Friday Five: Holiday songs


Ananya Sriram

“Santa, Can’t You Hear Me” plays on Spotify as a wrap on the holiday season. Assistant news editor Ananya Sriram offers her top five holiday song picks.

by Ananya Sriram, Assistant News Editor

“10, nine, eight, seven, six …” I hear, as the broadcast of the famous Times Square New Years eve ball drop plays on my television screen. When the clock hits zero, a wave of cheers erupts, prompting me to celebrate as well,  “so long 2021, welcome 2022!” Now, it is the time to reflect on the past year, which although was difficult, also had its fair share of positive moments. Even so, returning to the burden of tests and homework after a holiday season filled with joy has left me wanting just a sprinkle of the Christmas festivities to return to my life. Driving past houses in my neighborhood still sparkling with bright holiday displays, going shopping and hearing “Christmas Without You” by Ava Max in a store and even walking in the hallway of the Main building, still bedecked in hanging multicolored lights on the first day back to school, brings back a sense of nostalgia for the December that has passed. So, before we officially toast to the new year ahead (in a non-alcoholic way of course), why not reminisce and honor the holiday season that has passed one last time through the five best songs to listen to during the holiday season?

5. “All I want for Christmas is you” by Mariah Carey

“All I want for Christmas is you” is the epitome of the catchy Christmas song. The recognizable sound of bell chimes at the start of the song leading into Mariah’s soulful voice in the intro creates a sense of nostalgia, and by the time Carey reaches the first mention of “Make my wish come true,” I’m belting the song along with her.  The song, first released in 1994, remains one of Mariah Carey’s most iconic songs to date, with it becoming the first holiday song to receive the RIAA Diamond award. The song continuously showcases a cheerful melody filled with jingle bells to recall the distinctive Christmas sound.  After hearing the song for the first time during a performance by teachers during the third grade holiday show performance, “All I want for Christmas is you” became one of my holiday season favorites. While it is heavily overplayed, and I do occasionally sigh in exasperation when I hear the first notes, I’m never able to resist the temptation to sing along.

4. “Santa Baby” cover by Ariana Grande and Liz Gillies

Ariana Grande and Liz Gillies’ remake of the 1953 holiday song “Santa Baby” by Eartha Kitt is, personally, the type of song to listen to by a fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate on a snowy evening in December (although we don’t get many of those in California). While Kitt’s original proves slightly too sultry for my taste, Grande and Gillies transform the song into a playful one through the addition of bells and bright piano. “Santa Baby” describes a woman’s Christmas list to Santa Claus filled with luxurious gifts. Grande and Gillies’ version, despite changing up the instrumental, still contains the same lyrics as the original, which contains the demanding Christmas list of a yacht, “the deed to a platinum mine” and “a ‘54 convertible too, light blue.” While Liz and Ariana’s ad-libs and harmonization along with the song’s liveliness bring it up my list, the song’s lack of the “holly jolly Christmas” experience prevents it from being ranked any higher.

3. “Underneath the Tree” by Kelly Clarkson

“Underneath the Tree” is an R&B festive fantasy. The song begins celebrating the season right away, with Kelly’s powerful vocals belting out the lyrics “You’re here where you should be / snow is falling as the carolers sing / it just wasn’t the same / alone on Christmas day.” The song shares similarities with many other holiday hits, such as “All I want for Christmas is you,” through its lyrics about needing a lover as a present underneath a Christmas tree . What distinguishes it from other romantic and holiday-themed R&B pop songs is the instrumental break consisting primarily of sleigh bells and saxophone, followed by a vibrant high note from Clarkson. “Underneath the Tree” is a future holiday classic and personally, has the potential to be the next “All I want for Christmas is you.”

2. “Merry & Happy” by TWICE

Is it kpop? Yes. Does this make it any less deserving of second place? No. “Merry & Happy” perfectly conveys the “holiday spirit.” I first discovered the song when I came across one of Twice’s end-of-the-year performances with the nine girls dancing on stage, two donning white snowman outfits, and singing along with the song, and it immediately became an addition to my playlist. After starting with a piano intro, the song transitions into more verses, adding a new layer of sound each time: verse one with just vocals and piano, verse two adding on bells and verse three with extra bass. The way “Merry & Happy” progresses into the traditional holiday sound feels smooth, and the culmination of the song at the bridge and a short rap break (a formula common in kpop although not in western pop) adds extra flavor to what could have been a basic Christmas song. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but “Merry & Happy” is dopamine in a song. As an English translation of the lyrics states, “Now I like Christmas too / the falling white snow doesn’t make me lonely” because the sound of “Merry & Happy” fills my room instead. 

1. “Santa Tell Me” by Ariana Grande

What is the one song I would listen to if I was the protagonist of a Christmas movie, getting ready to hold a grand holiday party filled with music, lights and celebration? “Santa Tell Me” by Ariana Grande takes the crown. This song, like many other Christmas releases, starts with the typical sleigh bells, but Ariana switches it up, creating a fuller sound with the addition of violins. The rest of the song continues to incorporate a  festive tune and the iconic lyrics “Santa tell me if you’re really there / don’t make me fall in love again if he won’t be here next year.” “Santa Tell Me” ranks first simply due to the joy I feel when I listen to it. The song never fails to make me smile and start humming along with Grande. Hearing the bright instrumental of sleigh bells, violin and double bass combined with one of Grande’s high notes and runs harmonizing with the choir gives me a blast of energy that makes me want to decorate a Christmas tree and start dancing. It’s just pure holiday pop perfection. 

Honorable mentions: “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms for the nostalgia of an old Downbeat performance during big assembly day and “Snowman” by Sia for a soft Christmas ballad.