Music for the Holidays with Nostalgia, Love and Reflection

What am I listening to this holiday season?


Image Source: Classic Holiday Playlist, Life by Luciene

The holidays, to me, are all about nostalgia. The holidays get me in that warm, cozy spirit that makes me want to spend countless hours snuggled up in front of my TV with a hot cocoa in hand. Romantic comedies on repeat aren’t to blame as well.

The holidays also remind me of home. As everyone returns home for the holidays to spend time with their loved ones–family, friends or distant relatives alike–there is a particular spirited, warm-loving and congenial spirit in the air. Laughs, bright smiles, platters of food, lights lit up in the darkness and colors of reds and greens come to my mind. The warmth of family and good-tidings lift my spirit, for I realize that, when it comes down to it, our loved ones are always there for us. Whether we see them everyday or once a year, the time spent together this season is something that doesn’t go unnoticed.

Photo from Christmas 2012

For me, a lot of my fortifying adolescent years was spent in reflection–and homage–to the music of the years of my parents.  When I first picked up the guitar at only 12-years-old, I immediately discovered an undying and selfless love to it. It spoke to me in ways other things in my life couldn’t. And it responded back to me. In a deep, deep way.

It was then that I discovered how saving music can be. As one of those cynical little angst-ridden teenagers who wished she had grown up in a time different than her own, I grew in love with oldies. I had discovered the music of the 70s and the intricacies in guitar-playing that existed back then. I fell in love with the stories of the 80s and the “Brat Pack” as they emitted a hip, sunglass-ridden ‘coolness’ that wasn’t to be found today. And, beside all that, those times were so innocent and genuine. No one was trying to be anything they weren’t. No one was out trying to prove themselves as something. They all just did what they did and owned up to it. That confidence grew a liking to me.

So, when it comes to what I am listening to this holiday season, I am paying homage to the songs that have captivated me over the years. Whether it be ones that encapsulate a period of time, an old friend, the 80s, of love or Christmas or the holidays… These songs strike a particular chord in my heart. And I hope they plunge you into a nostalgia of your heart as well.

1. “Hackensack” by Fountains of Wayne

This song was featured in 2006’s Just Friends, starring Ryan Reynolds and Amy Smart (my favorite Christmas/romcom movie, by the way), and how can you not love it? It is the epitome of high-school romances and lost loves; of having a crush on “that girl” in high school and seeing her later in life; of everyone liking that girl in high school and being “friend zoned.” I don’t know why, but I can never seem to get enough of this movie. Whether it’s chubby Ryan Reynolds or weirdo Anna Faris or girl-next-door Amy Smart, I just find myself seeing a lot of myself in this… This song encapsulates high school in a perfect, simple way. What better way to go into the holiday season cozying it up next to this one?

2. “True” by Spandau Ballet

You all know this song. And something about this song makes you want to get groovy and romance. It’s a deeply romantic song and takes you back to lost loves, hopeless loves… You get nostalgic with this song. You reflect on your own love. You reflect on your own loneliness. You just reflect. This song takes you back into another time when love seemed so simple. And that feeling of love comforts you, yet pains you at the same time. The holidays are here to remind you of that.

3. “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac

Because when it all comes down to it, you can never get enough Fleetwood Mac. Stevie Nicks is the magical gold-dust woman and her singing, songwriting, and music takes you into a reverie. “Dreams” is a song that can take you into a dream of your own, reflecting on your own dreams and ambitions you’ve had in your life. “Like a heartbeat drives you mad / In the stillness of remembering what you had /And what you lost… / And what you had…” there is enough heartache within its lyrics to remember your moments of hope and lost hope alike. Sometimes it takes the silent, painful reminders that ‘drives you mad’ to remember what it is you’ve always wanted and dreamt about in your life…

4. “Wicked Love” by Kate Earl

Kate Earl is a woman I’ve been falling in love with more and more within the past year. Not only is she a proud half-Filipina, her music is purely whimsical, angsty, and reminds of everything I wish I could create and make within my own music. She’s a beautiful soul who draws a kinship to many of my own musical inspirations, and this song just makes you want to fall in love with the angsty feeling of ‘wicked love.’ One of the songs I love to play and record myself, this song is special and deserves a special place within the holiday season. Sometimes, you just need summa that ‘wicked love.’

5. “Chicago” by Meg & Dia

Throwing it back to 2011 when Meg & Dia was still a ‘thing’ and the band was struggling to make ends-meet, recording self-recorded albums in their mother’s kitchen and cabins in no-man’s land, this lovely gem came from those hard times. A definite jewel in a bunch of lost tracks from their Be Careful, I Love You, Stay in Touch EP, this song was something different from what long-time Meg & Dia listeners have been used to. It emits a pure harmonic lullaby played against softly strummed chords with a sort of jazzy-twang and soft percussion. It gives you that “Mmph” feeling that isn’t familiar to their repertoire, but Dia’s voice and Meg’s accompanying harmonies prove romantic, lullaby-ridden, and daydreamy. It’s soothing and calming, which is what the holidays call for. Perfection.

6. “Home” by Blake Shelton Feat. Michael Bublé

This song is an absolute beauty and charmer. Originally by Michael Bublé, close-friend and country-artist Blake Shelton adds his own special, warm ‘home’ kind of touch to the song. It’s about being away from home and from your lover, which many of our working or college-ridden selves can relate to. Christmas and the holidays is all about coming back home and returning to the places we grew up. We remember our old-selves, reflect on our lives, and come to terms with what it is we grew up on, and what we have taken from it. This song is sweet. How can you not love it?

7. “These Dreams” by Heart

What’s a playlist without my including the awesomest sister-rock-duo in women-in-rock-history? Ann and Nancy Wilson are absolute jewels because, not only can they rock out plucking their incredibly-deft hands and belt out from their bellies within that roar, they have pure heart (hence the name). They have a woman’s soul and their songs portray a depth of emotion their rock-mates couldn’t quite evoke. And, the voice of two women can be quite romantic. This song is utterly nostalgic for the two, as it marks a career high-point in their lives as its backed by its 80s-synth soul. The holidays are that much more romantic with this song, as “These dreams go on when I close my eyes / Every second of the night I live another life.”

8. “The Way You Look Tonight” by Westlife Feat. Joanne Hindley

Did you forget it’s Christmas for a second? Well, this classic song ought to get you back into the mood. It’s swing, it’s jazzy, it’s romantic and pop… It makes you fall in love with the Christmas season all over again. I particularly like this version because Joanne and Westlife’s voices sound so beautiful together. You get the man’s husky, old-soul voice paired with the woman’s dainty, higher voice. This song is literally a conversation between a man and a woman who are in love and makes you want to close your eyes and hold another in your arms, waltzing away to this song…

9. “Last Christmas” by Wham!

What’s Christmas without some George Michael? This song’s a Christmas classic. It puts you into the Christmas-loving spirit… I don’t think I need to explain.

10. “Lovely Day” by Maroon 5 Feat. Bill Withers

One of my all-time favorite songs, song covers, and songs by Maroon 5, this hidden gem was made for the 2006 family-movie Hoot. It features a sultry Adam Levine’s voice against the Bill Withers classic. It truly is a ‘lovely day’ when you get some soul and rhythm-and-blues within the holiday season. It’s uplifting. Optimistic. Endearing. Humble. It’s a song about finding safety in another. And it’s all about love. It’s a ‘lovely day’ when you learn to love this season.

11. “This Christmas” by Chris Brown

How can you not admit you love this song? That husky, rhythm-and-blues sound and Chris Brown’s sweet voice. My inner slow-jam loving past. The sweetness of the holiday season. The presents. The cheer. The fireside. This is magical. It’s catchy. It gets you right into the Christmas mood. “Presents and cards are here / My world is filled with cheer and you.” There’s no better way to get into the Christmas spirit than like this…


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