Bill Murray’s Christmas special was released on Netflix this weekend, and it’s… well, it’s pretty weird. It’s deliberately drab. The pacing and story and tone are all over the place. It definitely drags a lot of the time. But it’s also absolutely fantastic. It’s actually exactly what you would expect from a Christmas special starring Bill Murray, directed by Sophia Coppola. And in just under an hour, they manage to fit in a whole hell of a lot of songs.
How you may feel about these songs is, obviously, completely subjective. Normally, that would seem to go without needing to be said, but in this case, they seem to be aggressively subjective. A ranking is hard, because none of the songs are bad. They’re all good to great, and all in totally different ways. Some of them are killer performances of classic songs, and some of them are just plain fun. How do you rank one above the other? I don’t know, but here’s my totally personal-taste-driven attempt. Please tell me how wrong I am below.
Honorable mention: multiple snippets of verses of various songs, including Murray’s minor breakdown during Jingle Bells.
13. “Silent Night” - Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus is not bad in this Christmas special. Let’s get that out of the way right off the bat. She really does have an incredible voice, and she’s not doing anything or wearing anything that would be totally jarring here. But she does seem to be in a different show. She probably attracted a whole demographic that wouldn’t have otherwise known about this special or have been interested in it, and this number is really great on its own. It’s just a bit sore thumbish here.
12. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” - Jenny Lewis and Murray
I wanted to like this. But take a fun yet date rapey classic, have the very young, beautiful woman sing it in a sultry, sincere style, and let the MUCH older man turn his half into mostly spoken quips and, well… it’s just plain creepy.
11. “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” - Murray, Amy Poehler and Julie White
This is nothing. I shouldn’t even include it. It’s maybe 8 seconds of them singing offhandedly in a stairwell, but it’s also the only time Amy Poehler sings. She is criminally underused in this special.
10. “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” (reprise) - Murray, Miley Cyrus and George Clooney
You may think this trio would put on— at the very least— an interesting number. And they do. They sound good and have a fun Rat Pack Vegas show sort of feel. They just do the same thing again and better with another song.
9. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” - Murray
A sad and sweet show closer. Simple and perfect, so it shouldn’t really be so low on the list, but it’s also deliberately underwhelming.
8. “I Saw the Light” - Schwartzman, Rashida Jones, Rudolph, Johansen, and Murray
The only song not directly Christmasy, it works well and sounds good (well, Jason Schwartzman takes a while, but he gets there). But I can’t remember the last time I saw two people with less chemistry than Schwartzman and Rashida Jones. Plus, somebody get Schwartzman a barrette or a headband or something.
7. “Alone on Christmas Day” - Phoenix, Jason Schwartzman, Murray, and Johansen
This fits right in with my particular brand of Indie Christmas twee delights, but even if you’re more into the classics, this number is a major turning point for the special. This is the first real bit of pure upbeat fun, and it features Bill Murray, the band Phoenix, and proto-punk legend David Johansen.
6. “Sleigh Ride” - Murray and Miley Cyrus
This song is another one that marks a big transition in the special: from the gloomy realistic New York snowstorm setting to a glitzy, fancy fantasy world. It’s good, and the awkwardness of Murray and Miley Cyrus trying to force some chemistry is totally eclipsed by George Clooney hanging out in the background with Paul Schaffer, making martinis and scamming on dancers.
5. “The Christmas Blues” - Bill Murray
The special’s opening number features a morose, growly Murray singing his troubles. It’s also the only time we get to see these reindeer antlers.
4. “Fairytale of New York” - The Cast
This Pogues song is the perfect bitersweet (Is bitterfun a word? I know it’s not, that just seems more accurate) group number to finish out the second act. It’s kicky, but totally in keeping with the sullen tone of the special until this point.
3. “Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’” - Murray and George Clooney
I had never heard this song before, and it’s weird and funky, but doesn’t deserve to be #3 on this list. Except that it also features the single greatest moment of the entire special: George Clooney popping out from behind Christmas trees to tell us:
2. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” - Murray and Chris Rock
After being bullied into donning a grossly festive turtleneck, Chris Rock adds the most bizarre backup vocals I’ve ever heard in this song, along with franticly shifting eyes, like the merriest hostage situation imaginable.
1. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” - Maya Rudolph
I kept thinking this couldn’t be my number one. For one thing, it’s a total non-sequitur from any sort of narrative. Maya Rudolph seems to be in a totally different sort of movie than what Murray sets up. (As are a lot of the cast members— that is absolutely not her fault and not even necessarily a criticism.) Also, it doesn’t feature George Clooney lecherously peering out from behind Christmas trees. But it is hands down the best number in the show. Her voice is amazing, and her performance will break your heart into a million little snowflakes.