Mindy Smith, "My Holiday." The Long Island-reared, Nashville-based singer-songwriter wrote an ode to her artificial tree in the title track from her exquisite 2007 holiday album. Dissonant chords and an unconventional melody add to the melancholy feeling behind her outwardly celebratory lyric: "Somebody'd say this tree's not real/'Cause it stands there every year/But it makes my holiday feel like Christmas/When Christmas time is here."
Sufjan Stevens, "Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? (Well You Deserved It)." The prolific indie rocker has a lot to say about the holidays. If his 42-song box set "Christmas" from 2006 wasn’t enough, he’s just released "Silver and Gold," a five-CD set with 58 additional yuletide songs. This one from his 2006 collection looks at a downward-spiraling relationship that gets more dysfunctional during the holidays. "This time of year you always disappear/You tell me not to call… And when the door is closed you're wearing different clothes/Or hiding in the paper, pretending not to hear."
Barbra Streisand, "I’ll Be Home for Christmas." This World War II-era number first came to fame with Bing Crosby’s 1943 version, capturing the sadness of a soldier serving far from home at Christmas. Streisand delivered a gorgeous rendition on her 2001 album "Christmas Memories."
Dwight Yoakam, "Santa Can’t Stay." From Yoakam’s 1997 album "Come on Christmas," this rockabilly-steeped big-band arrangement sets the scene of the holiday for a split family: "Mama says Santa can’t stay/Says she told him that twice yesterday/Then a car just like Dad’s pulled out and drove away/As mama said 'Santa couldn’t stay'."
The Youngsters, "Christmas in Jail." A 1956 doo-wop-based R&B chesnut about a nitwit who drinks and drives on Christmas Eve, this one is more lighthearted than the rest: " 'Merry Christmas, happy new year,' they’re singing down the street/While everybody’s havin' Christmas turkey/They give me bread and water to eat."
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