My 50 Favorite Albums of 2021

Here I sit, pondering just where 2021 sits in my own little slice of history. 2021 began with me wondering whether my 86-year-old father would survive COVID or not. Fortunately, he did. Then, a few months later, my younger son and his wife gave birth to our third grandchild. So, as the news continues to show that humanity continues to lose its collective mind and any grasp on common sense, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will turn further inward to focus on my family and friends. Therein lies a person’s true legacy.

What is sad about 2021? That albums like What’s Going On, There’s a Riot Going On, Tracy Chapman, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, among so many other classics still ring true. WTF?!?! We are in the twenty-first century, yet we seem to be sliding toward a new Dark Ages in which logic and science are evil and the propaganda of the ruling class is heralded by the masses. I weep for society because I am not sure if there is any turning back on this tsunami wave.

Fortunately, we have music. And, for the third straight year, women have been creating the most compelling music. And if we rely on women to carry us in music, maybe we ought to be following their lead in society as well. Just a thought.

Let’s do this countdown!

50. Hiatus Kiayote – Mood Valiant. This avant-guard R&B group released their finest album in 2021.

49. Jon Batiste – We Are. Stephen Colbert’s talented band leader gave us his finest mix of jazz and R&B with winning results.

48. Cheap Trick – In Another World. My favorite band brought the 70s into the 21st century on their latest album.

47. Duran Duran – Future Past. Just when we needed a little fun put back into music, Duran Duran answers the call.

46. Liz Phair – Soberish. This was the comeback that no one expected. Since when did members of my generation become the elder statespeople?

45. Cola Boyy – Prosthetic Boombox. Cola Boyy has burst on the scene with this underground ode to being an outsider (as he is a disabled minority, it doesn’t get more outside than that) dressed up in neo-disco and soft rock. One listening may cause a flashback or two to those who came of age in the late-70s/early-80s.

44. Tyler, the Creator – Call Me If You Get Lost. Tyler has further strengthened his grip as hip hop’s preeminent auteur in the absence of Kendrick Lamar.

43. Måneskin – Teatro d’itra – Volume 1. Could this band from Italy truly be the future of rock music? Time will tell.

42. Lana Del Rey – Blue Bannisters. LDR has cornered the market on rock noir.

41. John Mayer – Sob Rock. The former heart throb of the Aughts released his ode to Yacht Rock.

40. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Angel Dreams (Songs & Music from the Motion Picture “She’s the One”). This reimaging of the original CD is as magical as the original. This was all part of the very fertile writing period that also produced the classic Wildflowers album.

39. The Black Keys – Delta Kream. The Keys finally released their take on some blues classics. 40 years ago, this album would have been a huge seller.

38. The Killers – Pressure Machine. The Las Vegas band followed one of their best albums since their debut with solid collection of tunes, the highlight being “Quiet Town.”

37. Lorde – Solar Power. Everyone’s favorite alternative teen is now a young woman, and her music continues to reflect those changes.

36. Chvrches – Screen Violence. This one is for the people who miss the Human League and the synthpop brethren of the 80s.

35. Prince – Welcome 2 America. Either this is an example of Prince being his best editor or his own worst critic. If you really think 20Ten is the better album of the two recorded around the same time, you really ought to re-listen to both. I prefer this one. Unfortunately, it is NOT the lost classic many had hoped for either.

34. Weezer – Van Weezer. Originally scheduled to be released in 2020, this is Rivers Cuomo’s ode to the big power chords of 80s hair metal. This could have been an album to convince Gen Z that Weezer continues to be a great band.

33. Carly Pearce – 29: Written in Stone. Divorce albums have been some of rock’s more compelling sub-genre. Pearce’s 29 follows Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and Petty’s Echo as examples of true heartache.

32. Coldplay – Music of the Spheres. Is Coldplay a rock or pop band or something in between. Every time I want to write them off, they deliver another catchy batch of tunes. Should I like them, respect them or hate them? IDK.

31. Lake Street Dive – Obviously. LSD have one of the more compelling sounds for a band this side of Fitz & the Tantrums. And much like that band, I keep waiting for them to put all of their influences together (Roberta Flack, Fleetwood Mac, Carly Simon, Donny Hathaway, to name a few). Finally, the wait is over.

30. ABBA – Voyage. Personally, I am glad that ABBA reunited to make this album. It reminds the world that they are so much more than the soundtrack to the Mama Mia franchise.

29. Kings of Leon – When You See Yourself. Back in the late Aughts, KoL were making a stand for rock music on pop radio with “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody.” Then, they traveled the rock wilderness attempting to figure out how to accept success. So, when no one really cared about them anymore, they found their muse again. Plus, “The Bandit” is one helluva song.

28. Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails Over the Country Club. Of the two LPs LDR released in 2021, this one is the stronger one as she continues to mine the seedier side of LA.

27. My Morning Jacket – My Morning Jacket. Perhaps my favorite 21st century rock band, MMJ released their long-anticipated follow-up to The Waterfall 2, and it did not disappointed.

26. Elton John – The Lockdown Sessions. What does one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century do when the pandemic interrupts his farewell tour? Grab a bunch of his favorite artists of past and present to create of his most fun albums since the 70s. And his duet with Dua Lipa on the club-afied mashup of four of his songs on “Cold Heart” is sublime.

25. Mickey Guyton – Remember Her Name. I hate doing this to such a talented country artist, but if you listen to her music you hear pure country. Then, when you see her, you see a beautiful black woman. Why is that so shocking?!?! I thought we had outgrown this when we all discovered that Rick Astley was really white. Regardless, and I am not a big country fan, this is a great album by a great artist. Cheers!

24. Matthew Sweet – Catspaw. Everyone’s favorite 90s power popster is back with another terrific set of tunes. This album got me through a rough January.

23. Bleachers – Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night. Former fun. member and current producer über alles Jack Antonoff put his band back together to give us a solid LP of 21st century pop-rock.

22. Silk Sonic – An Evening with Silk Sonic. This album answers the question, “What would an album sound like if Anderson. Paak and Bruno Mars ever got together?” What surprised me was the duo truly dove in headfirst into early-70s soul for their inspiration.

21. Tom Petty – Finding Wildflowers (Alternate Versions). What if Tom Petty’s record company had simply left him alone to create the double album that he wanted to make instead of his classic Wildflowers? Here is our answer. This is without question Tom’s best batch of songwriting of his career and all of it needed to be heard. I just wish he were still around to enjoy a tour in support of this masterpiece.

20. Weezer – OK Human. This was actually the first album Weezer released in 2021, but it ended up being the one that was the more compelling. This is Cuomo’s Pet Sounds, in that it will grow in stature over time.

19. Los Lobos – Native Sons. Los Lobos is so much more than their cover version hit of the 80s “La Bamba.” This coterie of East L.A. musicians can play anything from Tex Mex party music and challenging space age alternative music to traditional Hispanic tunes and, now, covering the music of their contemporaries from the L.A. punk scene. And, once again, the boys prove their brilliance.

18. Foo Fighters – Medicine at Midnight. My older son calls Dave Grohl the last true rock star, and he may be right. Still, the Foos had a helluva 2021. This studio album was yet another feather in the band’s reputation.

17. Lindsey Buckingham – Lindsey Buckingham. The musical visionary of the successful version of Fleetwood Mac can do no wrong in my book. And he makes a great comeback from his throat surgery that jeopardized his career.

16. The War on Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore. These guys prove that they might be the best rock band on the planet with this winner. Oh, and of course they would have been huge in the 80s. What’s not to love according to this old man writing?

15. Snail Mail – Valentine. Just when you were missing some alternative music like in the 90s, Snail Mail comebacks with a more clean version of her Lush-influenced music.

14. Leon Bridges – Gold- Diggers Sound. The world’s favorite throwback soul singer is back with another set of Southern-fried, Memphis-barbequed, Stax-battered soul music much like his heroes of the 70s. Bridges is one for the ages.

13. Kacey Musgraves – Star-Crossed. This album chronicles Musgraves divorce while also pushing the boundaries of country music. Much like Taylor Swift before her, Musgraves has continued to push the limits musically while maintaining her lyrical integrity.

12. Dee Gees (aka Foo Fighters) – Hail Satin! So, Foo Fighters decided to have a little fun and cover songs from the Bee Gees’ catalog, along with an Andy Gibb song, for release on Record Store Day. Who knew that those covers would be so fun and satisfying?

11. Doja Cat – Planet Her. Doja Cat’s career is off and running as the world’s newest entry in the female R&B/pop singer/dancer/rapper sweepstakes. Hopefully, this album represents a jumping-off point and not the beginning of the end of another Nicki Minaj-clone with a career trajectory that peaked early.

10. St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home. Of all the current artists, St. Vincent is the one most likely to have fit in perfectly with the CBGB crowd of the 70s. This time, Annie Clark digs through her father’s 70s album collection to find inspiration for this brilliant album. St. Vincent captures all the things you loved about Patti Smith, Blondie, Talking Heads and Laurie Anderson into one excellent 21st century artist.

9. Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever. Nope! Billie Eilish is NOT a one-hit wonder. And, yes, her music is growing as she continues to grow older. I truly cannot wait to watch her growth over the next decade.

8. Adele – 30. Yes, this is another divorce record in my countdown, but it is also Adele who transcends everything. What else can I possibly say?

7. Girl in Red – If I Could Make It Go Quiet. Last year, it was Phoebe Bridgers. Two years ago, it was Billie Eilish. In 2021, it is Girl in Red who has moved into the sensitive alterna-chick label. The only thing is that we might get to see GiR transcend the label as the other two have. Now, if Joni Mitchell had been born as Gen Z-er and a lesbian, she might sound like this young lady.

6. Brandi Carlile – In These Silent Days. If you were missing Tom Petty or simply pining for a John Mellencamp album, Brandi Carlile has delivered your fix. This excellent mix of country, folk and record is an outstanding album. Plus, no artist has seemed as excited to play SNL as Ms. Carlile did when she did back in October.

5. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts. This was stuff of legend, with only one song ever officially released on the compilation record. Now, here it is in all of its glory. This is the moment when The Boss truly became The Boss, as he joined other musicians to take a stance against Nuclear Power and War. After that, The Boss wore his liberal leanings as a badge of honor.

4. Paul Weller – Fat Pop (Volume 1). This album is the loosest Weller has sounded in ages. This is actually a fun album to spin on the turntable. No real surprises here, just great Paul Weller writing and music.

3. Taylor Swift – Red (Taylor’s Version). I am really becoming a Swift fan these days. I love how when she did not great the masters to her first set albums, that she has decided to re-record all of those albums. Her first attempt this year, Fearless, gave us mixed results. But, what Taylor found in herself with this classic album is absolutely stunning. Obviously, the hurt of that 20-something Taylor who wrote the lyrics is still in touch with the 30-something young lady of today. This is transcendent stuff.

2. Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power. You gotta give it Halsey, she’s got balls. Her emo chick schtick has matured into something greater without sacrificing her pop/rock instincts. And, she made arguably the move of the years by having Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross produce this album, which only made the darkness thicker and the album more human. Plus, is this rock’s first album about childbirth and impending motherhood? In any other year, this album might have been at #1, but…

1. Olivia Rodrigo – Sour. First, Rodrigo is another one of those child actors turning to pop music for a career move. Then, she released a song that had teenaged girls swooning all over as she was winning over young adults with “Driver’s License” (evidence is the SNL sketch in which the men in the cast sing the chorus while in a pool hall). Then, you see her perform on SNL and realize this young lady is in pain. So, the old man buys the album, and, low and behold, this is the biggest kiss-off album by a woman since Alanis Morissette was going down on some dude in a theater in the 90s. Who cares if Rodrigo will never be able to follow this up? She hit the zeitgeist perfectly on this one. God, I’d hate to have been a guy to have raised up so much bile in a woman. Then, again, maybe I did, and that’s what scares me.

And there you have it! That’s my Top 50 Albums for 2021. The started off slowly but picked up as it progressed (and the vaccines kicked in?). I have a feeling that some anger is building in those who are vaccinated toward the unvaccinated, which might make for some compelling music in the upcoming months. Things just might get interesting. Unless there is censorship.

Food for thought. Peace. And, Happy New Year!

My 400 Favorite Modern Christmas Songs, The Top 20!

Many of you are thinking that we are FINALLY diving into this guy’s Top 20 modern Christmas songs. It’s about time, since you made us suffer through 380 other songs by artists we still have no idea who they are. What can I say? I truly do dig all these different versions of the same song, song or hymn. Plus, I left off many other fun songs by artists, both known and obscure.

There are many great Christmas songs by the likes of Sting, Pet Shop Boys and Los Lobos, while my personal favorite seasonal novelty song was left off the list, the immortal “I Farted on Santa’s Lap” by the appropriately named The Little Stinkers. I undersold the holiday work of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton, while I acknowledge that Mariah Carey is the Queen of Christmas music we all better not sleep on Kelly Clarkson who has recorded two terrific Christmas albums in the past decade or so.

Perhaps, the thing I wanted to point out most of all is that you, the avid music listener, do NOT have to listen to the same small playlist, albums or radio version of popular Christmas music. There are many absolutely wonderfully fun and moving recent pop songs of holiday music that are totally being overlooked by radio programmers and algorithms. And, I want to bring these songs into the daylight, so some of you might seek them out and include them in your current or future holiday playlists.

Now, it’s time to see just what holiday standards made my personal Top 20.

20. John Mellencamp – “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (2007). When he recorded this songs, Mellencamp was at his career peak. He and his band had perfected his Hoosier mix of Appalachian country/folk instrument and Rolling Stones crunch. John and his band find the missing rock and roll aspect of this holiday classic.

19. Dolly Parton – “Hard Candy Christmas” (1984). This song only seems to improve with age. No one, absolutely no one, writes broken-hearted songs like Dolly does, and she couples the sentiment with Christmas in this should-be-a-classic.

18. The Band – “Christmas Must Be Tonight” (1975). Can we all agree that Robbie Robertson knows his way around song narratives? This long-overlooked Christmas song needs to become a modern classic. Robertson just nails the Christmas story perfectly in three minutes that must ministers can’t make in a half-hour sermon.

17. Taylor Swift – “Christmas Tree Farm (Old Timey Version)” (2021). This song should have been all over radio when the original version was released two years ago. So, Taylor, whose been on a major roll re-recording back catalog, eschews the folky original to give this brilliant song a more traditional, Sixties-like production, turning the song into a timeless classic.

16. Band Aid – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (1984). This song is ground zero for the MTV generation’s obsession with, first, holiday songs, and, two, charity singles. By now, we all know how clunky and awkward the lyrics are, but everyone’s hearts were in the right place. So, emotion won out in the end. Let me give a shout out to one of my all-time faves, Paul Weller, for his contribution (Put The Jam in the Rock Hall!).

15. Bobby Helms – “Jingle Bell Rock” (1957). Helms was a budding country artist in the Fifties when he wrote and recorded this modern yuletide classic. Like Mellencamp and me, Helms is a Hoosier, all the while maintaining a modest lifestyle in southern Indiana. Yet, his Christmas classic is everywhere each December, which continues to keep his estate financially secure.

14. Brenda Lee – “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (1958). Here is yet another classic from the early days of rock and roll. The next time you listen to Brenda Lee’s Christmas tune, think about her being in her early teens when she recorded this song. Some people are simply blessed with a gift. Brenda was blessed with two: first, her voice and, second, this song.

13. Cheech & Chong – “Santa Claus and His Old Lady” (1971). When I was a kid, Cheech & Chong’s brand of drug-based humor was second only to Richard Pryor. But, their take on Santa’s story is brilliantly hilarious. Unfortunately, this might have become something of a relic in the post-“Just Say No” days. But, what can you say when you discover that Santa’s reindeer get their ability to fly from “magic dust.” “A little for the reindeer, a little for Santa, a little more for Santa, a little more for Santa…” The Seventies truly were a more innocent and much different time.

12. The Regrettes – “Marshmallow World” (2016). Just as Darlene Love’s version jumped from the mono car radio due to Phil Spector’s production in 1963, The Regrettes neo-New Wave take on this classic jumps out from my smart speaker. This version is so fun that it was used in a Target commercial a few years ago. See? I am NOT totally stuck in the 70s/80s/90s.

11. Dan Fogelberg – “Same Old Lang Syne” (1980). Once again, this song only mentions in the opening line that Fogelberg ran into a past flame in a grocery store on a Christmas Eve. So, technically, it’s probably not really a Christmas song. But, the holiday season is about reunions, so why not a couple of high school sweethearts getting reacquainted. It is a very touching song and just might be Dan’s best moment. By the way, did you know this is a true story? A year ago, I read an article about the girl in the song. Her story is pretty cool. Check out the story:

10. Elton John – “Step into Christmas” (1973). Elton was the MAN when he recorded this song. Now, it’s become something of a modern Christmas classic. I will always associate this song with American Bandstand during their Christmas-themed shows during the 70s.

9. Stevie Wonder – “Someday at Christmas” (1967). This anti-war yuletide song has long been one of my all-time favorites as it combined socially-aware lyrics with Christmas themes. And Stevie was just beginning to discover his adult songwriter’s voice on this song.

8. Billy Squier – “Christmas Is the Time to Say ‘I Love You'” (1981). Squier was red-hot in 1981 and 1982. So, it was no wonder that he was invited to MTV’s second on-air Christmas bash. This classic was recorded live in front of a bunch of drunk members of MTV’s staff.

7. Bing Crosby & David Bowie – “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” (1977, released 1982). I remember hearing that Bing, my maternal grandfather’s favorite singer who had passed away just two years earlier, was singing a duet with one of my favorite artists on his Christmas special, I knew I had to watch. What I did not know was that Bowie didn’t want to sing “Little Drummer Boy,” so he and Bing worked up the arrangement of this medley an hour before recording it. This song may be the most sentimental holiday song for me because of my grandpa.

6. Harry Simeone Chorale – “Little Drummer Boy” (1958, 1965). As a young boy, my parents would try to send me to bed early on Christmas Eve. So, for the next couple of hours, I would listen to my GE AM-only bedroom radio while reading books. It seemed as though the local radio station’s last song every Christmas Eve night around their midnight sign-off would be this song. At first, I hated to hear it played, but as I got older I began to appreciate the vocal arrangements and this acapella hit began to grow on me. Now, it reminds me of those cold Christmas Eve nights as child anticipating Santa’s arrival.

5. Daryl Hall & John Oates – “Jingle Bell Rock (Daryl’s Version)” (1980). The duo was just beginning to exert their 80s dominance when they recorded two versions of this classic, with the versions sung by each man. When the songs were released, one version was pressed on red vinyl while the other one on green vinyl. Of course, since I am a HUGE fan of these guys, I own both. But, it is Daryl’s version that radio has played over the years. But, to my ears, the “rock ‘n’ soul” duo out-did the original, especially when coupled with its cheesy parody video. Classics are both.

4. John & Yoko with The Plastic Ono Band – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (1971). It’s rare when a song works on multiple levels, but when someone can have a hit pop song that is a great protest song in addition to becoming a Christmas classic, you have a major piece of art. Lennon takes Wonder’s sentiments and raises the bar. This song is eternal.

3. Mariah Carey – “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (1994). Give Mariah credit. She wrote a monster song, not just a monster Christmas song. This song was a holiday classic from the moment is was released. It is a perfect song, not just a perfect Christmas song. It contains musical nods to Motown and the 80s all the while feeling totally fresh, even 30 years later. Plus, the song has shot to number one on Billboard‘s Hot 100 each of the past three years. No other song has done that.

2. The Ronettes – “Sleigh Ride” (1963). This song is from arguably the greatest Christmas album ever recorded (A Christmas Gift to You from Phil Spector). This song is just terrific, from the horse sound effects to the driving rhythm of the Wrecking Crew’s playing. Now, this album and song are considered to be classics. But, it did get off to an auspicious start as the album was released on the day that President Kennedy was assassinated. At least it has found an audience now.

1. Bruce Springsteen – “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” (1975, released 1985). The Boss took the arrangement of The Crystals’ version from the Phil Spector album and distilled it through his Born to Run-era romantic period to marry Christmas to modern rock music. This is Christmas music at its very best while Bruce takes the song to a whole other level in concert. This one has brought me much joy over the past 45 years, that I have passed on to my boys and, now, my grandchildren who must hear it when they enter our home.

And, there you have it. I know, I ranked “White Christmas” and “Do You Hear What I Hear?” lower. Well, who do I knock out of my Top 20? See? It’ much harder than it looks.

My 400 Favorite Modern Christmas Songs, Day 7

Every family has a weirdo. In my family, it really takes some effort to earn that designation. So, whether you believe this or not, I am NOT my family’s weirdo. Nope, that title belongs to my brother, the man who has an art degree from Ball State with a minor history. What is his career? He’s a retired military man who started out in tanks but quickly was moved to intelligence work.

God love him, my brother is full of more verbal crap than most people. Before Mom passed nearly three years ago, I asked her why she was always “buying” whatever line of bull crap he was giving her. She looked at me, shrugged her shoulders and simply said, “He wasn’t the athlete and math & science person that I was.” Personally, I took that answer as code that art majors just understand each other. Plus, his masterful use of conversational bull is probably the reason why he has had a very successful career in intelligence, since he was not gifted with the mathematical brain that I was. And, that’s why I used to worry about his act when he was younger and serving in Kosovo, Iraq and Ethiopia.

Since he is weirdo, his Christmas gifts are often some of the best. One year he gave each of us Birkenstock sandals that everyone loved. He has initiated the now annual Nerf gun battle when he purchased four guns for the four oldest men in the family, him, my boys and me. Unfortunately, the kid with whom I once shared a bunk bed and used to greet him each and every Christmas morning with a quiet “Merry Christmas!” only to have him retorted in a loud voice, “QQQQQUUUUUUIIIIIEEEEETTTTT!!!!!”

What I want to stress is that any and all novelty Christmas songs in this countdown is my nod to him. For some reason, he prefers those “hits” created by comedians and other nutballs. Additionally, he has a love for what he considers to be “happy” Christmas songs that sound bouncy while also conveying darker lyrics, such as Wham!’s “Last Christmas.”

Here it is, my younger brother! This is my blog’s nod to this man’s place in my life, for better or worse. Merry Christmas Stephen!

Here’s the countdown! Peace.

50. Ike & Tina Turner – “Merry Christmas Baby” (1965)

49. Otis Redding – “White Christmas” (1968)

48. Vince Guaraldi Trio – “Christmas Time Is Here” (1965)

47. Al Green – “The First Noel” (1990)

46. Carpenters – “Merry Christmas Darling” (1970)

45. Paul McCartney – “Wonderful Christmastime” (1979)

44. Madonna – “Santa Baby” (1987)

43. Zooey Deschanel & Leon Redbone – “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (2003)

42. Kacey Musgraves & Lana Del Rey – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (2019)

41. Kurtis Blow – “Christmas Rappin'” (1979)

40. Luther Vandross – “The Christmas Song” (1992)

39. Eurythmics – “Winter Wonderland” (1987)

38. Ariana Grande – “Santa Tell Me” (2014)

37. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – “Merry Christmas Baby” (1987)

36. Coldplay – “Christmas Lights” (2010)

35. Eagles – “Please Come Home for Christmas” (1978)

34. Run-DMC – “Christmas in Hollis” (1987)

33. Cocteau Twins – “Frosty the Snowman” (1993)

32. Kenny Loggins – “Celebrate Me Home” (1977)

31. Fitz & the Tantrums – “Santa Stole My Lady” (2010)

30. Wizzard – “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” (1973)

29. Donny Hathaway – “This Christmas” (1970)

28. Bryan Adams – “Run Rudolph Run” (1987)

27. Kacey Musgraves feat. Leon Bridges – “Present Without a Bow” (2016)

26. Whitney Houston – “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (1987)

25. Darlene Love – “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” (1963)

24. The Kinks – “Father Christmas” (1977)

23. Pretenders – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1987)

22. U2 – “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” (1987)

21. Wham! – “Last Christmas” (1984)

We have nearly reached the top of this very tall mountain of modern Christmas songs. Tomorrow, we will finish it all off with my Top 20 yuletide tunes. See you tomorrow for the finale of this countdown! Stay tuned!

My 400 Favorite Modern Christmas Songs, Day 6

As much as I love music and marvel at the wonder of the creative minds who not only produce a successful career, but I truly those who have only one hit. Yet, lately, I have began to realize that the person who writes a timeless Christmas song has the potential to keep several generations of family whom they will never meet financially secure for their lifetimes. Think about it. Who wouldn’t love to have been Dolly Parton when she wrote “I Will Always Love You,” then watch as Whitney Houston turns the song into a pop classic. But, now, compare that to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” that has been re-charting each year since it’s 1994 release and finally hit #1 on the Hot 100 the past three years. Now, there’s a moneymaker.

Some of the biggest selling songs in history are all Christmas songs. Mariah’s now the biggest-seller, but some others are like fellow-Hoosier Bobby Helms’ “Jingle Bell Rock,” Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” There’s so many others too. And, each year, the songwriters of those songs continue to receive a royalty check that now can sustains their lives for a year or longer. That’s why the Christmas music industry is constantly pumping more and more new music each year. And, sure, most of it sounds the same. Yet, once every couple of years, an artist may nail a Christmas song, but for some reason, the song doesn’t make it on to radio or get streamed right away. No longer do new Christmas songs get immediate airplay during the initial season of release. Often, it takes them a couple of years before you begin to hear them on playlists or the radio. That’s why I am here. I LOVE to discover great new Christmas songs each year. Unfortunately, it takes some digging on your own.

Some artists who have released new Christmas music over the past couple of years that will probably be played more often on my stereo include Elton John & Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Norah Jones, Kelly Clarkson, among others. And, every year when October rolls around, I will begin my annual new Christmas tunes dig for more new ones to throw in my future playlists. And, I am always scouring the internet for more old yuletide gems, just to spice up those playlists.

Yes, the holiday music obsession is a strange. I get that. But, every year, it becomes a source of finding my inner child each year. And, that’s not so bad, is it?

Time to get back to the countdown.

100. Bob & Doug McKenzie – “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (1981)

99. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – “Little Drummer Boy” (1987)

98. Carla Thomas – “Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas!” (1963)

97. The Three Wisemen (aka XTC) – “Thanks for Christmas” (1983)

96. Bebe Rexha – “Count on Christmas” (2017)

95. Otis Redding – “Merry Christmas Baby” (1968)

94. Johnny Mathis – “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas” (1986)

93. Ingrid Michaelson – “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (2018)

92. Band of Merrymakers – “A Very Merry Medley” (2016)

91. The Salsoul Orchestra – “Christmas Medley” (1976)

90. Charly Bliss – “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (2019)

89. Kylie Minogue – “Every Day’s like Christmas” (2015)

88. Frank Sinatra – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1957)

87. Ed Sheeran & Elton John – “Merry Christmas” (2021)

86. Chicago – “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” (2003)

85. Death Cab for Cutie – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (2004)

84. Darlene Love – “A Marshmallow World” (1963)

83. Stevie Wonder – “What Christmas Means to Me” (1967)

82. Slade – “Merry Xmas Everybody” (1973)

81. Andy Williams – “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (1963)

80. Barbra Streisand – “Sleep in Heavenly Peace (Silent Night)” (1967)

79. The Shins – “Wonderful Christmastime” (2012)

78. The Monkees – “Unwrap You at Christmas” (2018)

77. Greg Lake – “I Believe in Father Christmas” (1975)

76. The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl – “Fairytale of New York” (1987)

75. Squeeze – “Christmas Day” (1979)

74. Dolly Parton & Michael Bublé – “Cuddle Up, Cozy Down Christmas” (2020)

73. Bing Crosby – “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (1963)

72. Sia – “Candy Cane Lane” (2017)

71. Joni Mitchell – “River” (1971)

70. Extreme – “Christmas Time Again” (1992)

69. Kelly Clarkson – “Underneath the Tree” (2013)

68. CeeLo Green feat. The Muppets – “All I Need Is Love” (2012)

67. Darlene Love – “All Alone on Christmas” (1992)

66. Neon Trees – “Wish List” (2010)

65. OneRepublic – “Christmas Without You” (2011)

64. Mavis Staples – “Christmas Vacation” (1989)

63. Queen – “Thank God It’s Christmas” (1984)

62. Emmylou Harris – “Light of the Stable” (1979)

61. The Emotions – “What Do the Lonely Do for Christmas?” (1977)

60. Tevin Campbell – “O Holy Night” (1992)

59. Johnny Cash – “Silent Night” (1963)

58. The Staple Singers – “Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas” (1970)

57. Jackson 5 – “Give Love on Christmas Day” (1970)

56. Willie Nelson – “Christmas Blues” (1979)

55. The Beach Boys – “Little Saint Nick” (1964)

54. Vince Vance & the Valiants – “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (1989)

53. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Christmas All Over Again” (1992)

52. The Drifters – “White Christmas” (1954)

51. Prince – “Another Lonely Christmas” (1984)

See?!?! I can objectively rank a Prince, Queen or Tom Petty song lower than the Top 10. This is empirical evidence on my objectivity concerning Christmas songs. Peace!

My 400 Favorite Modern Christmas Songs, Day #5

A couple of weeks ago, we got to experience Christmas in New York City. Fortunately, we got in and out before the omicron variant of COVID-19 really got going there. We took in all the sights of the season like the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center, went up to the observation deck at the Empire State Building, took in the lights in a neighborhood in Brooklyn and a bunch of other tourist stuff. By the way, the Rockettes during the holiday season at Radio City Music Hall is truly worth the money, and I am one of the more cynical people about this stuff. And, we actually scored a pair of tickets for one of my wife’s favorite musicals, Wicked, about one hour before the start of the show. Fortunately, our hotel was right around the corner from the theater. So, yeah, we did the Christmas-time tourist thing, which was cool. In all honesty, we can’t wait to go back during non-COVID times, if we ever have those times again.

Now, we are back in the slow lane of Indiana where less than 50% of the damn population still refuses to get vaccinated, which I do not understand as a microbiologist. But, once again, I digress. You see, Christmas in Indiana is pretty cool, even though we don’t get the snow that we used to. The best part is that some of the things that I have enjoyed over the years have become traditions within my little family. While our boys were growing up, Christmas lights were huge, maybe not on our house, but we did love to ride around town to see how others decorated their homes.

Now, my boys do their own decorating at their homes. One is slowly becoming Clark Griswold at his own home, while the other is doing a more scaled down version. And, even though they used to complain about MY Christmas music, I hear many of those songs being played in their homes. As a matter of fact, my two-year-old grandson had to Facetime me because he had just become obsessed with Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” And another tradition has made it to the third generation.

I used to wonder when I left this world, would anyone remember me? I strove every hard to be a great teacher and coach, someone who would live on in the memories of my former students and athletes. Unfortunately, my body gave out on me, so my professional dreams ended way before I was done. But, I have learned that it will be my weird sense of humor, pop culture obsessions and, yes, music and sports look like they will all survive in my boys and their children. That realization happened last night when we took both boys and their families to walk around an Indianapolis event center to look at their lights and enjoy the yuletide celebration. It was the looks on the older two grandkids that taught me this valuable lesson.

Somehow, these songs on this list is part of my Christmas legacy that my boys have made into their own. And, that means my weirdness is being passed down to their kids. And, that’s just a small portion of our Christmas traditions. Hey guys! Get the NERF guns out!

Now, let’s take this countdown to #101! Peace!

200. John Legend & Kelly Clarkson – “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (2019)

199. Frank Sinatra – “Mistletoe & Holly” (1957)

198. Norah Jones – “Christmas Calling (Jolly Jones)” (2021)

197. Ladyhawke – “All Is Bright (Merry Xmas Everyone)” (2014)

196. George Thorogood & the Destroyers – “Rock & Roll Christmas” (1983)

195. Eels – “Christmas Is Going to the Dogs” (2000)

194. Phoenix – “Alone on Christmas Day” (2015)

193. James Brown – “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” (1968)

192. She & Him – “The Christmas Waltz” (2011)

191. Oasis – “Merry Christmas Everybody” (2010)

190. Bon Jovi – “Backdoor Santa” (1987)

189. The Spook School – “Someone to Spend Christmas With” (2017)

188. Best Coast – “Little Saint Nick” (2019)

187. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – “Little Drummer Boy” (1981)

186. The Dandy Warhols – “Little Drummer Boy” (1998)

185. Merle Haggard – “If We Make It Through December” (1973)

184. Black Joe Lewis – “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (2016)

183. Bahamas – “Christmas Highway” (2021)

182. Gwen Stefani & Blake Shelton – “You Make It Feel like Christmas” (2017)

181. Lady Gaga & Space Cowboy – “Christmas Tree” (2008)

180. Buck Owens – “Santa Looked a Lot like Daddy” (1965)

179. The Killers – “A Great Big Sled” (2006)

178. Aaron Neville – “Please Come Home for Christmas” (1993)

177. Third Day – “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (2006)

176. The Wombats – “Is This Christmas?” (2008)

175. Taylor Dayne – “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (2021)

174. Blossoms – “Christmas Eve (Soul Purposes)” (2020)

173. Lindsay Buckingham – “Holiday Road” (1983)

172. Adrian Younge feat. Voices of Gemma – “The Saddest Christmas Tree” (2017)

171. The Donnas – “Up on the House Top” (2017)

170. Aretha Franklin – “Kissin’ by the Mistletoe” (1962)

169. Straight No Chaser – “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (2008)

168. Kay Starr – “(Everybody’s Waiting For) The Man with the Bag” (1950)

167. Sia – “Snowman” (2017)

166. Bryan Adams – “Christmas Time” (1985)

165. George Ezra – “Come on Home for Christmas” (2021)

164. Lisa Mychols – “Wake Up Christmas” (2017)

163. Alessia Cara – “Make It Up to Christmas” (2020)

162. Boyz II Men – “Silent Night” (1993)

161. Mandy Moore – “How Could This Christmas?” (2020)

160. Lauren Daigle – “The Christmas Song” (2018)

159. Kylie Minogue – “I Wish Everyday Could Be Christmas” (2015)

158. Carrie Underwood – “Favorite Time of the Year” (2020)

157. Blink-182 – “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” (1997)

156. The Hives feat. Cyndi Lauper – “A Christmas Duel” (2008)

155. Al Green & Annie Lennox – “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” (1988)

154. Band Aid 20 – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (2004)

153. Fountains of Wayne – “I Want an Alien for Christmas” (2005)

152. Alabama – “Christmas in Dixie” (1982)

151. Nat King Cole – “The Christmas Song” (1946, 1953, 1961)

150. Liz Phair – “Ho Ho Ho” (2005)

149. The Raveonettes – “The Christmas Song” (2004)

148. Beach Bunny – “Christmas Caller” (2021)

147. Macy Gray – “This Christmas (Hang All the Mistletoe)” (2001)

146. Leona Lewis – “One More Sleep” (2013)

145. JD McPherson – “Hey Skinny Santa!” (2018)

144. Eartha Kitt – “Santa Baby” (1953)

143. Brian Setzer Orchestra – “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” (2002)

142. “Weird Al” Yankovic – “The Night Santa Went Crazy” (1996)

141. The Spinners – “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (1972)

140. TLC – “Sleigh Ride” (1992)

139. William Bell – “Every Day Will Be like a Holiday” (1967)

138. Pistol Annie – “Helluva Holiday” (2021)

137. Willie Nelson – “Pretty Paper” (1979)

136. Low – “Just like Christmas” (1999)

135. Elvis Presley – “Blue Christmas” (1957)

134. Third Day – “What Child Is This? (2006)

133. The Supremes – “Children’s Christmas Song” (1965)

132. Clarence Carter – “Backdoor Santa” (1968)

131. Phoebe Bridgers – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (2020)

130. Bryan Adams – “Reggae Christmas” (1985)

129. Carrie Underwood – “Stretchy Pants” (2021)

128. Kate Bush – “December Will Be Magic Again” (1983)

127. Rod Stewart & Dolly Parton – “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (2004)

126. Charles Brown – “Please Come Home for Christmas” (1960)

125. Bleached – “Jingle Bells” (2019)

124. Ella Fitzgerald – “Sleigh Ride” (1960)

123. Burl Ives – “Holly Jolly Christmas” (1964)

122. The Empty Hearts – “It’s Christmastime” (2016)

121. Lucy Dacus – “Last Christmas” (2019)

120. Donna Summer – “Winter Melody” (1976)

119. Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Anymore)” (1989)

118. Joe Tex – “I’ll Make Everyday Christmas (For My Woman)” (1967)

117. They Might Be Giants – “Santa’s Beard” (1988)

116. Akim & Teddy Vann – “Santa Claus Is a Black Man” (1973)

115. The Royal Guardsman – “Snoopy’s Christmas” (1967)

114. Foo Fighters – “Run Rudolph Run” (2020)

113. Michael Bublé – “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” (2003)

112. CeeLo Green feat. Christina Aguilera – “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (2012)

111. Faith Hill – “Where Are You Christmas?” (2000)

110. Leon Bridges – “Purple Snowflakes” (2021)

109. Jonas Brothers – “Like It’s Christmas” (2019)

108. Mabel Scott – “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” (1948)

107. Marvin Gaye – “I Want to Come Home for Christmas” (1972)

106. Girlhouse – “ugly xmas sweater party” (2020)

105. Adam Sandler – “The Chanukah Song” (1994)

104. Chuck Berry – “Run Rudolph Run” (1958)

103. Albert Hammond Jr. – “The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot” (2017)

102. Aimee Mann – “Christmastime” (2006)

101. Bing Crosby – “White Christmas” (1942, 1947)

Next time, we will break into the Top 100 for this countdown!

My 400 Favorite Modern Christmas Songs, Day 4

It may be strange that I look back fondly to two Christmases that took place during my college years as opposed to my childhood growing up. Those four years were truly some of the best years of my single life. In college, I was not the principal’s son. Nor was I some stereotyped personality forced upon me by the people with whom I grew up. No, during those four years, I got to stretch out of the box in which I was metaphorically placed during my 12 years of primary and secondary schooling.

So, during my junior year at Ball State, my roommate, Bruce, and I threw one of the more epic dorm parties of my time on campus. With our room outfitted in Christmas lights and those stupid, worthless reading lights that were attached to the walls of every room in our dorm replaced with a green and red light, I finally got to test my music mix theory by incorporating terrific Christmas music (The Waitresses, Springsteen, The Salsoul Orchestra, Bryan Adams) with my usual array of party favorites. Believe it or not, at one point in the night, we had over 50 Christmas guests stuffed in that little room. In these days of COVID, this party would have been a superspreader event.

Of the many highlights, most of which will go unmentioned, perhaps my second favorite was the moment when Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes” blared on the stereo. When you are a 5’11, 150 lb guy attempting to man the door and keep us from being busted, you are at the whim of many good-natured people. But, when a 6-foot-5, 245 lb future NFL defensive lineman wants to imitate Adam Ant up and down the hallway, well, you open the door to relieve the pressure. At that moment, I am watching this mountain of a man going up and down the hall like he was a Midwestern giant Adam Ant, spraying Little Kings Cream Ale out of bottle in his massive hands. After two passes up and down the hall, we got him back in the room before he got in trouble.

After that, the residence director knocked on the door and made most of the people leave. He simply said that 50 people in the room was just too much. So, for a half hour, the party was down to 15 people. But, slowly, the numbers began to swell again. That is until midnight, when the future NFL player’s roommate put on display that will live in infamy in our memories.

Unbeknownst to us in our room, the football player Mike and his roomie Max were doing shot of tequila. According to Mike, who loved to play great tricks on Max, took their fourth or fifth shot of tequila, when Mike looked at Max seriously and told him, “Close your eyes and think of yourself taking a big bite of dry bacon grease.” At that moment, Max popped up and ran out into the hall to go down two doors to the bathroom to get sick. Simultaneously, someone opened our door just in time to see Max running past with his right hand over his mouth.

Immediately, Max began to projectile vomit through the spaces in his fingers, making what appeared to be a little boy (he was only 5’6″) fountain of puke as he ran to the bathroom. Unfortunately, that spelled the penultimate moment of the party. Some left disgusted, others just left. For many of us in attendance, it was a collegiate life highlight. Oh, sure, the party continued for a couple more hours, but it became a much mellower gathering of four, with some gift unwrapping yet to be done.

Recently, I attended my high school reunion. I heard person after person saying they wish that they could go back to high school. Me? I’d go back to high school only for the sports, if I could be armed with my current knowledge. On the other hand, I’d go back to college in a heartbeat. Those were my fun years.

Okay, so in reality, this is an ancillary Christmas story, only because it happened at Christmas time. Who cares? It was an awesome time to be alive. Now, let’s do this countdown!

250. Dean Martin – “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” (1948)

249. Gloria Estefan – “Love on Layaway” (1999)

248. John Legend feat. Stevie Wonder – “What Christmas Means to Me” (2018)

247. Billy Idol – “Jingle Bell Rock” (2006)

246. Hot Chocolate – “Brand New Christmas” (1980)

245. The Darkness – “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)” (2003)

244. Son Little – “What Child Is This?” (2018)

243. Lake Street Dive – “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” (2017)

242. The Smashing Pumpkins – “Christmastime” (1997)

241. Lindsey Stirling – “Carol of the Bells” (2017)

240. Stevie Nicks – “Silent Night” (1987)

239. The Monkees – “What Would Santa Do?” (2018)

238. Camila Cabello – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (2021)

237. Mariah Carey feat. Ariana Grande – “Oh Santa!” (2010)

236. Jon Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas” (1992)

235. Gene Autry – “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1949, 1957)

234. Everything but the Girl – “25th December” (1994)

233. Bette Midler – “Cool Yule” (2006)

232. Charles Brown – “Merry Christmas Baby” (1947, 1956, 1862, 1968)

231. Aretha Franklin – “Christmas Ain’t Christmas (Without the One You Love)” (2008)

230. Sia – “Everyday Is Christmas” (2017)

229. Ella Fitzgerald – “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” (1960)

228. Denise Montoya & The Salsoul Orchestra – “Merry Christmas All” (1976)

227. Weezer – “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (2008)

226. Loretta Lynn – “To Heck with Ole Santa Claus” (1966)

225. Halford – “O Holy Night” (2009)

224. Ray Parker Jr. – “Christmas Time Is Here” (1984)

223. Aretha Franklin – “Winter Wonderland” (1964)

222. Sara Bareilles – “Love Is Christmas” (2011)

221. Rufus Thomas – “I’ll Be Your Santa Baby” (1973)

220. Kai Danzberg – “Santa If” (2018)

219. Jackson 5 – “Frosty the Snowman” (1970)

218. Snow Patrol – “When I Get Home for Christmas” (2004)

217. Mannheim Steamroller – “Deck the Halls” (1984)

216. The Polyphonic Spree – “Happy Xmas” (2012)

215. Carnie & Wendy Wilson – “Hey Santa” (1993)

214. Grace Potter – “Christmas Moon” (2017)

213. Jimi Hendrix – “Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne” (1969)

212. Meghan Trainor – “My Kind of Present” (2020)

211. The Temptations – “Silent Night” (1968, 1980)

210. Shoes – “This Christmas” (1991)

209. Bon Jovi – “I Wish Everyday Could Be Christmas” (1993)

208. Amy Grant – “Tennessee Christmas” (1983)

207. Katy Perry – “Cozy Christmas” (2008)

206. Harry Belafonte – “Mary’s Boy Child” (1956)

205. Darius Rucker & Sheryl Crow – “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (2014)

204. George Harrison – “Ding Dong” (1970)

203. Fall Out Boy – “Yule Shoot Your Eye Out” (2017)

202. Solomon Burke – “Presents for Christmas” (1968)

201. Nat King Cole – “The Little Boy Santa Claus Forgot” (1956)

My 400 Favorite Modern Christmas Songs, Day 3

Card with music waveform as christmas tree and vinyl grooves

Many writers might take the time to write about their favorite Christmases or funny things that happened during the holiday season. But, for better or worse, I am not other writers. Hell, I even question whether I am writer and simply pulling the wool over your collective eyes with more flash than substance. And, once again, I digress (This is a common thing in my head, getting off the subject. I think my former students could all attest to that during lecture days.).

Let’s get back on track here. Let’s go back to Christmas 1981. At the moment, I am wrapping up the first three weeks of my second quarter at Ball State. In keeping with my nerdy image, I am still not dating anyone at the moment. So, a bunch of us guys in the dormitory decided to have a white elephant party. You know, looking back the party isn’t even the big story. Neither was the fact that we bought a bubble keg, wrapped up the box it was in, and got it by the dorm monitors even though the package was obviously “sweating.” And my floor RA even made that exact comment! Something like, “Guys, your package is sweating!” And we thought we were sly.

Paul McCartney Saturday Night Live

No, that’s not the story either. Not the inappropriate smut gifts, the children’s Christmas album I received, nor the stupid lighted Christmas bowtie someone got. And, I can’t say that the story was all the empty pizza box lids we were drunkenly sliding up and down the hall on. No, the story is about a young man who actually grew up to be a Resident Advisor in a dorm at Ball State, and his brilliant decision to adhere to a new diet by eating cream of mushroom soup instead of pizza. Of course, this man is NOT me nor will I identify him. But, what was about to transpire was both out of character for him, AND took a few weeks for the whole thing to unravel.

That night, our hero finished off his soup and placed his cup on the desk of the room we were in and started to drink with the rest of us. Since we were partying in the room that was well-known as the dirtiest room in the dorm, no one thought twice about leaving our trash laying around. You see, the two gentlemen named Ron and Rusty never had any exposed floor in their room. And, not because they had wall-to-wall carpeting. Nope! It was because those guys NEVER did laundry that first few months of college. There was even a mud-dried pair of jeans standing in the corner from the dorm football game in the bowl in front of the building on the day of the first snowfall a month earlier. Yes, that room was disgusting! Then, a few days later, we all went on break.

Three weeks later, we arrived back to Ball State, ready for what laid ahead of us. But, something was amiss whenever you walked past Ron and Rusty’s room. There was a stench like we had never experienced before and, let me add, even after two boys and three grandchildren, ever after. But I knew in my heart that there was a reason for this malodorous smell emanating from their room.  My fraternity little brother and I, both microbiology majors, suspecting the growth of something in their dirty clothes.

For the next several days, Ron and Rusty did a very long overdue deep cleaning of their room. Over those days, which stretched out to weeks, they did the laundry, cleaned out everything. But, the pungent odor remained.

As we moved into the third week of the mysterious odor, the young men began to clean off their desks. When they moved their large and heavy tube TV, they finally discovered the source. Sitting behind that old black-and-white 70s-era TV was the cup that contained the remnants of mushroom soup as it was now the growth medium for a nice Penicillium species of fungus. This was the first occasion for my Little Bro Tim and me to use our newfound microbiology knowledge to identify a microorganism. This fungus can be found on moldy bread and oranges and does produce a chemical that you may remember as the first antibiotic called penicillin. But, man, when it has a month to growth, this fungus can be quite the smelly organism. Needless to say, Ron and Rusty bagged that Cup o’ Fungi and threw it away. Then they sanitized the desk, and the world was right again.

Regardless of the odor, that remains one of my favorite Christmas holiday memories. And, that is something which could have only happened in a guy’s dorm. At least, I thought that until I really began to hang out in the girls’ rooms that second half of the year. Most of what I learned in college had very little to do with microbiology and medical technology, my two majors.

Now, on with the countdown!

300. Khruangbin – “Christmas Time Is Here” (2018)

299. DNCE – “Christmas Without You” (2017)

298. Jimmy Eat World – “Last Christmas” (2001)

297. The Treacherous Three – “Santa’s Rap” (1984)

296. Meg & Dia – “December, Darling” (2019)

295. Tegan & Sara – “The Chipmunk Song (Don’t Be Late)” (2010)

294. Rufus Wainwright & Sharon Van Etten – “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (2012)

293. Mariah Carey, Khalid & Kirk Franklin – “Fall in Love at Christmas” (2021)

292. Lisa Loeb – “Champagne (I’m Ready)” (2015)

291. Sinead O’Connor – “Silent Night” (1991)

290. moe. – “Christmas Together” (2002)

289. Boney M – “Mary’s Boy Child/O My Lord” (1978)

288. John Denver & The Muppets – “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (1979)

287. Train – “Shake Up Christmas” (2012)

286. Clarence Reid – “Winter Man” (1974)

285. Tyler, The Creator – “I Am the Grinch” (2018)

284. Colbie Caillat – “Christmas in the Sand” (2012)

283. Bob Seger & the Last Herd – “Sock It to Me Santa” (1966)

282. Zooey Deschanel & Ingrid Michaelson – “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year” (2018)

281. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – “Ain’t No Chimneys in the Ghetto” (2009)

280. Marshall Crenshaw – “(It’s Going to Be A) Lonely Christmas” (1992)

279. Frankie Goes to Hollywood – “The Power of Love” (1984)

278. Cyndi Lauper – “Christmas Conga” (1998)

277. Tuxedo – “Wonderful Christmastime” (2014)

276. Cheap Trick – Remember Christmas” (2017)

275. The Sonics – “Don’t Believe in Christmas” (1965)

274. Little Steven – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” (2017)

273. Marvin Gaye – “Purple Snowflakes” (1992)

272. Smokey Robinson feat. The Dap-Kings – “You’re My Present” (2017)

271. New Kids on the Block – “This One’s for the Children” (1989)

270. Lily Allen – “Somewhere We Only Know” (2014)

269. H.E.R. – “Christmas Time Is Here” (2019)

268. Band Aid 30 – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (2014)

267. Carly Rae Jepson – “It’s Not Christmas Till Someone Cries” (2020)

266. Eazy-E – “Merry Muthafuckin’ Christmas” (1992)

265. Twisted Sister – “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” (2006)

264. Christina Perri – “merry christmas darling” (2013)

263. Louis Armstrong & the Commanders – “Cool Yule” (1953)

262. Amy Grant – “My Grown-Up Christmas List” (1992)

261. Relient K – “12 Days of Christmas” (2003)

260. No Doubt – “Oi to the World” (1997)

259. Linda Ronstadt – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (2000)

258. Jimmy Durante – “Frosty the Snowman” (1969)

257. Green Day – “Xmas Time of the Year” (2019)

256. Band of Merrymakers – “Snow Snow Snow” (2015)

255. The Free Design – “Close Your Mouth (It’s Christmas)” (1968)

254. AC/DC – “Mistress for Christmas” (1990)

253. Sufjan Stevens – “Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance” (2006)

252. John Denver – “Christmas for Cowboys” (1975)

251. Pentatonix – “Mary, Did You Know?” (2014)

And that’s the countdown for today. Only 250 (Hahaha!) modern Christmas songs to go!

My Favorite 400 Modern Christmas Songs, Day 2

As I begin Day 2 of my insanely long countdown of my favorite modern Christmas songs, I am reminded that there are only 10 more shopping days until the big day. Yes, I know that all this gift-giving is NOT the true purpose of Christmas. As a Christian living in the USA in the twenty-first century, I am more than a little cynical about what I believe are the beliefs of what I call American Christianity. I promise not to make this a quasi-religo-political essay, but I do enjoy the secular side of what Christmas has become. I love the lights, decorations, ugly sweaters, corny pop songs, etc. And I do know the reason for the season. I simply refuse to use my beliefs to discriminate against others or to economically hold others down. I’m a Matthew 25: 31-46 type of guy. But, once again, I digress.

It is during the holiday season that I wish I were living in the UK instead of the USA. For 45 years, I have found the British obsession with the number 1 song of the season absolutely fascinating. All kinds of crazy songs have held the number 1 position over the years. Winners of the X Factor television competition show have taken the coveted top spot in recent years, which caused a whole protest one year in order to make Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” number 1. And, of course, it happened. That’s why the film Love Actually rings so true, as one of the subplots of film covers this holiday competition in hysterical fashion.

So, these happen to be some reasons why I love Christmas music so much. If you want to better understand this addiction, watch the terrific documentary called Jingle Bell Rocks, which can be found on Amazon Prime. It was released in 2013 and has some surprising characters who share this same passion.

For now, Lest finish off the first 100 songs in this countdown.

350. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy – “Christmas Time in Tinseltown (Again)” (1995)

349. Mannheim Steamroller – “Away in the Manager” (2001)

348. New Kids on the Block – “Funky, Funky Xmas” (1989)

347. Bahamas – “Christmas Must Be Tonight” (2012)

346. B.B. King – “Christmas Celebration” (2001)

345. John Lee Hooker – “Blues for Christmas” (1961)

344. Kanye West – “Christmas in Harlem” (2010)

343. Buster Poindexter & His Banshees of Blue – “Zat You Santa Claus?” (2015)

342. LCD Soundsystem – “Christmas Will Break Your Heart” (2015)

341. The Beach Boys – “The Man with All the Toys” (1964)

340. The dB’s – “Christmas Time” (1986)

339. Destiny’s Child – “8 Days of Christmas” (2001)

338. Rise Against – “Making Christmas” (2006)

337. Bob Dylan – “Must Be Santa” (2009)

336. Carrie Underwood – “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” (2007)

335. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – “Christmas Cannon” (1998)

334. Tom Waits – “A Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” (1978)

333. Nick Jonas feat. Shania Twain – “Say All You Want for Christmas” (2017)

332. Mud – “Lonely This Christmas” (1974)

331. Jackson 5 – “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” (1970)

330. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats – “Santa Baby” (2017)

329. Kelly Clarkson – “Christmas Isn’t Canceled (Just You)” (2021)

328. Celine Dion – “Don’t Save It All for Christmas” (1998)

327. My Morning Jacket – “Xmas Time Is Here Again” (2000)

326. The Whispers – “Happy Holidays to You” (1979)

325. Cheap Trick – “Merry Christmas Darlings” (2017)

324. Bobby Darin – “Christmas Auld Lang Syne” (1960)

323. Etta James – “White Christmas” (1998)

322. Ray Charles & Betty Carter – “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (1962)

321. Miles Davis – “Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)” (1962)

320. Barry Manilow & Exposé – “Jingle Bells” (1990)

319. Jose Feliciano – “Feliz Navidad” (1970)

318. MercyMe – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (2005)

317. Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Christmas Time Again” (2000)

316. Dido – “Christmas Day” (1999)

315. The Chipmunks – “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” (1958)

314. The Orioles – “(It’s Gonna Be A) Lonely Christmas” (1948)

313. Pearl Jam – “Let Me Sleep (It’s Christmas Time)” (2005)

312. Justin Bieber – “Mistletoe” (2011)

311. Booker T & the MG’s – “Jingle Bells” (1966)

310. The Ventures – “Sleigh Ride” (1965)

309. *NSYNC – “Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas” (1998)

308. Roy Orbison – “Pretty Paper” (1963)

307. Simple Plan – “Christmas Every Day” (2016)

306. The O’Jays – “Christmas Ain’t Christmas New Year’s Ain’t New Year’s Without the One You Love” (1969)

305. Thurl Ravenscroft – “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” (1966)

304. Hootie & the Blowfish – “The Christmas Song” (1997)

303. twenty one pilots – “Christmas Saves the Year” (2020)

302. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” (1995)

301. Nick Lowe – “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” (2015)

My Top 400 Favorite Modern Christmas Songs, Day 1

You read the headline correctly! I really DO have a list of 400 modern Christmas songs that I actually love. To be honest, I have around 600 on my master playlist, but some of those are simply curiosities, like the recently minted-on-vinyl “Yuletide Throwdown” by Blondie and Fab 5 Freddie, which was originally released as a flexi-disc way back in 1980. In this case, the song is only Christmas in its title and not much else since the music is based upon the very non-Christmas hit single “Rapture,” which was riding high on the charts back then. No, these 400 songs actually hold down the music portion with a good dose of melody and instrumentation that captures the season, along with lyrics that are either celebratory or cynical and all points in between. Whatever the reason, they all remind me of Christmas.

Since a grew up as the very young son of a successful small high school basketball coach, much of my preschool years saw the Christmas season as the pause button on basketball season. Those years are littered with great stories of Dad’s team stopping by our house for ice cream, the cheerleaders taking me up on the stage in the gym to get my picture taken with Santa Claus, who was portrayed by a half-lit new teacher paid by the six-pack to dress up, or sitting near Dad’s team bench as his team won another holiday tournament. After Dad hung up his coaching whistle to become a principal (Cliché!), Christmases were longer and more family-oriented, which was okay. But, I missed the “glamor” of the big lights in a tiny rural town surrounding the high school basketball team during the month of December.

So, with those years in my memory bank, and the constant voices of both parents telling me to go to sleep on Christmas Eve, when the whole world knew that my ADHD-riddled brain would NEVER allow me to settle down for a short moment of shut-eye (and probably a shut mouth that my parents were wishing for each year until first grade when I finally figured why the logistics of Santa never adding up). So, during those cold, sleepless Christmas mornings, I was allowed to listen to my radio play Christmas music all night.

It seems that the late-Sixties and early-Seventies were actually something of a golden era of modern Christmas music, what with seasonal music released by many of the artists from the Motown and Stax stables, along with one-off singles by the likes of Carpenters, Elton John and Cheech & Chong. Then, things dried up. Oh, sure, we’d get to hear Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” or The Kinks’ “Father Christmas,” but those weren’t released here for many years. The Eagles released “Please Come Home for Christmas,” which seemed like the last actual Christmas song to chart for many years. Yacht rock kings Kenny Loggins (“Celebrate Me Home”) and Dan Fogelberg (“Same Old Lang Syne”) released songs whose stories mention the holidays but are not really Christmas songs (though they both made my list because IT IS MY LIST!).

But when MTV began to count as the voice of Generation X, Christmas music began to seep out everywhere. All of this culminating in 1987 when an album of Christmas music was released as a fundraiser for the Special Olympics called A Very Special Christmas. With top artists like Springsteen, Mellencamp, Run-DMC, Eurythmics and Whitney Houston leading the way, a new generation finally had the holiday of their own. And, that one album signaled a whole new run on Christmas music that continues to this day. Ever since 1994, when Mariah Carey released her holiday classic “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” it seems as though every hot pop artist of the moment releases a Christmas album with the hope of landing a new holiday classic like Mariah did. Unfortunately, no one has captured lightning in a bottle over the past nearly 30 year.

I believe each artist hopes their Christmas music captures the imagination of the general public so their music will continue to be a source of income for the ensuing years. A successful Christmas song or album could have the potential to be a retirement fund all unto itself if the public invites their creation into their lives. Hell, you better believe the families of Brenda Lee (“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”) and Bobby Helms (“Jingle Bell Rock”) are happy when their relatives’ songs begin their annual ascent up the Billboard Hot 100 after Thanksgiving. Plus, when anyone else records successful versions of those songs, the songwriters all see their bank accounts fill up as well. Basically, the whole industry has discovered just how lucrative that Christmas music can be.

Now, let’s get this Christmas party rolling with the bottom 50 songs of my countdown, as we count down to my most favorite modern Christmas song of all.

400. The Cheetah Girls – “The Perfect Christmas” (2005)

399. Rob Thomas – “New York Christmas” (2002)

398. Pentatonix with Maren Morris – “When You Believe” (2018)

397. Band Aid II – “They Know It’s Christmas?” (1989)

396. Soupy Sales – “Santa Claus Is Surfin’ to Town” (1963)

395. Barry Gordon and Art Mooney & His Orchestra – “Nuttin’ for Christmas” (1955)

394. Earth, Wind & Fire – “December (Based on ‘September’)” (2014)

393. Bright Eyes – “White Christmas” (2002)

392. Dickie Goodman – “Santa and the Satellite” (1957)

391. The Bird and the Bee – “Carol of the Bells” (2007)

390. Elmo & Patsy – “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” (1979, 1982, 1984)

389. The Civil Wars – “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” (2012)

388. Connie Francis – “Baby’s First Christmas” (1961)

387. Frightened Rabbit – “It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop” (2007)

386. Arcade Fire – Jingle Bell Rock” (2002)

385. Ray Charles – “That Spirit of Christmas” (1985)

384. Chris Rea – “Driving Home for Christmas” (1986)

383. The Cold Crew – “Rappin’ Christmas” (1982)

382. Haley Reinhart & Casey Abrams – “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (2011)

381. Britney Spears – “My Only Wish (This Year)” (2000)

380. Fleet Foxes – “White Winter Hymnal” (2008)

379. Def Leppard – “We All Need Christmas” (2018)

378. Harry Connick Jr. – “(It Must Have Been Ol’) Santa Claus” (1992)

377. Bob Marley – “White Christmas” (1965)

376. Vanessa Williams – “What Child Is This?” (1992)

375. Spike Jones – “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” (1948)

374. Jason Mraz – “Winter Wonderland” (2005)

373. Judy Garland – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1944)

372. Keith Urban – “I’ll Be Your Santa Tonight” (2019)

371. Bob Rivers – “The Twelve Pains of Christmas” (1988)

370. Manchester Orchestra – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (2020)

369. Spinal Tap – “Christmas with the Devil” (1984)

368. Julian Casablancas – “Christmas Treat” (2009)

367. Canned Heat – “Christmas Blues” (1968)

366. Elvis Presley – “Santa Claus Is Back in Town” (1957)

365. Josh Groban – “It Came Upon a Midnight Blue” (2007)

364. Monty Python – “Christmas in Heaven” (1983)

363. Sheryl Crow – “Blue Christmas” (2008)

362. Chris De Burgh – “A Spaceman Came Travelling” (1975)

361. The Cadillacs – “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” (1957)

360. Brian Setzer Orchestra – “Jingle Bells” (1996)

359. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats feat. Julie Davis – “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (2017)

358. Vampire Weekend – “Holiday” (2010)

357. Run the Jewels – “A Christmas Fucking Miracle” (2013)

356. Jordin Sparks – “Christmas Time to Me” (2013)

355. Belle & Sebastian – “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (2009)

354. Tony Bennett – “Winter Wonderland” (1968)

353. Steve Perry – “The Christmas Song” (2021)

352. Kenny Rogers & Wynonna Judd – “Mary, Did You Know?” (1996)

351. The White Stripes – “Candy Cane Children” (2002)

And that wraps up the first 50 modern Christmas songs in my overblown countdown. Stay tuned for more Yuletide Tunes tomorrow! Peace.