Song 348: She & Him, “The Christmas Waltz” (2011)

she-him-a-very-she-him-christmas

In 1954, Frank Sinatra asked Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne to write him a Christmas song. The pair—who also penned “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?,” and “Three Coins in the Fountain,” among other famous songs—knocked out “The Christmas Waltz.” Styne had a waltz melody kicking around, so they figured they’d used it on their new commission. Using a waltz for a Christmas song was apparently so different at the time that the idea was included in not only the title but the line “this song of mine in three-quarter time.”

The song has been covered like crazy over the years, and I prefer one of the most recent versions, by She & Him. I’m not a big fan of the duo, but I really like their Christmas record; I think the holiday format is a good fit for their sound. This song starts off A Very She & Him Christmas, and I like how Zooey Deschanel undersells the song, as if pointing out the delicacy of the season. There’s a serenity to this version that I think is missing from other interpretations, especially Sinatra’s original, which features overbearing background vocals and soggy strings. Deschanel and guitarist Matt Ward nail the intimacy at heart of “The Christmas Waltz,” with its home-y imagery and personal message. They also treat the song’s beautiful melody with the respect it deserves.

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