Songs of the Week: Some Deep Christmas Cuts to Get You Through the Holidays
Sounds of Blackness, “Soul Holiday”
The great thing about the collective Sounds of Blackness is that, at any given time, there are between 38 and 470 members. No one rolls deep like Sounds of Blackness. And this song, “Soul Holiday,” and its video are a peak everything they represent. Peak Blackness, Peak Jesus, Peak Gathering Around a Piano and Dancing in a Living Room, Peak Wearing Scarves, Peak Church Singing, and Peak Making These Faces:
In the month of December, no song sounds better than “Soul Holiday.” I can be in the worst mood, throw this on, and then immediately start passing out soup to the homeless. It’s the ultimate.
Quincy Jones Featuring the All-Star Chorus, “Hallelujah Chorus”
In 1992, Quincy Jones decided to run back the We Are the World model on Christmas music with his All-Star Chorus. I can’t recognize most of the people (except for the guy from Amen), but one has to assume 40 of them are in Sounds of Blackness. The real high point of this song, other than the dashikis, starts at the two-minute mark. First, there’s a flash of Chaka Khan and all her purple hair, and then they split into four parts — first tenors, then baritones, then altos, then sopranos. It’s the jam. They also performed this at the 1992 Stellar Awards, which is quite fantastic.
Luther Vandross, “Every Year, Every Christmas”
Calling this a deep cut is rude and misleading, because there are certain radio stations that start playing this the second Thanksgiving is over, and loop it until the 26th of December. This is top-five Luther. His voice is perfect. This song has no flaws and there’s really nothing else to say. Except that, if you listen to the lyrics, it’s clear Luther is revealing he’s Santa.
My friends gather round me with holiday cheer
They say to forget you, to let you go ’cause you’re not here
Well, I can’t keep explaining what they’ll never understand
And why I’m here every year, every Christmas
I return every year, every Christmas
I come here every year, every Christmas
Margie Joseph, “Christmas Gift”
I only know about this song because back when I couldn’t afford to buy my mom Christmas presents, I’d just burn her CDs from music I found on Kazaa. One year, she asked if I could find a Christmas song by Margie Joseph. Four days later, I found it, and it was a Christmas miracle.
And I’ve been listening to it ever since, because she can sing and that guitar part in the background is everything.
Jackson 5, “Up on the Housetop”
Nothing about the Jackson 5 and Christmas is necessarily a deep cut, but sometimes you can get caught up in their bona fide Christmas classics (“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “Give Love on Christmas Day”) and forget about the greatest of them all, “Up on the Housetop.” This is easily one of the funkiest holiday songs ever created. Also, TITO GOT A SOLO. I repeat: TITO GOT A SOLO.
Also important, Mike is showing out on this song. Listen to how he sings “love and peace for everyone” around the 2:15 mark. He was Earth’s greatest superstar at age 12.
Carla Thomas, “Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas”
Singing “Gee Whiz” in 2013, really not as bad as it seems. I just did it. It’s pretty fun.
Boyz II Men, “Let It Snow” (From The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
The song by Boyz II Men is a Christmas staple, but never forget that on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will promised the family that Boyz II Men would sing for Nicki’s christening. But he never asked Boyz II Men, so he had to sneak into their recording session of “Let It Snow” and then got into a fight with the group because he stole one of their girls back in the day. But the song sounds glorious.
Boyz II Men, “Silent Night” (From The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
LATER IN THAT SAME EPISODE, Boyz II Men heed the call of the Christmas spirit and, instead of beating down Will, show up to the christening in blue suits for a top-10 Fresh Prince tearjerker moment. They’re voices couldn’t sound any better.