I brought a slight cold back with me from New York. It’s left me with reduced energy. Since I didn’t feel like working on anything important yesterday, I decided to spend an inordinate amount of time compiling the perfect Christmas music mix CD. I think I’ve succeeded (at least to my own satisfaction). Here’s the playlist:

  1. O Holy Night by Josh Groban. “O Holy Night” has always been my favorite Christmas carol. Groban’s isn’t my favorite version of this song, but I really like his voice on this track. I think the key to singing this song — like most songs — is sounding like you really believe it. He does a great job doing that, and I think this song fits his voice well.
  2. Silent Night, Holy Night by John Denver. I love the purity of John Denver’s voice. His acoustic version of this classic is so simple and pure — it makes what used to be a rather boring song for me into a beautiful little ode.
  3. All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey. It’s really tough to get a new Christmas song to succeed. Pop singers keep trying, but very few of them actually become classics. This song, co-written by Carey, is an exception. It’s a great pop song and a new classic. As I read somewhere, one of the things that makes this song so successful is its throw back to the older pop sound of the Beach Boys. It’s a great song.
  4. Go Tell It on the Mountain by Mahalia Jackson. Mahalia Jackson’s voice is one of the few voices that can truly be said to be incomparable. I have a CD of her Christmas music; every track on it is great. This song reminds me of my childhood for some reason — maybe we listened to it a lot when I was a kid.
  5. Frosty the Snowman by Gene Autry. This is the original version of the song. You can’t have Christmas without Frosty! When I was three, my mom and I were living temporarily with my great grandparents. It snowed that Christmas, so on Christmas Eve we built a snowman. The next day he was gone. My mom had torn him down over night, but she told me that Santa Claus had taken him to the North Pole so that he wouldn’t melt. It totally freaked me out.
  6. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let it Snow! by Dean Martin. Hearing his version of this song made me realize for the first time just how adult it is — it’s about guy who doesn’t want to leave his date’s house on a snowy night. It’s kind of a seduction song. I love it!
  7. I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Frank Sinatra. I’ve always loved this song, and Sinatra’s version is smooth and full of disappointed longing. I also like that he avoids being too cheesy, which is easy to become with this song.
  8. Little Drummer Boy by Josh Groban. Ok, I’ll admit it — I kind of like Josh Groban’s music. I know it’s cheesy and produced for the masses, but I often have very mainstream tastes. I bought his new Christmas album last week. Overall, it’s a little too mega-church sounding for me. I especially dislike his duet with Faith Hill on “The First Noel.” But I really like his version of this song. (There are several other tracks that I like — maybe I’ll write a review of it later.)
  9. Children Go Where I Send Thee by Natalie Merchant. This is the track that I’m least familiar with — it’s the only song I’ve included that I haven’t listened to for years. At first, I just listened to it because PJ loves Merchant, but then I started to really like it. It’s funky. And it’s kind of a shorter version of the “12 Days of Christmas.”
  10. O Holy Night by Mahalia Jackson. For me, this is the definitive version of my favorite carol. She’s magnificent singing this song.
  11. Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano. This is just a fun song. I love singing along with it, especially in the grocery store!
  12. A Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives. My mom loves Burl Ives’s Christmas music, so I grew up listening to this. Consequently, it’s become synonymous with Christmas for me. You can’t have one without the other.
  13. Hard Candy Christmas by Dolly Parton. Strictly speaking, this probably isn’t really a Christmas song, but how could I resist putting a track from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas on my mix CD?
  14. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Bing Crosby. I know it’s probably break some gay rule not to include Judy Garland’s version of this song, but I find myself liking Crosby’s lighter touch. Garland’s version is simply heartbreaking in its pathos. Crosby lightens it up a little without losing the fundamental emotion.
  15. Winter Wonderland by Ella Fitgerald. I like this swinging version of this song. This is now the only version of this song in my book.
  16. Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt. The material girl’s Christmas carol.
  17. Ave Maria by John Groban. This is another track from his new album that I really like. Not being Catholic, I wasn’t raised with this song as a Christmas carol, but I’ve always liked its reverential tone. Groban does a great job with it.
  18. What Child Is This? by Mahalia Jackson. Another Jackson classic. I’ve never liked any other version of this carol. I’m pretty sure Jackson could have sung anything and I would have loved it.
  19. The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole. This is the last song on my playlist. I thought I should end with a classic, and Cole’s smooth voice makes me feel like I’m sitting in front of the fireplace on a snowy night with a glass of scotch or brandy in my hand.

So, that’s my perfect Christmas mix CD. What stands out about this list to me is that I have a strange juxtaposition of deeply religious music and blatantly secular music. I definitely like the transition — if I can even call it that — of going from the majesty of “O Holy Night” to the very different kind of joy of “Feliz Navidad” or from the secular love song of “All I Want for Christmas” to the gospel sound of Mahalia Jackson singing “Go Tell It On the Mountain.” Maybe it’s an odd mix, but I’m really enjoying listening to it.

I would love to hear other people’s suggestions too! Feel free to suggest other tracks.