Christmas Song Challenge: Which of your favorites can pass the test?

Friday, December 21, 2012
On Facebook yesterday, I posted a confession that drew dozens of responses: The revelation that this is my favorite Christmas song: Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You."

And not just that I like it, but that it meets 100 percent of my personal needs for Christmas music. I can listen to it -- and only it -- repeating time after time, and not tire of it. Its chord changes remain energizing, its sentiment resonant, its rhythm scheme vibrant, even after I've listened to it for hours.

I'm not a Mariah Carey fan. I can't offhand name another of her songs. But over the last few years, this song, written by Carey and Walter Afanasieff, has grown on me to the point where ...

OK, to the point where I listened to it today looping nonstop for 90 minutes. And could have gone longer if the phone hadn't rung.

I can see where this song wouldn't work for someone who's lonely at Christmastime. But I suspect it meets some abstract criteria for pleasing, energizing music composition. (Any music experts out there like to explain? Comment below.)

The reaction from my friends and relatives included predictable disapproval. (Scott Kleinberg: "I just put in for more vacation time so I can mentally get over the news you just broke here.")

But others offered their One Song choices. Before I ask yours, here are some of theirs:

Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krause, "The Wexford Carol": A perfectly lovely piece, but not enough variety or energy to justify an infinite loop.

Karen Carpenter's "Merry Christmas, Darling": OK, I guess. But her voice is flat, emotionally and tonally. And would you listen to it for 90 minutes straight? If you did, would you be willing to listen to it some more after that?

My wife needs Irma Thomas' version of "Oh, Holy Night" at Christmas, but even she admits she couldn't listen to it loop for 90 minutes. (In fairness, she says she knows of no song she could stand that much.) She says she could take any of Vince Guaraldi's Christmas melodies nonstop -- including "Skating" -- and I agree. But instrumentals have an edge: By their nature, they're unintrusive and don't wear out their welcome so easily. So I'm going to limit the discussion to vocals.

Relient K's "Merry Christmas, Here's to Many More" is a great addition to the holiday playlist. (Thanks, Thom Martin.) But not enough variety for repetition and not enough energy to sustain listening for more than an hour.

John Denver's "Please, Daddy (Don't Get Drunk on Christmas)"? Nice sentiment, but I defy you to listen twice in a row, let along for an hour and a half. Same thing with Jackson Brown's "The Rebel Jesus."

Of all the Facebook suggestions for vocals that hold up to repeated listening, the one that comes closest in my mind was suggested by Edie Folta: The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York." Like "All I Want for Christmas," it starts out slow and a little off-key, but then builds to a bigger finish. (But the uplift is undercut by lyrics that include "scumbag" and "maggot" -- bonus points in my world, but not for everyone, I'll admit.)

All right, then. Now it's your turn to take the Christmas song challenge: Which Christmas vocal can you listen to again and again for (oh, let's say) 60 minutes straight without burning out? Take an hour while wrapping presents or shoveling or cleaning the house and then share below.

(The author is not responsible for any outbreaks of domestic discord that ensue.)

P.P.S. The Mariah Carey-Jimmy Fallon version of "All I Want for Christmas" with a little-kid chorus is delightful, but the lack of polish runs thin after repeated listening.

P.P.S. The Cheetah Girls version sucks.

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