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12 Days of Christmas: 10 Best Versions of 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas'

by Carolyn Menyes   Dec 14, 2013 23:05 PM EST

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Christmas is coming ever nearer, and the undisputed best part of the holiday season (besides family time, presents and tons of pie) is the music. Holiday songs have been filling people's minds and hearts for hundreds of years, and have become more than a tradition.

From "The Christmas Song" to "O Holy Night" to "The Little Drummer Boy," classic Christmas carols have become a major part of the holiday season and worked their ways into family life and popular culture. Thus, old Christmas favorites, which have some of the warmest spots in our hearts, get constant reimaginings and covers from all of music's major players.

But what versions of all the Christmas songs are the best? We here at Music Times are determined to find out. And, as a part of the 12 days of Christmas, we'll be counting down the days (and the best Christmas songs).

For day three, we'll be looking at "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." Originally done by Judy Garland for the 1944 musical Meet Me in St. Louis, the track actually tells the story of a family who won't be able to spend time together for the holidays due to a job promotion in New York. It's a somber reality of the holiday, but not necessarily the most joyful. So, in 1957 when Frank Sinatra recorded his cover of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," he had the writers change the pinnacle lyric of "Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow / Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow" to "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough," which has now become the more popular version.

All the history aside, who does the best "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas?" Check out the 10 best versions below.

10. Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan is known for trying to make people cry with her music, but her version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is actually a little jazzy. Trumpet flars help to highlight the track, and McLachlan's soothing vocals give a nice blend of seriousness and lightness to the song and give it a distinctive, different vibe.

9. Bright Eyes

Conor Oberst's band Bright Eyes, like Sarah McLachlan, is known for making a little sad music, so of course the band covered "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" for A Christmas Album. A soft string arrangement and a touch of piano alongside some super soft singing make this version teeter on pure depressing territory, but it's OK because that's just a reality of the season sometimes.

8. Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson just dropped her first holiday album Wrapped in Red in October, but the album is already a Christmas classic in our book. Her version of this song features a simplistic, strong vocal, full of breathy wisps and plenty of powerhouse vocals. All the time, Clarkson manages to remain restrained, which is key to nailing this song, and nail it she does.

7. Lady Antebellum

A gentle arrangement of strings and a tiny bit of guitar help to set the stage for theis country-twinged, insanely beautiful version. The swells of violins and more are enough to bump this into the top 10, and mix it with the perfect intermingling between Charles Kelly and Hillary Scott help to make this song a distinctly different version and one of the most gorgeous.

6. She & Him

Seriously, Zooey Deschanel was just made to make soft, soothing Christmas music. Like She & Him's stunning version of "The Christmas Song," its "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" is the perfect amount of somber, touching and quiet. M. Ward's small guitar accompaniments help to emphasize the emotion of the song.

5. Bing Crosby

It just wouldn't be Christmas without Bing Crosby, and while he isn't the old school crooner best known for "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," he definitely does the song justice. Crosby kept things simple in his version, choosing to let the ebbs and flows of the song speak for themselves. Add in a few special vocal flares and touches, and this version rivals the best of anything else out there.

4. James Taylor

James Taylor opens his spin on "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" with a few extra lines, but the new words help to emphasize that not all Christmases are the same. Mix in a little smooth guitar and the comforting voice that defines Taylor, and you have a new spin on this classic carol.

3. Michael Bublé

It's almost as if Michael Bublé is actually from a different generation. For his best-selling album Christmas, Bublé gave a totally classic spin on "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." Of course, his smooth as butter vocals help to make this song feel completely traditional.

2. Frank Sinatra

The most famous version of this song, Sinatra's "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" has helped to define the holiday season. He helps to keep a bit of the original melancholy, but instead focuses on the beautiful hope of the song. Of course, ol' blue eyes has a voice for the ages and perfectly captures the season with his silky turn on this song. Add the beautiful choir, and this song is simultaneously grandiose and simple

1. Judy Garland

Sinatra may have made this song the classic that it is today, but there's still no beating the original. Judy Garland's song, which comes at a pinnacle moment in Meet Me in St. Louis, is a truly beautiful piece of music. Her simple vocal turn wavers and shakes at all the appropriate time, giving the song a heightened sense of feeling. A truly somber and gorgeous piece of music, there are few better carols out there.

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