The Music

By Sharon Naylor

September 17, 2010 5 min read

Your holiday party can be a smash success and a hit with your guests when you create a fabulous playlist filled with festive songs to get everyone in that holiday spirit.

Though you could buy holiday song mix CDs that crowd the bookstore music section, you'll find it far more fun to personalize your song choices to suit your guest list.

"My playlists are very dependent on my audience," says DJ Marty Johnson. "For your more contemporary audience, an audience that actually wants to dance to Christmas music rather than sip eggnog, here are some good choices: 'Sleigh Ride,' by Alexander O'Neal, 'Christmas in Hollis,' by Run-DMC, 'Christmas Rappin',' by Kurtis Blow, and 'Christmas Wrapping,' by The Waitresses."

Johnson says that the Band Aid song "Do They Know It's Christmas?" has been updated and remixed several times, giving it a more contemporary feel than the original 1984 version, which has become a party favorite. Christmas songs from the '80s strike a sentimental note with many party guests of all ages and often spur a rush to the dance floor, as well as guests singing along.

"Wham!'s 'Last Christmas' has also been remixed several times for contemporary audiences," Johnson says. "My favorite is the Benny Benassi version, which is very up-tempo, and I also like En Vogue's 'Silent Night (Happy Holiday Mix),' from their remix album 'Remix To Sing.'"

Other contemporary songs that Johnson likes to add to holiday celebration playlists: "Busta Rhymes featuring Jim Carrey, from the 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' soundtrack, and Paul McCartney's 'Wonderful Christmastime (Rhythm Scholar Kringle Kut Remix).'" Check out to find additional modernized remixes of classic songs for your playlist.

"I also mix in popular Top-40-type music to most Christmas party playlists, as most people don't want to hear just Christmas music all night," Johnson says.

*Favorite Artists at Christmastime

You know the names, and you know the voices. Top recording artists Josh Groban, Michael Buble, Harry Connick Jr. and Mariah Carey, as well as jazz and blues greats Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James, plus Nat King Cole -- all have party-worthy Christmas albums to mine for your playlist's true gold.

*Special Songs at Christmastime

In another category of holiday favorite songs are the tunes from those treasured Rankin/Bass stop-motion holiday specials, such as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." The 1974 favorite "The Year Without a Santa Claus" in particular is a crowd pleaser. Holiday party guests get quite animated themselves when they hear those first few telltale trombone slides, and the song duel between the Heat Miser and Snow Miser begins.

"A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Original Sound Track Recording of the CBS Television Special," by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, delivers those instantly recognizable songs from the classic animated special, such as the skating music and "Christmastime Is Here."

Find the soundtracks for these holiday specials at iTunes and, as well as in those bookstore Christmas album displays.

Speaking of Christmas albums, travel back to the era of Frank Sinatra for his takes on classic holiday tunes, and add the moving version of David Bowie and Bing Crosby's "Little Drummer Boy," as well as Crosby's "White Christmas," to add some way-back flavor to your playlist. And blend in the contemporary takes by today's top recording artists.

*Going Instrumental

Some of the songs on your party playlist may be without words, such as the gentle, calming piano music on George Winston's "December" album, as well as Mannheim Steamroller's "A Fresh Aire Christmas," "Christmas in the Aire" and "Christmas." DJs also recommend David Lanz's "Christmas Eve," in the mellow solo piano genre, and the jazz album "A Dave Brubeck Christmas."

When you blend contemporary with classic and add a dash of playful reminiscence, you create a holiday party playlist your guests will love. And your party will be the hit of the season.

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