What Holiday Tunes Teach Us About Innovation

Happy Holidays! I work with different people with diverse beliefs in general and around the holidays they celebrate. Thank you for that--I really appreciate how interesting and colorful that makes the world and my life.

I am a Christmas celebrator. (Also, any holiday that involves fire and exploding things and eating. I am a big fan of eating.) Among my favorite things about Christmas are time connecting with friends and family, time away from the grind to just relax, snow--as seen through the window and not the windshield, and the Christmas and holiday tunes.

In fact, I have a playlist on Spotify that includes many of my favorites as well as just a variety of ones that I enjoy. (Warning--I am a child of the ‘70s and my music tastes run that way.) You can get to it here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1svHNO117gSv4gYTUCKV6s?si=nN0CY-iVTpCdGV9JcGah1g

There are so many Christmas classics that you would think the Christmas music scene would be somewhat tried and true. What’s more Christmas than Bing Crosby’s classic album of Christmas songs.

Over the years, I have noticed that most musical artists, when they do a Christmas album, pretty much stick to the classics. After all, those are the safe songs--you know people will want to hear a rendition of their favorites. It’s the same reasoning behind Home Alone 2, and 3 and so on. There is revenue safety in brand extensions.

But for me, the Christmas tunes that have become my favorites are the ones that are completely original. Sure, I enjoy the covers of classics, especially with a twist. (Who wouldn’t love The Night Before Christmas, Led Zeppelin style. Yes, thanks to The December People, that’s a real thing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYAZI5kCXBM)

There are some really good, truly original tunes that have entered the Christmas tunes fray. If people can innovate in a category that feels like it predates any other product category, this leads me to believe that even in a crowded, seemingly stale category there is still room for innovation.

So, for your holiday listening pleasure, if you want, here are my Top 10 truly original Christmas songs.

10. We All Need Christmas by Def Leppard Only Def Leppard could make a Christmas song sound like a metal anthem. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9UkvOrDx1M

9. I Believe in Father Christmas by Emerson, Lake & Palmer The classic now, but when it came out, a breakthrough Christmas tune. This version with Ian Anderson and Greg Lake https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6-PAKOt7sM

8. Gather Close by SHEL This group of Fort Collins, CO natives has mesmerizing vocal harmonies that fit any Christmas tune amazing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEkJR713kfs

7. Cinnamon & Chocolate by Butterfly Boucher What is more important around the holidays than chocolate. Ok, it’s not just about a spice and a bean, there is symbolism in the lyrics. But still. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SPoHyBiYm4

6. It Really Is a Wonderful Life by Mindy Smith What’s more iconic to Christmas than the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. This folk singer’s original is quietly uplifting and all. This video uses the movie clips to go with the music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwxzYdpMoww

5. Snow Globe by Matt Wertz Ear worm. In a good way. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4pa4hUt6jE

4. Joseph, Better You Than Me by the Killers, Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys) and Sir Elton John For a long time this has been my number one. Something about taking a different perspective really brings out innovation. And in this case, it’s all about being in the shadows; I can relate. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uW8oEWfuEIg And, the vocal performances in this one. Pretty amazing. And the guitar solo. Who would think of a Christmas tune with an awesome guitar solo.

3. First Snow on Brooklyn by Jethro Tull Not all Christmas songs are candy canes and sugar plums. This one is hauntingly beautiful--the lyrics and the tune itself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sA53u3siE4

2. Bethlehem by Chicago Something about the drum intro, the horn section that brings the classic Chicago sound into an original Christmas tune. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sx1NO_2Jbu4

1. Follow the Shepherd Home by Mindy Smith I can’t explain just why, but this Christmas tune just gets me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVZItXeQVoQ