It’s the holiday season, the only time of year that comes with its very own genre of music. This Christmas, Deadshirt staffers Mike Duquette, Max Robinson, and Dylan Roth decided to comb through the massive, diverse canon of Christmas songs to determine which is the hands-down greatest of all time. We’ve narrowed the reader-selected pool down to the Festive Four, and it’s time to decide which two songs will duke it out for the title. Now to our moderator, Deadshirt Music Editor Julian Ames…
ROUND THREE – THE FESTIVE FOUR
#16. “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey (1994)
vs. #4. “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses (1981)
Julian Ames: We’re almost at the end, folks; just four songs remain. The first matchup of this final four is “All I Want for Christmas is You” versus “Christmas Wrapping.” The Mariah Carey song is only the #16 seed because of a technicality, and, really, it enters the round heavily favored to win. “Christmas Wrapping,” on the other hand, is also a song that is beloved by our panel so, who knows, we could have an upset on our hands. Let’s get the show on the road; Dylan, you’re up!
Dylan Roth: I’m pleasantly surprised that “Christmas Wrapping” has made it this far in our contest, as I’ve always thought of it as a dark horse fave. Patty Donahue’s weird joke-story has had a fine run and deserves a place on everyone’s holiday mixtape.
But who are we kidding? “All I Want for Christmas is You” is so the Back to the Future of Christmas songs. Every beat clicks together perfectly, not a spare note to be found—which is honestly a surprise, considering Ms. Carey’s reputation for vocal acrobatics. Popular opinion isn’t always built on the strongest foundations, but there’s a reason every cover band and every karaoke diva is belting this one out. “Christmas Wrapping,” I love ya, but you just can’t compete with that.
Max Robinson: It’s pretty perfect how the final four is pretty evenly split between two light poppy songs and two dark kinda sad ones. I’m pretty torn here. There’s a calculated sugar cookie perfection to “All I Want for Christmas is You” but the flipside of that is that it doesn’t really have much to say (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!). “All I Want for Christmas is You” is the promise of Christmas, but I think “Christmas Wrapping” is the warts-and-all reality of Christmas. I’m giving this to Mariah on the basis that 1) there is sometimes something to be said for simplicity, and 2) Patty Donahue just doesn’t have Mariah’s pipes. This was really tough!
Mike Duquette: This is not a competition that’s going to be won on song quality alone. Both “All I Want for Christmas is You” and “Christmas Wrapping” deserve hallowed spots in the modern Yuletide canon (in Mariah’s case, it’s unquestionably the most recent song to gain such a spot). They’re expertly produced, brilliantly sung and capture certain aspects of the season in the best possible way. With that in mind, the deciding factor of this competition is less on the songs and more on who you are as a Christmas appreciator. How do you associate the season in your brain? Is Christmas a happy time? A tiring one? Bittersweet? Mix of both? Something else?
“Christmas Wrapping” captures that delirious mix of fun, weariness and satisfied accomplishment that I often feel on Christmas Day, when all the gifts are dispensed and unwrapped, and I consider how quickly it all goes by after a month and a half of anticipation and preparation. But I’m not the kind of guy to consider the stark realities of Christmas (seriously–I didn’t know the truth about Santa until I was a double-digit age), and I’m always going to spring for the Christmas ideal, no matter how improbable it may seem. Mariah gets my vote once again.
WINNER: “All I Want for Christmas is You”
#7. “Father Christmas” – The Kinks (1978)
vs. #3 “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Darlene Love (1963)
Julian: The second matchup of this final four features the older half of the songs. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is the favorite, a Phil Spector-produced pop tune that has been covered countless times. “Father Christmas” is the outsider pick, loved by punks and anyone with a rebellious streak. Both songs are good, but which one is better? Let’s let Mike and the others decide.
Mike: This could easily be another battle of Christmas idealism versus Christmas realism, but considering “Father Christmas” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” as such is a fool’s errand. Lyrically, neither are particularly happy: Ray Davies is singing from the perspective of a disaffected youth during a boom time for ‘em in England, while Darlene Love is a longing, unrequited lover. Not exactly presents under the tree, wouldn’t you say?
But “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is my favorite, for a number of reasons: 1) a topic I can better identify with (I’m far too suburban to do anything other than distantly appreciate punk ethos, while I certainly know what it’s like to pine for a lover); 2) longevity of appreciation (don’t forget, it wasn’t until “Father Christmas” popped up on the ballot that I really became aware of how good it is, while I was bopping to Darlene Love since the first time I saw Gremlins, at least); and 3) production firepower. With respect to The Kinks, Phil Spector (before he became an insane murderer) has one of the most unimpeachable production track records, and turning Christmas into a showcase for his Wall of Sound was a masterstroke that can never be replicated. And The Wrecking Crew! The bitchin’ California musicians that fuel this backing track–drummer Hal Blaine, percussionists including a young Sonny Bono, saxophonists Steve Douglas and Jay Migliori and the plunk for your life piano of Leon Russell, to name just five–deserve as much credit as Love and Spector for making this a Christmas classic, the likes of which only Mariah tried to match wits with three decades later.
Dylan: Sometimes I hate going right after Duque because I have literally nothing to add other then “Duque is right!” … He is tho. See you at The Big Show, Ms. Love.
Max: Listen, “Father Christmas” is pretty much a novelty song. There are plenty of great novelty songs — look at “Thriller”! — and the loose genre that is “Christmas music” is full of ‘em, but this is an easy pick for me. An army of Santa-mugging moppets are nothing compared to the power of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.
WINNER: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
Keep your eyes peeled over the holiday weekend for the final installment, where one winner will be crowned Best Christmas Song of All Time!