How To Make a Christmas Playlist


By Emily Harrison

We are in the swing of the holidays, and that means lights everywhere, endless cups of hot chocolate, and of course… music!

Since the late 1980's and 1990's, Emerson College Professor and fellow music-enthusiast Mark Leccese has been curating Christmas playlists for his friends and family. If you're in the mood for some classic rock, trending pop, or festive Christmas songs, he has you covered. After making playlists for over 25 years, he has the art of playlist making down.

READ: A New Era of Holiday Classics →

 "Back in the day I used to haunt all the local record stores in November looking for Christmas music,"

Leccese said. Now, he finds his songs on sites like iTunes, Youtube, Spotify, musicians' websites and "bootleg sites in dark corners of the internet." he said.

His collection of Christmas music is nothing but impressive. With over 800 songs in his collection, the possibilities are endless when compiling songs for his yearly playlist.

The process starts by choosing around 50-60 songs. He then narrows it down to about 20, and then comes the process of deciding how to order all of the songs in the mix. "I like to start with a cover of a standard Christmas carol that is somewhat quiet, dramatic, and is a musically unexpected interpretation." he said. Then comes ones that are more jarring. To end the playlist, he likes to add a "striking vocal performance of a standard Christmas carol," that the listener will inevitably recognize, but also enjoy a different rendition of the classic.

In order for a song to make the cut, it has to be distinctive and clearly and individual rendition. "That's why I love Christmas mixes so much," Leccese said, "when you hear an artist perform a song you've known all your life, you hear the song as new and fresh, and you hear the unique music personality of the artist." he said.

With over 40 different versions of "White Christmas," it's essential that the version reflects the artist's approach to music and gives a fresh perspective to an otherwise simple song.

"I tend to avoid versions with corny string arrangements or uninspired performances." Leccese said.

With so many variations of the same songs, one might think that it is hard to create a new and unique playlist for as long as Leccese has, but according to him, it's not.

"There are hundreds more traditional Christmas and holiday songs that you hear in the standard rotation at the mall or on the all-Christmas station," he said, "and you can find really cool covers of many of them," he said.

There are actually thousands of non-traditional and original Christmas songs, like "Christmas At The Airport" by Nick Lowe, which Leccese features on his 2015 Spotify playlist.

Leccese has a wide variety of classics, pop, rock, jazz, blues, world, and much more that he features his dozens of Christmas playlists. So start searching around Spotify and the dark corners of the internet for your ultimate 2017 Christmas playlist.

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