Updated: Feb 15, 2021
As morose as this list may at first appear, these are songs and artists that have allowed me to navigate the dark night of many solitary holidays as an adult and come out the other end retaining some modicum of magic. Hey, at least I didn't spend another Christmas doing a Saw movie marathon.
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - Darlene Love
"They're singing deck the halls, but it's not like Christmas at all..."
We have big feelings during the holidays. Sometimes big feelings need an even BIGGER soundtrack. What better than a Phil Spector production to score your extravagant emotions during a COVID-19 holiday season. Let those layers of sound become your vitamin C and D. There's no virus that can break through Phil's wall of sound.
The Little Drummer Boy - Harry Simeone Chorale
"...I am a poor boy too..."
This music was used brilliantly in the trailer for Misery when the film came out during the holidays in 1990. I remember it made me like the song more because the Stephen King story visuals alongside it added a Hitchcock flavor to the music.
A little darkness can be a good thing. A candle needs a dark room to shine in.
Christmastime - Aimee Mann
"...Hasn't it been a wonderful year...All alone at Christmastime...Look at your behavior, Looking for a savior..."
When the end credits roll on this year, this is the perfect music to be playing as you exit your imaginary movie theatre. One could even argue that Aimee Mann tracks could have underscored the entire year much like they underscored the 1999 film Magnolia.
Last Christmas - Wham!
"Tell me baby, do you still recognize me? Well, it's been a year. It doesn't surprise me."
Someone once told me to be careful to whom you give your power. Those were wise words back then that still resonate even more with me today.
Most things, and most people, have not earned the privilege of seeing your tears. It is far better to spend the holidays alone than with people who don't appreciate you, and it's much more productive to focus on things that you do have control over than those things that you don't.
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
- Tori Amos
"...Make the Yuletide gay. From now on our troubles will be miles away."
Meet the Generation X answer to Judy Garland. Tori released this recording after an unfortunate miscarriage. In her voice, you hear the longing to hold a vision of a family that has not yet come within her grasp. Let this song build a ship for you and take you to a place where you feel safe enough to drop your anchor.
Walking In The Air - Howard Blake
"We're drifting over icy mountains floating by Suddenly swooping low on an ocean deep
Rising up a mighty monster from its sleep"
If the oceans get too rough, hold on to this song and fly to that safe place instead of sailing.
It's okay to imagine the impossible. If you're one of those "adults", and flying seems silly to you, then think of it more like constructing a bulleted Powerpoint presentation of what you want the next year to look like.
Somebody's House Always Burns At Christmas - Justin Vivian Bond
"...I might be out of work but I'm the son of God..."
It would be wise to not spend any time thinking about what other people are doing. FOMO definitely gets amplified this time of year. Why not put on an ugly sweater instead and eat as much chili as you like with the peace of mind that no one is around to hear you relieve your bowels.
December Will Be Magic Again - Kate Bush
"See how I fall like the snow
Come to cover the lovers
Come to sparkle the dark up
Come to cover the muck up"
If you happen to find the magic in yourself again and want to share it, here's a song that spreads the whimsy out like snow falling on cynical city streets.
River - Joni Mitchell
"...I'm so hard to handle
I'm selfish and I'm sad
Now I've gone and lost the best baby that I ever had..."
After you've come down from that sleigh ride, it might be time to take a walk with Joni. Maybe you two can look back on the past and find a fondness for naivety. Maybe you might even forgive yourself for past mistakes now that you have flown above and seen the bigger picture.
Perhaps things don't work out the way you want them to for a reason.
Christmas Time Is Here - Vince Guaraldi Trio
"Oh, that we could always see such spirit through the year..."
Indeed, grab the spirits. This is the best track to drink spiked eggnog with and claim your redemption, Charlie Brown.
Remember when you use to dance more than you do now? What's been stopping you?
Let the floodgates open.
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) - John Lennon, Yoko Ono
"...Let's hope it's a good one, without any fear."
It's okay to be scared. The world can be a scary place. Sometimes it can be difficult to see the things that don't want to hurt you or to see that things that do want to hurt you are just really scared as well.
When we decide to move forward, we have to believe that things can be better. We have to believe that we can be better and that we owe it to ourselves and one another not to make decisions in the next year because we are scared. Instead, we can use our BIG feelings from the holidays to point us in the direction that will truly make us happy.
Thank you for reading my list. I have created a Spotify Holiday Playlist to listen to if you enjoyed the music mentioned above.