Utica is home to many talented and dedicated artists, and several of those artists can be found at Utica’s only local classic Hip Hop and more station, Phoenix Radio. The station features real DJs and program hosts, talk shows that discuss issues important to Utica, New York, and music that includes both classic favorites and local artists. Phoenix Radio is part of Phoenix Media, which includes The Utica Phoenix newspaper, available both in print and online.
Tune in today, and listen to some of their programming while unwrapping gifts, preparing your holiday meal, or just spending time with members of your household and making your holiday zoom calls.
You could even build your own Phoenix Radio themed Christmas playlist to enjoy today, through the end of the year, and next Christmas season.
This is by no means a complete list of Christmas songs in the genres heard on Phoenix Radio, and everyone will have their own favorites. But these six songs make a great starting point for putting together a unique Christmas playlist.
White Christmas: Diana Krall
This is the same Irving Berlin song we hear all the time, but Krall’s Jazz vocals make it sound like a completely different tune. The original, and most covers, have a bittersweet tone. The singer seems to be dreaming of a white Christmas, and pretty sure one is coming, but there’s usually that wistful quality that makes you think they might be singing the song while locked away alone in the desert for the holiday, writing cards to people they hope will send one back. Krall’s vocals make it sound like she can’t wait until yet another wonderful, white Christmas arrives.
Merry Christmas: Lightnin’ Hopkins
We associate the Blues with lyrics about life’s struggles, but any Blues fan knows that’s not always the case. Overcoming and powering through is also a common theme in the Blues, and Lightin’ Hopkins’ “Merry Christmas” is one of those songs. The narrator seems to have suffered a recent breakup or separation, but the song is about having a great Christmas this year, as the couple has reconciled. His woman is coming home on Christmas day.
Mary Did You Know: Mary J. Blige
Another Christmas classic, Mary Did You Know is always a beautiful song. It’s the vocals that make each version stand out. Mary J. Blige’s vocals on this 1999 recording of the Christmas classic are much softer than her usual style, but when she gets to portion of the lyrics where Jesus’ triumphs over illness and misfortune are detailed, her voice proclaims each one. The version ends with a softer than expected declaration that Jesus is the “Great I Am,” before fading out.
Classic Rap/Hip Hop
Christmas in Hollis: Run DMC
This song tells the story of a man who meets a scary guy and his dog in the dark on December 24th, only to realize it’s Santa and a reindeer. Once Santa flees, the narrator realizes he left his wallet behind, full of money. When the narrator gets home, planning to return Santa’s wallet, he finds a letter from Santa to him…an unexpected twist…and learns the wallet was meant for him. Of course, the rest of the song is about having a wonderful Christmas, but the focus switches to family traditions rather than going on about all the stuff that can be bought. The combination of Santa’s generosity, the narrator’s honesty, and the rest of the song being about Mom’s cooking and a world filled with cheer combine to create a heartwarming, clean Christmas rap.
Please Come Home for Christmas: James Brown
Christmas is not a joyous, peaceful time for many people, and the pressure to be happy and relaxed coupled with cultural pressure to spend money we may not have, can make things even worse. If Christmas is not a happy time for you, this is the Christmas song you want. Unlike Lightin’ Hopkins in Merry Christmas, the person the narrator is singing to in this song is most definitely not coming home. Not only is their love gone, the character in the song has no friends to celebrate the holidays with either.
God Speaking: Mandisa
Mandisa will forever be an example of true Christian treatment of others due to her start on American Idol. At the time of her appearance on the show, Mandisa was a beautiful, glamorous thick young woman. Judge Simon Cowell apparently does not find thick women attractive, because his mic picked up him muttering “Did we get a bigger stage?” in a snarky tone. Mandisa’s response was to treat Cowell with forgiveness and kindness.
This song beautifully reflects Mandisa’s character, with lyrics about God speaking to us through the unexpected or surprising in life, both good and bad. While the song does not directly mention Christmas, it is included on Gospel Christmas playlists, including this one, for so beautifully illustrating the true meaning of the season…the eternal and bottomless love of our creator.
The Little Drummer Boy: The Temptations
There are more versions of The Little Drummer Boy than most of us can keep track of, and while it is a timeless song about giving your talents and skills back to the Lord rather than focusing on material possessions, many versions of it can be a bit depressing. The tempo is slow, and the vocals sound more depressed that the little drummer boy has no expensive gift to bring than overjoyed at the opportunity to play for the Lord. The Temptations performed the song with upbeat vocals and a soft but catchy tempo that makes the little drummer boy and his drum sound triumphant and full of joy.
Be sure to tune in to 95.5 FM: The Heat: Phoenix Radio today for Christmas and throughout the season. To listen online, visit www.955theheat.com. You may hear one of these songs, or another favorite holiday tune. And don’t forget to keep tuning in during the upcoming year for the best in classic Hip-Hop, Rap, Gospel, Soul, R&B, Jazz, and Blues.
After the holidays, considering helping out Phoenix Media’s sister organization “For the Good, Inc,” a Utica non-profit organization.
Artist Cafe Utica would like to wish the staff, volunteers, and contractors of Phoenix Media/For the Good Inc, a very Merry Christmas. And Merry Christmas to all of our readers, and everyone in the Utica artist community.
This is not a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Phoenix Media is a client of Artist Cafe Utica, publishing the monthly music column “The Heat Beat” and various features written by the owner of the Artist Cafe Utica website.
Music has the power to completely change our mood. We’ve all had our mood drop when that song that was playing on the radio during our last personal crisis comes on, cried at songs that bring back bittersweet memories, and been uplifted when a fun song came on. Many of us listen to music while we write fiction, paint, or create other art forms, and musicians are often inspired by other musicians.
The following songs are my recommendations for those times when you need a boost of confidence. Use these to build a “confidence boost” playlist on whichever streaming service you prefer…or collect CDs.
Unknown Brain: (featuring Heather Sommer): Perfect 10
Apologies to all my fellow Jeffree Star fans for mentioning this one. He used it in a tribute video to his beloved white Pomeranian, Diamond, who passed away last year. The song will make you sad along with confident for a while. But there was a reason this song made a good tribute to a beautiful and loved little dog. The lyrics are all about being your own “perfect 10.”
Panic!At the Disco: High Hopes
Club/ pop is normally not what I think of when I want something inspirational, but the beat of this, combined with lyrics encouraging the listener to always have high hopes, no matter what else they lack in life, can’t help but boost your mood. It doesn’t hurt that unlike a lot of club music, which sounds like the vocals are being done by a robot, Panic! At the Disco’s lead vocalist Brendan Urie has a good singing voice.
Cannonball Adderley: Mercy, Mercy, Mercy
Cannonball Adderley was a Jazz alto saxophonist who lived from 1928 to 1975. This song does not have a vocal track. It’s included on this list because the only way to move in time to the music is to strut.
Diana Krall: Wonderful
Diana Krall is one of my absolute favorite singers. She’ll probably be on every recommended song list. And most of my confidence boost from listening to her comes from singing along and pretending I can actually sing as well as she can. I can’t. Not even close. In my dreams. But you can’t help but feel more confident thinking about whatever is “wonderful” in your life, and the people who love you.
Ella Fitzgerald: When I Get Low I Get High
Last Jazz song, I promise. I just happen to like Jazz a lot, and Ella is another favorite. The title says it all on this song, but the combination of the lyrics, the tempo and her vocals on this track make it impossible to think of anything but overcoming anything that might make you feel low.
Panic!At the Disco: Hey Look Ma, I Made It
And this is the last club/pop song. A lot of people don’t care for club music, and I am normally one of them, but I have found about four or five songs from that genre that I like, and this is number three. As you might guess from the title, it’s all about reaching your goals.
Mary J.Blige: Family Affair
Sometimes music boosts our confidence because we can’t help but get up and dance to it. This includes those of us who can’t dance very well. I would be one of those people. This would be one of those songs. Add this to your confidence playlist, but skip it until it’s time to take a work break, because you can’t sit still while listening to this song.
Bruce Springsteen, Tougher Than the Rest
Springsteen’s songs always contain a full story within their lyrics, and I have always interpreted this one as being about a man who is actually a bit low on the confidence scale, but hopes that a woman he loves will take a chance on him anyway. I included it anyway, for those times when you’re down on yourself overall, but need to remember that you have strengths after all….like being tough.
Shawn Mendes: In My Blood
A song that begins with the words “Help me,” and talks about giving up may seem like a weird choice for a confidence playlist, but the song goes on to say that giving up isn’t in the narrator’s blood. They might need help, but they are are not about to give up. They can’t. Overcoming obstacles can be a great boost to our confidence, and this song will remind you of everything you have overcome.
Eric Clapton, Wonderful Tonight
We all like to think we’re good looking, however we define that. And we would all like others, at least some others, to think so too. This song will remind you of every time you ever felt beautiful and loved. It’s written from the point of view of straight man admiring the woman he adores, but we can all relate to feeling like someone thinks we look wonderful.
Links or embedded videos, lyric sheets, and long quotes from the lyrics were left out of this article purposely to avoid any copyright issues. Please obtain all of this music legally by purchasing it from itunes, building a playlist on Spotify, watching official YouTube videos, or purchasing CDs or vinyl. This article is not sponsored or endorsed by anyone mentioned in it. All opinions and observations are my own.
Sometimes you just need quiet. You need everyone to either read a book or use headphones for music, movies, and games. If they’re not going to do that, you need them to go away. Then there are those people you just want to go away because they’re unpleasant. Run everyone who gets on your nerves for any reason off by playing one of these songs….the five most irritating songs ever recorded.
Rupert Holmes: Escape (The Pina Colada Song)
Everything about this song puts me off. Holmes’ vocals sound like the drunk guy in the corner who finally gave in to his friends’ taunts at karaoke night. The music sounds like it belongs to an ad for something that absorbs liquid quickly. Then there are the lyrics. The song starts out with a man casually planning to cheat on his wife via the personal ads because, hey…he’s bored. He quickly finds an ad that sounds like a hot girl for an affair, answers it, and plans to meet his new dream girl at a bar and run away with her. The new dream girl turns out to be his wife, who placed the ad to cheat on him. They live happily ever after. Because nothing is a better predictor of a great future than planning to cheat on each other. No underlying issues there.
Andrew Gold: Thank You for Being a Friend
I am far from the greatest singer in the world. My voice is good enough to entertain the audience through a single song at an open mic, or join in on a track or two on someone else’s album. I can sing, but I’ve got nothing anyone would want to sit and listen to for a full ten songs. Compared to Andrew Gold on this track, I sound like Diana Krall. Listening to a cover of the song doesn’t make it any better, thanks to the cheesy lyrics and annoying melody.
Bobby Goldsboro: Honey
At least this song doesn’t sound like a reluctant partygoer singing over a commercial jingle like the first two. Bobby Goldsboro doesn’t have the greatest voice, but he at least sounds like he might have practiced the song a time or two. The problem is that it doesn’t sound much like a song. The lyrics sound like he’s trying to sing a short story.
Biz Markie: Just a Friend
Biz Markie’s singing voice is worse than Andrew Gold’s and Rupert Holmes’ voices put together. I’ve always assumed the chorus of this song was supposed to like a nerve grating wail, because I can’t imagine his manager letting him sing when he truly sang that badly. The rapped portion of the song doesn’t get any better. The girl he’s pining for is referred to as “blah blah blah” and the features that stood out when he first met her were her short mini skirt and long hair. The entire experience of listening to the song is so unpleasant, I don’t even feel sorry for the main character/narrator when he gets cheated on by “blah blah blah” in the end.
Gotye: Somebody That I Used to Know
The lyrics of this song hold promise. If I read them, I would fully expect to like the song. It tells the story of a man who is glad that his relationship ended, but hurt that his ex has cut him out of her life instead of remaining friends. Remaining friends with an ex is almost never a good idea in my opinion, but it’s an original storyline for a song. Most breakup songs are either about longing to have the person back, or wishing the person could be pushed off the face of the earth. The tone of this song is what makes me unable to listen to the entire thing most of the time. The slow techno beat of the music, and soft, plaintive singing combine to give the impression that the narrator/main character is a stalker lurking outside the ex’s window, rather than a safe person feeling stung that the ex wouldn’t add him on Facebook or email to catch up every few months.
These five are far from my only disliked songs, but they are my top picks for those moments when you need to work on your project in peace and want to clear out a room.