A little background on why this list, why now? For starters, 2017 has been a horrible, horrible year with very few bright spots. One rather large bright spot is the birth of my daughter. She’s amazing, beautiful, giggly and maybe best of all, she loves listening to me sing. I can in no way sing but she smiles anyways.
So on top of loving my singing, she loves hearing me sing Christmas songs which is dangerous because I fucking love Christmas. This year, I love it harder and more passionately than ever. It’s my love for Christmas, my love for singing Christmas songs to my daughter, and my blackness that got me to rank the best versions of my favorite Christmas song “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway.
However, it is this garbage bag of a year that inspired me to share the list with all of you. Hopefully it brings you joy between news of sexual assaults and the fall of American Democracy.
The Definitive Top 10 “This Christmas” List
*Each artist name is linked to their version on Spotify
I honestly don’t know why this would be anyone’s favorite version of “This Christmas” but if it’s yours, God bless. Coko (of SWV fame) can sang and she obviously does an amazing job sanging this classic. It just doesn’t really stand out and there are 9 whole other versions of this song to add to your playlist. So if you end up hearing it, enjoy but probably don’t worry if you don’t ever hear it.
Why? Why wouldn’t you just sing the song the way God, Nadine McKinnor and Donny Hathaway wrote it? I guess technically they are singing the words to “This Christmas” but some jackass made this a synth-pop/boom clap ass version. It’s sad really because the world could use a Destiny’s Child version of “This Christmas.” I’ve added this horrible song to my list solely off the strength of Beyonce’s solo career.
Sure, why not.
Eh…Auntie Aretha doesn’t have her best vocal performance here. It’s more like a lazy, slurred version you would hear from your IRL favorite Auntie, late at night while she is stirring a pot of greens with a glass of Rossa in one hand and her bra in the other. And why is her son on this song with her? Cause it’s late and we all just in the kitchen singing and sipping. If you don’t wanna listen then take your little ass to bed. And no lie, the song ends with Aretha telling her son Eddie that the greens will be done soon, “But don’t look for no chittlins this year, those chittlins almost killed me last year.” AUNTIE RETHA!
This is a newer release and thankfully came out just in time for this very important and official list. We’ve all been waiting for Fantasia to release a Christmas album that kicks off with “This Christmas” because, duh. Out of all the “Auntie Christmas Albums” this is your sang-ests Auntie’s fav and doesn’t disappoint.
This very 90s version of the holiday classic was recorded for the “A Laface Family Christmas” when Usher was 15. How glorious is that? There is an unstoppable clap (hehe) that makes ya wanna body roll with gun-fingers in the air. As a Christmas Music nerd, this is a gem to have on a playlist. It’s a bit slower than the original version however, it’s a boop.
Don’t sleep on CeeLo’s vocal and even though this song is hidden on a very weird Christmas album, he is giving me a really god mix of classic Donny and souled up ATL.
There is something so optimistic about Mama Ross’s version of “This Christmas.” While lyrically, it’s the same song everyone else is singing — there is a magic stardust sprinkled in her version. It’s brighter and gentler than the others and less of a holiday standard to be belted out but a promise to be hummed to loved ones.
#2 Chris Brown
The best of the best, other than the man that wrote it, obviously. Every part of this song is memorable and some of the runs Brown makes are forever imprinted on my memory of this song. It’s a shame how quickly after this release things fell apart for Chris. This track is one of those reminders that we are still, all these years later, giving him a pass for being a horrible abusive and manipulative piece of shit because he has such talent.
It’s not right but I judge people that don’t know, or worse, don’t love this song. This song is so black, warm and loving. Donny didn’t write very many “happy” songs in his short life, which makes this song all the more precious. He set out to make a song that would be a standard for black people to have and hold during the holiday season, and what a precious gift it is. His version is #1 because it was literally #1 but it also has a subtle longing that only Donny Hathaway can put into a song. The way Diana’s sparkles, Donny’s sinks in, leans back and gives a gentle smile. This version of the perfect holiday song is for the good times and the bad times — it is always appropriate and healing.
That’s my list! Thanks for hearing me out — feel free to fight me over my choices.
Follow my Spotify Season’s Greeting playlist for even more of my favorite deep holiday cuts.