Christmas playlist part six: The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a holiday staple around these parts. It has been for me since I first saw the movie in 1993. It’s a classic that stands up to A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas but with the added fun of being a little twisted.

How much do we love this movie? Meg and I had Jack & Sally cake toppers at our Halloween-themed wedding last year. (Technically, they didn’t sit on top of the cake because we had a cake buffet, but I digress.)

But, specifically, the soundtrack… it’s perfection. The overture is pure excitement, and manages to capture holiday cheer and menace at the same time. Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas

“What’s This?” is pure magic, it captures the excitement and anticipation of Christmas with all the trimmings, but also just enough weird to keep it from being schmaltzy. “There’s children throwing snowballs instead of throwing heads…”

For pure Addams Family energy, you can’t beat “This Is Halloween.” (And when I say Addams Family, I mean the 60s TV show with the legendary John Astin.) Pure chaos. Just what Christmas needs.

I also love the nod to Cab Calloway with “Oogie Boogie’s Song.” To be fair, I probably wouldn’t have picked up on the reference except for repeated watchings of The Blues Brothers and Cab Calloway’s spotlight moment in that film.

It’s weird to me that many people may think of Danny Elfman these days first and foremost as a composer. I mean, that is the bulk of his work since Oingo Boingo wrapped up in the mid-90s. But he’s got one of the best voices in the business, too, and it hasn’t gotten nearly enough airtime since he went into the soundtrack business. Just listen to “Jack’s Lament” closely. The man has got some pipes.

But on Nightmare it’s front and center. Chris Sarandon does a great job with Jack’s speaking voice, but Elfman’s singing is the heart of the character for me.

Which doesn’t take away from the music itself. It’s a beautiful score, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a reason Elfman has done so well as a composer.

I imagine I’m preaching to the choir, but if there’s anybody stumbling on this post who hasn’t enjoyed The Nightmare Before Christmas, I hope you’ll rectify that at the soonest opportunity.

With that, I’m closing up the Christmas playlist series for the season and will be back to normal topics tomorrow. Or whatever passes for normal around here, anyway.


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