Manual Labor Presents: The Ultimate Holiday Playlist
In honor of the holiday season, get festive and listen to our holiday playlist!
December 1, 2022
The latest revival of Manual Labor’s music rotation comes from Giovany Vasquez. Volume VI highlights some of the best music ever created: holiday songs! So, get ready to hear those sleigh bells ring a ling as we celebrate the holiday season.
Behind the Scenes:
Holiday music is an all-genre-encompassing subgroup of music. There are those with the rhythmic sensibilities of pop music, the tranquility of jazz, the storytelling of country, or the soul of R&B. And that’s exactly why I love it. Regardless of your usual taste in tunes, you can always find something to listen to at the end of the year to put you in a festive mood.
In honor of the holiday season, I wanted to create a playlist that featured some of the classics we know and love along with a dash of newer renditions and originals. Without further ado, I present Manual Labor’s Ultimate Holiday Playlist: Can also be found on Spotify here.
Underneath the Tree
Every year, we see plenty of singers release holiday music. Whether it’s an updated rendition of an old classic or an entirely new song, more and more artists are trying their luck with the seasonal market. None have come closer to succeeding in recent years than Thee American Idol, Miss Kelly Clarkson. In 2013, she gave us Underneath the Tree, an instant bop that somehow encapsulates the seasonal energy. It’s the perfect song to jam out to while doing some holiday prep, be it wrapping presents or getting your festive lunch/dinner ready. A new holiday staple!
No holiday playlist is complete without this absolute gem. Originally released in 1970, This Christmas is an uplifting, jubilant groove that tells of the expectations and anticipation of the holiday season and has become a staple within Black homes, in part due to its popularity as a cover from various popular artists such as The Temptations, Gladys Knight & the Pips and Chris Brown. One such cover, sung by Patti LaBelle, goes viral every holiday season due to LaBelle’s background singers failing to appear. It’s all comedic gold and has become a new holiday tradition.
Noche de Paz
Everyone, even those that don’t regularly listen to holiday music, knows Silent Night. Such is its recognition that UNESCO declared it an intangible cultural heritage in 2011. Growing up in a Latin and Christian household, this song was a constant during the end of the year, especially the Spanish version. For this playlist, I’ve included the version sung by Andrea Bocelli, who has one of the world’s most beautiful voices, filled with a passion and warmness perfect for the season.
Over the last two years, I have opened myself up to music from all over the world. One of my favorite finds has been K-pop, especially the excellent 9-piece boy group, EXO. Known for upbeat songs and high-energy performances, I was pleasantly surprised to find out they have tried their hand at some holiday music. Christmas Day is an R&B ballad that speaks of the excitement a loved one can elicit in you, just like a kid on Christmas looking forward to their presents. While I have no understanding of Korean, listening to the song feels like being wrapped in some divine warmth on a cold day. Music really transcends language barriers!
Tori Kelly is one of the most overlooked vocalists in the music industry today. I’ve been obsessed with her and her voice since she first dropped an EP back in 2012. In 2020, working with the famed producer, Babyface, Tori gifted us her first Christmas album that includes the self-penned tune, 25th. Touching on the feelings of wanting nothing but your loved one(s) on Christmas, the song is backed with the sound of jingle bells. Can you get any more festive than that!? I think not!
One of Joni Mitchell’s most popular songs, River isn’t your typical Christmas song. Lyrically, it speaks to the longing for one to escape any painful emotional connections, which doesn't necessarily lend itself to a festive tune. However, the song is set near Christmas time and sonically, it borrows from the age-old classic “Jingle Bells,” which has afforded it a place as a holiday classic. I love the duality of the song, simple yet boiling with an aching yearning for emotional release.
Christmas Is All Around
Love, Actually is one of the top three best holiday films ever made (...and it’s not the 2nd or 3rd in that ranking.) With an ensemble featuring the likes of Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Laura Linney, Keira Knightley, and the late Alan Rickman, it depicts various love stories taking place during one holiday season in London. Watching it is like receiving the warmest hug from your grandma. In one of the film’s best plotlines, rock-n-roll legend Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) records a holiday cover of The Troggs’ Love is All Around in the hopes of getting the UK Christmas #1 song. While the song might not be the best on the playlist, I can’t help but smile whenever I hear it. Such fun!
One of my favorite songs, Hallelujah, was originally written by Leonard Cohen not as a holiday staple but as a reflection of those deep-rooted concerns humans have about longing for connection, hope, and greatness while dealing with the difficulties of life. Despite being initially rejected by many music execs and being released with little success, the song is one of the most covered songs in musical history. One such cover, by a cappella group Pentatonix, was included in their second Christmas album and there’s something quite magical about this arrangement, befitting the festive season.
I Believe In You And Me
I know what you’re thinking: is this a holiday song? The answer is a resounding YES. Even though it might not be as obvious at first glance, The Preacher’s Wife is 100% a Christmas movie, one that features a stand-out performance by the late Whitney Houston. Now, I was raised in a household with a very high regard for anything Whitney Houston, so, as soon as her character began singing this song during a scene at a jazz club, I knew that any holiday playlist would be incomplete without Miss Houston in it.
O Holy Night
Can you have a holiday playlist without the Queen of Christmas herself? Absolutely not. Mariah Carey has had a PR campaign that should be studied in schools around the world because a little album from 27 years ago has gone on to not only top the charts year after year but has given us a person more synonymous with the holiday season than Old Saint Nick himself. While O Holy Night is a holiday classic, in my opinion, Mimi’s rendition is the best that’s ever been recorded. But be warned, you might want to hold on to the rafters during those last sung notes because Mariah takes us there. Amen and hallelujah.
This holiday season, surround yourself with the warmth of friendship, love, and some coquito. Or a different beverage of your choice. Doesn’t really matter as long as you press play on our Ultimate Holiday Playlist.
Happy Holidays from our ML family to yours! ❤️
“Every piece of the universe, even the tiniest little snow crystal, matters somehow. I have a place in the pattern, and so do you. Thinking of you this holiday season!” –T.A. Barron ❄️