Around the studio, we’re all fans of Christmas music. Despite our shared love of holiday hits, this is where consensus ends. Pop chart toppers? Jazzy favourites? Indie underground? Choral institutions? Just as in any family, discussions around Christmas music can get pretty contentious here. To quell the debate, we decided to lovingly assert our opinions by sharing our favourite underrated holiday songs that don’t get as much airplay as we think they deserve. Sorry, not today, Mariah.
Andrea Fraser-Winsby, Content Coordinator
“Pretty Paper” by Willie Nelson
“Willie Nelson was one of my parents’ favourite artists when I was growing up, and he was on our record player pretty much every day. Willie’s soft, sad, twangy voice and his Spanish guitar are so comforting to me, and whenever I hear his voice sing literally anything, I immediately feel like I’ve put on my favourite sweater. Plus, the song reminds us to stop and look outside of our busy Christmas bubbles. It’s the perfect holiday feeling.”
Gerilee McBride, Production Manager
“Surfer’s Christmas List” by The Surfaris
“I really dig surf music and when it’s combined with a fun holiday it’s even better.”
John Burns, Story Director
Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten
“During Christmas, I’m a fan of sacred music — it is, after all, a sacred holiday. And all year I’m a fan of choral music. So I take special delight in Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, a 25-minute setting of nativity-themed carols for children’s choir and harp. Yes, the only instruments are the sounds of angels — those sounds that make the blood of the Grinch and Satan run cold.
“Speaking of Satan, WQXR’s Jeff Spurgeon has a great account of Ceremony‘s ‘This Little Babe’ and the mighty battle it relates of Baby J. v. Lucifer — or, as Spurgeon describes it, ‘the battle of good and evil fought and won by a baby born in obscure poverty.’ The lyrics (written in the late 1500s) begin this way: ‘This little Babe so few days old is come to rifle Satan’s fold / All hell doth at his presence quake, though he himself for cold do shake / For in this weak unarmèd wise the gates of hell he will surprise.’ Now that’s how to kick-start the holiday spirit!”
Kristina Roberts, Project Manager
“Carol of the Bells” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra
“This is music I really like when it comes on the radio. Joyous, uplifting, energetic. Simply put … love it.”
Lauren Cheal, Senior Content Strategist
Norma Larson, Studio Manager
“Please Come Home for Christmas” by Charles Brown
“This song isn’t necessarily underrated, but this version is. For some reason I love the combination of the blues and holiday music. It just seems to filter out the saccharine sweetness and make the song even more poignant.”
Sam Reynolds, President and Founder
“Petit garçon” by Nana Mouskouri
“Like any kid at French immersion school in the 1980s, I was initiated early into the musical world of Nana Mouskouri, especially at Christmas. Her French Christmas album played nonstop at our school over the holidays. Whenever I hear ‘Petit garçon,’ I am transported back into Mme. Doucette’s Grade 1 classroom with the comforting smell of construction paper and pencil shavings. We had a Christmas concert that year, and this was the song our class performed. Audrey Roburn had a much nicer voice than mine but she got the flu, so I sang her solo part. Just me and Nana. Incidentally, for years I thought Nana Mouskouri was an old Greek grandma and it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I actually saw an album cover and realized that ‘Nana’ was just her first name and she was actually a gorgeous Mediterranean version of Audrey Hepburn.”
We hope you are warm and cozy for the holidays this year, and your favourite things get the respect they deserve. To contribute to your coziness, please enjoy this Spotify playlist of all our underrated favourites listed above, along with some honourable mentions.