Ten Best Holiday Songs You Won't Hear in Starbucks

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Beck wants robots to celebrate the holidays too.
So it's that time of year again; tacky decorations abound, people in malls start to get that panicked look in their eyes, and every grocery store, gas station, and Starbucks blasts the same, tired old holiday songs (which is the most likely culprit for the season's elevated suicide rates). Because we love you, we compiled a list of the best alternative holiday songs. Some are thoughtful and eloquent, some are lovably tacky, but all were chosen because they embody the true spirit of the holidays. Pour yourself a Santa-sized glass of eggnog (that means... don't skimp on the bourbon!) and cuddle up close to your Yuletide computer screen; this is our holiday gift to you.

10. Wham - Last Christmas
This song is the confuser: "Do I hate it?  Do I love it?" Well I don't know, and I'm not sure that I mind. It's just awful enough to be lovable, and that is why it's number ten.



9. Beck - Little Drum Machine Boy
This song starts out with some pretty generic '90s drum machine beats until a robotic M.C. comes in and starts dropping rhymes. Beck then says, "That's the Chanukah Robot funk. Right about now, we're gonna drop some Chanukah science... Yea-yea." And then it's an awesome Beck song about (the aforementioned) Chanukah science, vaguely to the melody of "Little Drummer Boy." Awesome.



8. The Sonics - I Don't Believe in Christmas
This song is about harboring resentment toward the entire event of Christmas because you didn't get the gift you wanted. Well, what would the holidays be without at least one person being irrationally grinchy for selfish and materialistic reasons? (By the way, if you know anyone like this... go find them and share your eggnog with them!)



7. David Bazan - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
From Pedro the Lion's frontman, on one of his solo records, comes a cover of the old Christmas classic, with some extra verses of his own. It's haunting, all in minor chords, and Bazan sings with such heaviness. Like many things about this holiday, it is sad and beautiful. But unlike most of those things, this is actually original and sincere.

6. Bright Eyes - Blue Christmas
This is not the maudlin affair you might expect from a Bright Eyes cover of "Blue Christmas." Nor is it camped up like the Elvis version. It hits a nice middle ground and turns a song that has been ruined for me into something really listenable. (I'm sorry Elvis; I love you and once loved your cover of "Blue Christmas," but I worked in the mall in high school, so I pretty much never want to hear it again.)



5. The Pixies - Holiday Song
So this isn't strictly a holiday song... but it's called "Holiday Song," and it certainly captures the feeling of disillusionment and regret that so many people tend to feel around this time. So I will call this... the song that you blast in your car when you offer to drive to the liquor store for your wasted family just so you can escape the madness for 20 minutes.

 

 4. John Lennon - Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
Well the war isn't over... but maybe if we wish very hard, Santa (or Yoko Ono) might come down the chimney and bring us some peace. Either way, this song is beautiful and earnest, and though it's become a staple of mall holiday soundtracks, I still love it.

 

3. Bob Dylan - Must Be Santa
I came to Bob Dylan's Christmas album expecting to hate it, based on poor reviews. However, I would argue that all of the things people don't like about Bob Dylan these days ("He resembles the living dead!" "You can't understand what he's saying!" "His voice is terrible now!")  really, REALLY work for this song, which he has turned into a whimsical polka. And the video is the funniest thing I've encountered in researching this article. A near-comatose Bob pops out from behind tables and doorframes at a party full of expressive vaudevillians, surprising everyone with bottles of booze and smoking cigars. The guests do high kicks, throwing glitter and balloons into the air, and then later there's a fight. As the video ends, Bob and Santa share a meaningful slow nod. It's hilarious.


2. You're a Mean One, Mister Grinch
Sometimes, after an entire month of hearing "Jingle Bell Rock" every time I want to purchase an overpriced coffee drink, I start to feel like a Grinch. And this song is always there to remind me that I'm not alone. Wonderfully sleazy and loungey, this song will be in our hearts for many holidays to come, I think. And in case you get any ideas, Mister Grinch, remember that "I wouldn't touch you with a... thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole!"

 

1. Joni Mitchell - River
"Now it don't snow here, it stays pretty green..."  I think all of us in South Florida can relate to Joni as she croons about being in sunny California for the holidays, wishing for a frozen river to skate away on. This song is number one because it captures the joy, sadness, nostalgia, hope, and fear that are par for the course at this time of year. Although Joni rips the melody of "Jingle Bells" in the intro, you hardly notice because it's so lovely.  It is entirely unironic, and only Joni could pull it off with such beauty.


 
Honorable Mention:
Only Thieves - Hammered for the Holidays
Though these Tallahassee natives are little-known outside of our fair capital, I had to throw this in there because it so perfectly captures the spirit of the season. Plus, there's the sound of a beer can being popped 12 seconds in. I'm into it. (Click to Download it FREE!)

WORST Holiday Song:
Adam Sandler - The Chanukah Song
Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, knows this song... but nobody likes it.  And after 15 years of hearing it every holiday season, I'm tired of hearing it. "The Chanukah Song" was kind of funny for the first five years or so, but now it is time for it to die. Where's that homicidal Robot Santa from Futurama when you need him???


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