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. The original sixteen reader-selected songs have been reduced to two, and only one can wear the crown. Now to our moderator, Deadshirt Music Editor Julian Ames…
THE TANNENBAUM TWO
#16. “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey (1994)
3. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love (1963)
Julian Ames: We’ve finally made it to the Christmas song championship round. After starting out with a poll that included over 20 yuletide carols, our heroes, Mike, Max, and Dylan have gotten rid of all the songs that rot, some that rock, and now all that remains are two songs that rule. After a clerical error gave Mariah Carey’s modern classic, “All I Want for Christmas is You” the lowest seed, the tune triumphed against heavy favorites like Wham!’s “Last Christmas” and The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping.” The Phil Spector-produced, Darlene Love-sung “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” started out in as one of the favorites and only really faced competition from the Nat King Cole classic “The Christmas Song.” Both of these Christmas tunes won their matches almost completely unanimously so we finally get to find out what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. I can’t wait any longer, hit it, boys!
Max Robinson: This is it, the last one and the moment where we firmly decide what the best Christmas song of all time is. A CHRISTMAS TITAN AGAINST A CHRISTMAS TITAN. On one hand, Noted Murderer and Musical Genius Phil Spector thought “Christmas (Baby)” was so good it warranted a cash grab non-holiday version that sounds like it came from Earth 2. But, on the other hand, Darlene Love’s song wasn’t adapted into a hypnotically terrifying MIDI track.
I feel like we’ve reached the Alpha and Omega of Christmas songs here. But it’s Christmas Eve as I write this and on Christmas Eve, my heart says Darlene Love. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” just narrowly edges out Mariah’s hyper-polished holiday standard because of its rough, honest beauty. Both women hit all the right notes on their respective hits but while Mariah goes for some truly ambitious vocal highs, “All I Want for Christmas” doesn’t ever reach a moment that hits so hard as Love screaming “BABY PLEASE COME HOOOOME” to her absent love. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is the best Christmas song of all time, in my analysis.
Mike Duquette: Before we go any further, I want to point out something that is possibly inconceivable to Deadshirt readers, and likely will astound Max, my esteemed colleague: I’ve neither heard nor heard of the above-linked “Johnny (Baby Please Come Home)” until this very day. It takes a strong, strong man to stump me on pop music arcana; consider it a sort of Christmas miracle.
So, yeah! “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and “All I Want for Christmas is You” (P.S.: how mad were Vince Vance and The Valiants when Mariah dropped her Christmas album?) are kind of analogous to each other. They’re yearning, Yuletide tracks with thundering production (thanks, Phil Spector and Walter “Baby Love” Afanasieff!), they’ve got instantly catchy melodies, they’re never not played at Christmas time, and despite everyone’s best efforts (even Darlene Love’s killer work on other Spector projects and Mariah’s raft of chart-toppers notwithstanding) they’ll probably be the two best-known songs from each singer’s canon for generations to come. The fact is, no matter what you choose, you’re choosing a winner.
With that in mind, I’ve no problem choosing with my heart as well, and giving my vote to “All I Want for Christmas is You.” Darlene made romantic longing–smiling through your tears on a holiday and all that–sound deservedly epic and triumphant. I will always treasure “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” for this. Mariah, on the other hand, made that same feeling sound dazzlingly fun. And if I’m being true to myself, I’m going to opt for fun over all, not only during the holiday season but every day of the year.
Or maybe I’m just scared into submission by that terrifying MIDI track, I don’t know.
Dylan Roth: I think this might be the first time in this whole tournament that I’ve gotten to cast the deciding vote! SUCH POWER! And, of course, it’s a very difficult choice, because as Max and Mike have already pointed out, both of these songs are champions. What we have here is analogous to comparing The Force Awakens with the original Star Wars. “All I Want for Christmas is You” is basically a loving tribute to A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, revitalized and reproduced for a new generation of pop music fans. It’s technically a better song by most measures, but it owes its very existence to its beloved predecessor.
So, it ultimately becomes a debate between whether it’s more important to be first or better, which is a question we could probably dedicate a whole article or series of articles to settling. My personal opinion has always been that while context certainly matters, better is better, and a work shouldn’t be disqualified from being considered the best simply for taking inspiration from the rest. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is a classic piece of Christmas Americana, and I hope it continues to be enjoyed by generations to come. But “All I Want for Christmas is You” is a worthy successor, expanding on Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound and Darlene Love’s passionate lyrics to create The Perfect Pop Song.
Congratulations to Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff on producing the Greatest Christmas Song of All Time, “ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU!“