KPCC news editor Oscar Garza says by simply playing Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad," we risk implanting one of the most insidious ear worms in the history of recorded music. But did you know there are several covers of the song? Don’t say you weren’t warned.
I love Jose Feliciano’s music, but ‘tis the season when the incessant strains of this song can drive you mad. It’s apparently three minutes long, but I wouldn’t know: I only listen for as long as it takes to reach for the dial.
And I get plenty of chances: Every year, “Feliz Navidad” makes Billboard magazine’s top 10 list of most-played holiday songs. And that’s been going on since 1970. That simple, repetitive melody is the key to its success — and also what turns me into a Grinch.
You wouldn't know it, but dozens of other artists have also recorded the song. I’m surprised there isn’t a satellite radio station devoted to the song. The songwriting royalties alone have likely made Feliciano a very, very rich man. I bet everything he owns is lined in fur. Anyway, here’s our Christmas present to you—a listener’s guide to “Feliz Navidad.”
1. Los Straitjackets: This luchador mask-wearing band goes instrumental, with twangy guitars instead of a vocal. This is what Surfin’ Santa listens to.
2. Jon Secada: Somehow, singer Secada has managed to suck the “feliz” out of the song.
3. Celine Dion: Canada, we know we haven’t always been neighborly, but what did we ever do to deserve this?
4. Michael Buble: Yet another Canadian takes a stab. Buble does a duet here with the Mexican singer Thalia. Ack! Attacks on both our borders!
5. The Wiggles: This goes for this Australian children's band, but my advice also goes for versions by the Cheetah Girls, Dora the Explorer and the Rugrats: Parents, even if your kids have been more naughty than nice, don’t subject them to this.
6. It Dies Today: I’d never heard of the metal band It Dies Today, but its name says exactly what should happen to this rendition.
7. Glee: At the other end of the spectrum, the cast from “Glee.” Of course, it’s peppy. Annoyingly peppy.
8. Reggae: Whoa! A reggae version from Freddie McGregor. Nice. But I don’t think that’s mistletoe he’s smoking, mon.
9. Los Huracanes del Norte: Norteño legends Los Huracanes del Norte turn the song into a fine cumbia. This is easily the best of the bunch. The problem is, you won’t hear this, or any other passable version in stores, on the radio, or in elevators. Blame it on lazy programmers or on automated playlists.
Whatever the reason, you’ll only hear Feliciano’s original … Good luck getting it out of your head. And with that, to you and yours, have a feliz — er — a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.