Christmas-Music-Postcard-16856432A coworker and I were recently talking about our favorite Christmas music. I called him a Christmas music connoisseur, and another coworker piped in and said that’s like being a connoisseur of Hallmark greeting cards. So be it. You get one season of the year for sentimental music and nostalgic feelings. Why not enjoy it?

New Christmas albums come out every year, and most of them are pretty forgettable. Take your favorite singer, let them sing a familiar carol, drown them in strings or orchestration, and voilà! 

But every now and then, a singer’s take on a Christmas song will increase your appreciation for the song and the singer. Novelty for it’s own sake rarely works well, but an interesting arrangement of a familiar song can be beautiful.

Here are a few of my favorite Christmas songs that are given a unique “twist” by the artists who covered them. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

1. O Come, O Come Emmanuel (Steven Curtis Chapman)

What? You’re going to take my favorite Advent song of all time and give it a new melody? Yes. And somehow, Steven manages to give a new twist to an old song while heightening the mournful, hopeful quality of the original. Breathtaking.

2. All I Want for Christmas is You (Michael Buble)

Michael took a Mariah Carey pop song, filled it with pathos, and reworked it until it sounded almost new. My respect for his artistry went up when I heard this version the first time. It’s like listening to a totally different song (which is probably why I like it now).

3. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Casting Crowns)

I’m usually not a fan of giving well-known hymns new melodies, but the haunting piano that opens this song gives the lyrics an edgy atmosphere that heightens their inherent drama.

4. Santa Claus is Coming to Town (The Carpenters)

Everyone knows their original – “Merry Christmas, Darling.” But the Carpenters also put a spin on the fast-paced kids’ song, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” They slowed it down, made it a ballad, and overdubbed their voices to give it their own unique sound. Karen never sounded better.

5. Jingle Bells (Kenny G)

Kenny G takes a perennial favorite and transforms it into a sad, somber Christmas song (which gave me a new appreciation for the simplicity and flexibility of the original melody).

Your Turn

All right, now it’s your turn. What are your favorite Christmas songs with a twist?

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10 thoughts on “Christmas Songs with a Twist”

  1. Andy says:

    Brian Setzer / My favorite things:

  2. Bernie says:

    Bar none, my favorite Christmas classic cover song, is the Beach Boys wonderous acapella version of the Lord’s Prayer, which was released as somewhat of an obscure Christmas single in 1963, a year before their more familiar Christmas album.

    The vocal arrangement is par excellence and the harmonies led by Brian Wilson are superb.

    1. Andy says:

      The Beach Boys / The Lord’s Prayer

  3. Jon Wilke says:

    Big Daddy Weave has a great version of “Go Tell it on the Mountain” –

  4. Andy says:

    Just one more from me and that would be Mel Torme and Judy Garland in a duet of The Christmas Song (which he wrote)

    I love Mel. What a voice:

  5. David Benson says:

    Much as I like Casting Crowns, John Gorka’s version of Christmas Bells is in a different league – the above comment about the piano on CC’s version are even more true about his voice

    http://youtu.be/F2nxeACcW3I

    David Benson

  6. Steve Laube says:

    Reliant K’s “12 Days of Christmas.”
    They were having way too much fun with this.
    http://youtu.be/PA6QsHdXwdI

  7. a. says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADbJLo4x-tk

    Little drummer boy/Peace on earth Davie Bowie/Bing Crosby

  8. The Citizens’ rendition of Dustin Kensrue’s reworking of the medieval Dutch hymn “Come and Stand Amazed” is breathtaking and haunting:

    http://marshill.com/music/albums/repeat-the-sounding-joy

    Perhaps the most beautiful Christmas hymn musically and lyrically that I have ever heard.

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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