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All I want for Christmas are these under-the-radar holiday tunes

Make your next holiday playlist a sleigh.
Tanner Nalley | Staff Photographer
A listener plugs into holiday country anthem “Glittery” by Kacey Musgraves featuring Troye Sivan.

There are only so many times a person can be sonically bludgeoned by “All I Want For Christmas Is You” before having a festive breakdown.

Feel free to call us bona fide Ebenezer Scrooges, no more positive than the lump of coal you find at the bottom of your stocking, but for those fighting the urge to steal the spirit of Christmas from a town of unsuspecting Whos after your eighth listen of “Jingle Bells,” it might be time to mix up your holiday tunes. Here are seven off-the-beaten-path picks to spice up your holiday listening habits.

Tired of Michael Bublé: Holiday Jazz 

“Love to Keep Me Warm” — Laufey & Dodie

“Love to Keep Me Warm” features piano, soft percussion and clarinet to a tune reminiscent of a classic Christmas song, full of cheer and whimsy. The piano and percussion have a steady rhythm while the clarinet plays along on its own in the background. 

Laufey’s jazzy voice and Dodie’s soft one are featured in separate verses and together create a wholesome tune. Both singers also use call and response in some verses, making the song feel conversational.

“Skating” — Vince Guaraldi Trio 

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is an oft-watched holiday movie with crazy characters, colorful animation and, most importantly, many recognizable jams. “Skating” has all the holiday vibes as an upbeat song to play at a winter dinner party or even as study music trying to finish up work just in time for a break.

The piano is at the forefront, along with some bass and softer percussion in the background. Each instrument does its own thing but mixes to express the joy of winter. As the piano flutters about, the higher notes are full of whimsy as if someone is spinning around on the ice rink. The piano changes rhythm multiple times throughout — a usual feat of a jazz song — reminiscent of the ups and downs one experiences while ice skating: twirling, falling and being pulled around by friends.

Sad Girl Christmas: Holiday Indie

“Christmas In The Room” — Sufjan Stevens 

One of indie artist Sufjan Stevens’ many holiday songs, “Christmas In The Room,” features layered harmonies reminiscent of Stevens’ other songs. Synth, percussion and building volume throughout create a sense of sadness because the speaker is unable to celebrate the holiday in a “normal” way: attending parties or shopping for gifts. But the song reconciles and concludes that even being with just one person is enough for him, as the holidays are about spending time with the ones you love.

“Wintering” — The 1975

The 1975’s “Wintering” expresses the nostalgia one feels when returning home for the holidays, dealing with family and friends and the chaos that the time brings. Different guitars, a piano and drums carry on throughout with a big guitar solo at the end. Each of the instruments can be heard individually but all meld together into a playful and upbeat tempo.

The singer expresses his disdain for the chaos in a somewhat sarcastic tone in what seems like a never-ending thought. Although he is quite annoyed with different guests for the holiday and all the complaining they do, he is still happy to be home — something many students likely relate to this time of year.

Trade your snowshoes for some good ole cowboy boots: Holiday Country

“Glittery” — Kacey Musgraves ft. Troye Sivan

In the same way you’ll be finding specks of glitter in the most bizarre places years after using it, the catchy twang of Musgraves and Sivan’s vocals in “Glittery” manages to cement itself in every corner of your mind for days on end. 

“Glittery” emphasizes the transformative power of love as it capitalizes on wintery imagery like, “You light me up like starlight on a Christmas tree,” and, You shake me up and turn me upside down / Just like a snow globe,” to capture themes of finding nuggets of joy in a seemingly cold and pessimistic world. The twinkling tambourine and enchanting lyrics shimmer, making for a nostalgic holiday track, embracing the magic of the holiday season.

“Take Me Home For Christmas” — Dan + Shay

While the tale of bringing a partner to your hometown for the holidays in “Take Me Home For Christmas” might make all the singles shudder in their fur-lined boots, there’s still a charming message about sharing your hometown with the ones you love. 

Sure, the cookie-cutter country formula of acoustic guitar and zazzy flair is as familiar as the country roads that the genre is so prone to singing about, but the catchiness and subtle rise of the bridge to the outro take what could be generic and make it feel genuine in its simple execution that underscores the song’s heartwarming message. It’s sickeningly saccharine sweet — enough to rival your grandma’s sugar cookies.

All I want for Christmas is to be like other girls: Holiday Pop 

“A Nonsense Christmas” — Sabrina Carpenter 

In Carpenter’s trademark “Nonsense” fashion — the light-hearted tune is nonsensical and the holiday rendition manages to be sassy, light and clever. It’s like she took every holiday-themed buzzword out there, sprinkled in a fair amount of young love and innuendo and called it a day.

Admittedly, some of the lines are so festive that they borderline nonsense — fittingly, given the song’s title —  but there’s unmistakable campy fun and parallels to the original song to be unwrapped in lines like “I’ll take you for a ride, I’ll be your Vixen / I don’t even know, I’m talking Christmas.” It’s a hoot and a half and bound to make you smirk through the power of sheer goofiness at least once.

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