemporary Christian vocal group Avalon. There was a time when Avalon was on the top of favorite musical artists list. The released some pretty incredible albums back in the late 90's and early 2000's. In 2000 they put out a holiday album called "Joy" and it still is one of my favorite Christmas CD's. For me, "Light A Candle" is by far the standout track. Just listen and I think you'll know why.

I've got some fond and impactful memories of this song. During the holiday season of 2000, I went to Saginaw and saw Avalon perform a holiday concert. I went with my friends Lisa and Allison. It was a great concert and Avalon did a signing afterwards. It was so awesome for me to meet this group that I loved! One of my first celebrity geek-out moments :)

Then in 2001, after the 9/11 tragedy, I remember there was a nation-wide candlelight vigil where people were encouraged to go out on their porches and light a candle in honor of those who lost their lives. I went to Lisa and Allison's house in Big Rapids (because at that time I was living in the residence halls and had no porch). We sat on the porch and blasted this song while we lit our candles. Although it wasn't holiday time, the hope and promise of this song was so poignant that it was perfect for the moment. It's a moment I'll never forget.

Enjoy #4: "Light a Candle" by Avalon

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Pop Songs- #5

We're getting closer to #1 folks!  We've got a super fun song at #5... by one of the most legendary music artists of all time: Paul McCartney.  The song is "Wonderful Christmastime."

I love this song because from start to finish it is just full of happiness.  Between the synthesizers and the very sing-along-able lyrics, it just always puts me in a good mood.  The video is full of cheeky cheesiness, including some awesome 80's style "special effects".

One thing I didn't know about this song until I did a little research is Paul McCartney recorded this song completely on his own.  His band Wings is featured in the video, but for the recording they had no part.  Pretty cool, and very talented to record and mix such a classic holiday song all by yourself. 


12 Days of Christmas Pop Songs- #6

We've made it halfway though the countdown!  And I'm happy to report that #6 is the last semi-depressing song on the list.  Hahaha!  I was reflecting on some of the previous songs and there are some serious ones in there for sure.  After we get through this song, I promise its only songs of hope and fun for the rest of the countdown.

 The song at #6 is "Do They Know It's Christmas" by the artists of Band Aid back in the 80's.  I've always enjoyed the song... but listening to the lyrics, its not something to get you excited about Christmas.  There are some pretty sad lyrics about the hunger in Africa, and I don't know about you... but when I'm preparing to eat a thick piece of Christmas ham its hard to be reminded of the starving people all over the world... but alas... this song has become a big hit over the years. 

I have to be honest with you about this selection.  I was really thinking that it was going to be lower in the list until I pulled up the YouTube link for it. If you haven't watched the video, or seen the collection of people pulled together for this song, then you HAVE to watch.  It's crazy in hindsight to see all of the really big names in music that came together relatively early in their musical careers to put this charity single together.  I mean, just watching the first minute you are going to see Sting, Bono of U2, George Michael, Phil Collins, Boy George and Simon from Duran Duran.  Whether your taste for 80's Europop is strong or not, its hard to deny that these are some of the biggest artists in music history.  That alone makes this a very powerful song.  Add that this song went on to be the biggest selling single in UK sales chart history when it was released, and its hard to deny this Christmas song as one of the best of all time.  I still like it every year at the holidays... so enjoy!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Pop Songs- #7

Ok... ok... ok.....

I'm prepared to get flack for this decision...

But I HAD to include this song in my top 12.  I could have tried to play the cool-kid-card and not admitted it, but I really, truly love this Christmas song.  And its one of those that makes me really feel like its Christmas when I hear it. 

The song at #7 is "This Gift" by 98 Degrees.  :-)  Yes... laugh at me.  I'll take it.  I'm a big boy.  I can handle the ridicule and embarassment.  Hahaha.

Honestly though... when 98 Degrees was in their prime, they had some seriously great tunes... and this song can easily be included in that.  Sure, their lyrics can sometimes be cheesy... and you can add this song to the list 57 songs 98 Degrees sang about proposing marriage.... but you can't deny that the group has some great pop harmonies.  Just watching this video, with Nick Lachey's bleached tips, makes me smile.  Let me just quickly add that in 2011 Nick Lachey is just as cheesy as he was back then.... I mean, have you all watched him as host of the Sing-Off?  Hahaha.  I still love him.  And watching this video also brings back my huge crush on Jeff Timmons.  Let's be real.... he was in the group for the eye candy appeal only.  The Lachey brothers and the Justin on bass held the groups vocals down.  But Jeff... damn!  He'd be a great Christmas gift, even still today!  I'm sure this video was difficult for him to film with a sweater on the whole time.  I think this is the only 98 Degrees clip you'll find where he's not wearing a wife-beater.  Hahaha!

So, without shame, I present to you my #7 Pop Christmas song of all time: "This Gift" by 98 Degrees:

12 Days of Christmas Pop Songs- #8

There are some moments in pop culture history that I wish I could have been there for to say I experienced it when it happened... and the song at #8 is one of those moments.  To me it seems like it would have been so exciting to see two worlds colliding.... new school and old school.... traditional and new wave... classic and contemporary. 

Bing Crosby can easily be considered the king of holiday music.  He's released so many albums and singles over the years, and his voice is synonomous with the holidays.  In 1977 he called on one of the most innovative, current pop artists to join him for a duet.  This man was the eccentric David Bowie.  It seemed like an interesting choice considering how conservative Bing's traditional audience was.  Bing and David recorded this song together in September of that year and taped a clip that would air during the holiday season for Bing's next televised Christmas special.  Sadly, Bing passed away just one month later.  This made the Christmas special that year even more poignant. 

I've always loved how simple this duet it, and how it seemlessly ties together Little Drummer Boy and Peace on Earth.  When you watch the entire video through and listen to the dialogue between Bing and David at the beginning, it makes the song that much more impactful.  These two different voices, from two different generations, came together to create a beautiful piece of timeless holiday music... and its one of those moments that I wish I was around for to watch it on TV when it first aired.  Still, it remeains a tune that I will listen to every single year during the holiday season. 

Here's #8: "Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth" by Bing Crosby and David Bowie:

12 Days of Christmas Pop Songs- #9

I'm so excited to write about the song at #9... mostly because its by my favorite artist of this very moment: Sara Bareilles.  I just saw Sara in concert a week ago, and it was near the top of the list of all-time momst amazing concert experiences.  My anthem album for 2011 is her most recent album "Kaleidoscope Heart".  The songs speak to my heart and have helped me get through some really difficult times that I've gone through recently. 

Although my love for Sara has grown much over the past year, I've really loved this particular song for many years.  It's a duet that she did with another great female singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson.  This song is so touching and powerful to me because its so very haunting.  Haunting isn't a typical adjective to describe a holiday song.... but its sheer beauty and the pain you can feel in their voices gives it that haunting quality.  The simple combination of piano and strings with their two voices is captivating.  I also appreciate how the song builds throughout its four minutes.  It starts with just simple piano, and by the end once all the strings and both their voices are added the sound is so rich, full and powerful. 

Yeah... so sue me that the song isn't really that happy... but in all honesty (and as I am feeling this year), not all holiday seasons are happy... and sometimes you just need that song that truly says what you are feeling. 

I'd also like to give props to whoever created the graphics for this music video.  I think it really captures the essence of the song.  So here is my #9 song: "Winter Song" by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. 

12 Days of Christmas Pop Songs- #10

The song at #10 is by an artist that I listened to back in the day when I was heavily into contemporary Christian music.  At the time, she was kind of the Britney Spears of that genre... singing fun, cute, poppy songs about God.  The artist is Stacie Orrico.

Stacie had a brief spurt of mainstream success back in 2004/2005 when she hit the pop charts with the songs "Stuck" and "(There's Got To Be) More To Life".  I was really happy for her to hit the mainstream because I had been listening to her contemporary Christian stuff long before most people had heard of her. 

Also in the early 2000's, Stacie released a Christmas album titled "Christmas Wish" and my song at #10 is the title track from the album.  From what I could research, its an original song, not a remake... but if anyone knows differently, please feel free to share.  This song has stuck with me over the years, I think simply because its so poppy and easy to sing along with.  It has a nice message about the power of hope and love.  I'm sure many of you have not heard it, so I hope you enjoy it as well.  :-)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Pop Songs- #11

We will continue the countdown with a song that many people may not be familiar, but I really love the message.  One thing some of you may not know about me is that I interned at the Country Music Association in Nashville back in 2003-04.  Back then it was a fantastic time for poppy country music, and there were many groups/artists that I fell in love with.  One of those groups is SheDaisy.  This trio of sisters released a several albums in the late 90's and early 2000's including the holiday album "Brand New Year".  I purchased the album and loved their harmonious takes on several Christmas standards... but one track really stood out to me.  It was a cover of the Bing Crosby tune "The Secret of Christmas".  (that makes two Bing covers in two days!). 
"The Secret of Christmas" has such an awesome message... but SheDaisy's take on it is so mellow, smooth and relaxing, that I love listening to it.  It gets me all Christmasy.  Plus, I think at this time of year with all the stress, its good to hear this message.  It's not about fitting everything in at Christmastime... its about fitting Christmas-like acts and deeds into your whole year.   Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Pop Songs- #12

So as I was listening to my "Holiday Favorites" playlist on iTunes this weekend, I had this fun idea to do a countdown of my favorite holiday pop songs.  There are many that I love, and I always say "it doesn't feel like Christmas until I hear ______".   I've tried to stay away from the traditional Christmas standards with this list... instead I'm focusing more on original holiday pop songs.  Now some of these may not be by the original artist, but they are my personal favorite versions.  I've narrowed my list down to my top 12, which was not an easy feat!  There were many "honorable mentions" that may need to be compiled into a separate post.  It was fun to put all these songs into an iTunes and YouTube playlist!
I will post a new song every day until Christmas Eve!  We'll count down from #12 all the way to #1!  :-)

Kickstarting out countdown, I have chosen a song made most famous (at least for my generation) by what I consider to be one of the best Christmas movies every made: Home Alone.  Although it may not be the original by Bing Crosby, I prefer this jazzier version (and I love anytime I can use the descriptor "jazzier"... hahaha).  If this song doesn't put a smile on your face or make you want to snap along, then I don't know what will.  It's a great one to sing along to... so get your pipes ready.  My #12 Christmas Pop Song is "White Christmas" by the Drifters!  Enjoy!