On a friend’s Facebook page last year, I read about a game called Whamageddon (which should technically be spelled Wham!ageddon because I’m a nitpicky Gen Xer.) The objective is to go as long as possible between Dec. 1 and Dec. 25 without hearing George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley’s peppy 1984 classic “Last Christmas.”

The game amuses me, mostly because avoiding that song during the holidays seems as impossible as avoiding Liam Neeson if you kidnap one of his family members. It’s got a very particular set of skills — to follow you across radio, grocery stores, food courts and random customer service telephone hold music. It’s coming to get you. And it’s got friends.

“Last Christmas” is one of several seasonal songs that start seeping into the atmosphere on Black Friday, and my advice is not to resist. Wham!, Paul McCartney and THE Mariah Carey are as inevitable as Thanos at this time of year.

The tinsel-flavored tunes on this list are not necessarily my favorites — for instance, I wish I heard The Platter’s sweet doo-wop “White Christmas” or Stevie Wonder’s “Someday At Christmas” more often. But I don’t, and these five tunes take up way too much catchy real estate in my head instead. Strap in and prepare to hear these on repeat for the next month. You might need some eggnog to survive it.

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‘All I Want For Christmas Is You,’ Mariah Carey (1994)

Mariah did not create the concept of wistful romantic longing under the mistletoe. (See also: Darlene Love’s Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” The Eagles’ version of “Please Come Home for Christmas” and Carnie and Wendy Wilson’s “Hey Santa” because we don’t talk about them enough.) But for sheer wall-to-wall and ear-to-ear exposure, no one outdoes this maniacally catchy ditty. Mariah is the self-proclaimed Queen of Christmas, and who am I to argue?

‘Last Christmas,’ Wham!

Watching the recent Netflix documentary on the pop duo, I learned there was a sadly ironic backstory to this tale of yuletide heartbreak. Christmas songs are a giant deal in England, and George Michael was obsessed with having his group’s outing hit No. 1 on the charts, but he basically thwarted himself with his participation in Band Aid’s star-studded charity single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” which took the crown instead. “Last Christmas” would hit that top spot decades later, but Michael, who died on Christmas Day in 2016, didn’t live to see it. Ouch. But I like to think that somehow he knows, and is proud to know of the song’s legacy. (It even inspired this excellent parody of the cheesetastic snow chalet-set video.)

‘Wonderful Christmastime,’ Paul McCartney

This is one of those songs that my tolerance for depends on where we are in the season. Around Black Friday, hearing it is like the return of an old friend. I think, “Yay, it’s officially Christmastime! We’re having it! It’s wonderful!” But it’s everywhere. Around Dec. 15, it’s like “Yeah, yeah, we know the choir children have practiced their song all year long. But why? It takes y’all 12 months to remember ‘Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong’!” And by Christmas Eve, the song’s 3:46 runtime literally feels like 10 minutes. Or 10 years. The choir children are taunting me and the bells are ringing in hell. DING-DONG DING-DONG.

‘Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season,’ Andy Williams

They play it too much, but I love this one. Any ditty that rhymes “dickory dock” with “sock” is aces in my book. It’s so upbeat and jazzily hopeful. It’s like a whole 1960s variety show Christmas special shrunk down to 2 1/2 minutes. Close your eyes and you can see the candy canes. Whoop de doo, indeed.

‘Carol of the Bells,’ Mannheim Steamroller

Here come the bells/many the knells/nothing dispels/SO MANY BELLS. Those are not the actual lyrics, but after a gazillion plays in a season, that’s how I sing it. It doesn’t really matter who is performing the classic, whether it’s Trans-Siberian Orchestra or me humming it in my living room. It feels like Christmas when this comes on.

leslie.streeter@thebaltimorebanner.com

Leslie Gray Streeter is a columnist excited about telling Baltimore stories — about us and the things that we care about, that touch us, that tickle us and that make us tick, from parenting to pop... 

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