Every artist has their version of “Silent Night” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” but whose takes are the best? And more importantly, whose cross-generational remakes of Christmas classics will satisfy all attendees at your seasonal gathering? Soul Train has stepped in to sift through decades of holiday hits and has come up with the perfect playlist for opening gifts, Christmas dinner, or relaxing by the fire. We recommend adding them to a mix that includes original seasonal soul such as Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas”, TLC’s “Sleigh Ride”, Boyz II Men’s “Let It Snow”, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”, Vanessa Williams’ “Star Bright”, Xscape’s “Christmas Without You”, Destiny’s Child’s “8 Days of Christmas”, and many more.
Vanessa Williams feat. Bobby Caldwell
While some interpretations of this lovers’ tune end up being quite naughty, Williams and Caldwell keep it jazzy, classy and nice! The especially soulful rendition maintains the fun found in the original along with its hard-to-resist lyrics.
“The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)”
Driven by light handclap melody, Whitney takes on Nat King Cole’s classic in a way that’s not over the top and appropriately showcases her voice, as well as inspires warmth and an appreciation for togetherness.
The spunk of the ’60s and slick Motown style energize this modernized throwback. Sung by none other than the crème de la crème of girl groups, the ladies of the Supremes celebrate the return of Christ with upbeat rhythms and rapid-fire delivery on this nearly 300-year-old hymn.
“Little Drummer Boy”
A tinge of Caribbean flair has been added to the lullaby qualities of this choral classic. Kingston’s voice–with its boyish gruffness–further supplements the twist on this re-imagined, Island-flavored beat.
Boyz II Men
Everyone knows that Boyz II Men has a great set of voices among its roster, but the group’s acapella take on “Silent Night” demonstrates this better than any of its popular hits. The delicate lullaby to the fragile newborn is an especially appropriate tribute.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Ruben Studdard and Tamyra Gray
The two former American Idol contestants sing in perfect harmony over the piano-keyed arrangement. Though both possess powerhouse voices, the duo instead keeps them in check and substitutes with smooth, subtle control.
“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”
With the band cued, the Temptations ease into their on-point harmonies, turning what is best known as a kids’ Christmas song into one of the smoothest, coolest, most soulful interpretations of that famous reindeer’s well-known story.
“My Favorite Things”
Despite featuring many of the signature elements of Luther’s brand of silky soul, “My Favorite Things” expands his appeal beyond the Quiet Storm crowd. Its intricately delivered wishlist is both childishly charismatic and velvety smooth, making it a great inclusion for kids and adults.
The Jackson 5
A young Michael Jackson’s take on this tune is perhaps one of the most convincing in existence. Few others display the energy or believable enthusiasm as he belts out the chorus and of Santa’s knowledge of who’s been bad or good.
Kelly’s updated rendition of Paul McCartney trades the synthesizers that were so prominent in his original with the hip-hop and electronic beats she’s used in hew own music over the past few years, giving this track cross-generational and cross-genre appeal.
Check out Eric Benet perform “This Christmas” on the 8th Soul Train Christmas Starfest (2005)
Joel Lyons is a New York City-based aficionado of Dance, Pop and R&B. Experience his appreciation at www.ThatsMyJam.net and on Twitter @onlyONscripting.