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AL DÍA has an all Philly-area holiday list of songs to listen to this year. Photos (left to right): Juan Valencia, Magnus, Tito Perez, Donte Kirby
AL DÍA has an all Philly-area holiday list of songs to listen to this year. Photos (left to right): Juan Valencia, Magnus, Tito Perez, Donte Kirby

AL DÍA Philly’s 2021 Christmas and New Year’s playlists

Featured are some local artists that you could include on your own party sets.

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Happy holiday season! This time of year is always polarizing for many. Some go all in on the season’s cheer and bring their friends and family along, while others dread the time they’ll have to spend with estranged family and money they’ll shell out for gifts.

Regardless of how you feel about it, you’re still likely to spend some time at more than a couple parties this season, which is why we’re here to make those experiences as enjoyable as possible with some songs to add to your playlists.

The two main parties members of the AL DÍA Philly team will be attending this year are Christmas (or Noche Buena), and New Years. Included on both lists are five songs each, and feature Philly artists big and small covering Christmas anthems, Spanish-language classics, and whatever else came to us and said ‘the holidays.’

Christmas (or Noche Buena)

Whether you celebrate Christmas Eve — otherwise known as Noche Buena — or do the whole shebang on Christmas Day, here are some hidden gems, classics and more you can play throughout Jesus’ birthday.

Giselle Tavera - “All I Want for Christmas Is You” 

To kick things off, we have a version of Mariah Carey’s timeless classic, “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” sung by Cherry Hill, New Jersey’s own Giselle Tavera. 

Her version is the official bachata rendition of Carey’s Christmas anthem, and was first released in 2015. That year, it peaked at 32 on the Billboard US Tropical Songs chart along with two of Tavera’s other songs.

At just 28, Tavera already has a professional music career that spans more than 10 years. She was born in Esperanza, Dominican Republic in 1993, and first moved to the Philly area when she was seven years old.

After taking a year break from making music in 2018 and 2019, Tavera returned in 2020 and 2021 with singles. They’re also great, but listen to her “All I Want for Christmas” version to hit peak festiveness.

Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale - “Feliz Navidad” (Cover of Jose Feliciano)

In the interest of keeping these lists as Philly-centric as possible, here is a rendition of arguably the most popular Christmas song on the planet by the world-renowned Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale. 

Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” is a pop Christmas classic. Throughout its now 52-year history, the song has landed on charts from Canada to Slovakia, and Brazil to Australia to name a few beyond the U.S. 

According to Nielsen Soundscan, since the song went digital, it is the eighth highest selling Christmas/holiday digital single of all time.

As for who’s performing this rendition, the Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale are also known as “America’s Ambassadors of Song,” and were established in the 1960s within the Philadelphia School District. In its 50 years of existence, the collective has won Emmys, been nominated for Grammys, and performed around the world with some of the biggest names and groups in music.

Since 2019, they have performed “Feliz Navidad” on NBC TODAY to get the country into the Christmas spirit.

Suzzette Ortiz - “Christmas Time Is Here” (Cover of Vince Guaraldi)

If you’ve seen A Charlie Brown Christmas, you’ve definitely heard “Christmas Time Is Here,” first composed by Vince Guaraldi and performed by his Vince Guaraldi Trio. 

Suzzette Ortiz, who in addition to being a Camden-based singer, pianist, and choral conductor, is also a composer with decades of experience. In her rendition of Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown classic, Ortiz keeps it all piano for a soothing three-minute cover in the comfort of her home.

A video of her performance was posted to YouTube in December 2020, as the world still grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, and many spent their holidays alone.

Luis Figueroa - “Noche de Paz”

Luis Figueroa is one of the biggest names in recent memory to come out of Philly and into the Latin music scene, and his 2020 cover of the Spanish Christmas classic, “Noche de Paz,” is perfect for this year’s celebrations.

The song is a Spanish version of the iconic English Christmas carol, “Silent Night,” which is another translation of the original German, version “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,” first composed and performed in 1818.

Figueroa’s version is accompanied by an intimate music video that seats him in front of a massive projection of a fireplace where the amount of chestnut roasting would be endless.

For some background on the artist, Figueroa grew up in a Puerto Rican household in Philadelphia, where music like Marc Anthony and others were staples. After appearing on shows like Star Search and American Idol, Figueroa was discovered by Anthony and signed to his label, Magnus, in 2018.

Papo Vázquez & The Mighty Pirates Troubadours - “O Come All Ye Faithful”

Papo Vázquez is a trombonist with more than 40 years in the music industry, a Philadelphia Latin music icon, and a pioneer of the bomba jazz style.

Throughout his career, Vázquez has played with the titans of Latin jazz, and some of the icons of the larger Latin music world. In that time, he’s also played his fair share of Parrandas and other Christmas concerts alongside his Mighty Pirates Troubadour.

In this merengue version of the English Christmas carol “O Come All Ye Faithful,” Vázquez’s trombone and a saxaphone guide the song along a sped-up chart complimented by a traditional drum set, congas, guiro, piano, and bass.

The rendition was filmed at a 2018 show in St. Bartholomew’s Church in White Plains, New York.

New Year’s Eve 

New Year’s Eve is a time of both reflection and a look ahead at one’s hopes and dreams for the year ahead. That was difficult for many last year, given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

This year, the pandemic is still a thing, but a year of vaccines give the city, country and world more hope heading into 2022, and it’s why the selection we have is both for a party and when people want to get deep.

Kenty Love - “Todo Va A Estar Bien”

Kenty Love is a Philadelphia-based Puerto Rican singer/songwriter, and if his description on his artist website doesn’t sell on why he needs to be on this list, then nothing will.

He is a musician and composer “who strives to convey a message of good vibes, positivism and love,” and his early 2020 release “Todo Va A Estar Bien” hits that feeling on the head.

It was a great message to ring in 2021 by telling everyone it would all be ok, and may hit even more of a chord going into 2022.

Meek Mill - “Conga”

If Meek Mill made a Christmas song he would’ve been on the first part of this list, but he hasn’t, so we’re left with a wide selection of what the biggest name in Philly rap these days is known for — combining bass-heavy beats and fast-flowing lyrics to hype sports teams and turn up parties from inner city Philly to the burbs, and beyond.

The rapper also released a new album this year called Expensive Pain. On the surface, that sounds like a place where listeners wouldn’t find happy music, and it wasn’t where we found any to be included in this list either, despite there being potential songs like “Hot” and “Blue Notes 2.” 

Like Kenty Love, we chose a song by Meek Mill that he released in the beginning of 2021 in “Conga.”

Now, before jumping all over the selection because it’s not the most popular or was part of a Bacardi campaign, understand who it pays tribute to.

The original “Conga” was the song that shot Cuban icon Gloria Estefan and her Miami Boys (later Miami Sound Machine) to superstardom. In the process, Estefan introduced the world to Latin music and opened the door for icons like Shakira, Ricky Martin, Jennifer López and Selena.

Meek’s version is a collaboration with Leslie Grace, a Bronx, New York singer-songwriter with Dominican roots who has been nominated for three Latin Grammy awards in her career.

She pays the most homage to Estefan’s original lyrics throughout the remake, but Meek does offer a verse in the middle of the song. Take our advice and give it a listen.

If you don’t like it, Meek Mill’s “House Party,” “Rosé Red,” “Uptown Vibes,” “Dreams and Nightmares” (Go Birds), and any other album intro he’s ever done will have the same effect in a party setting.

Udini La Voz - “All The Way Up Spanish Remix” ft. DJ Nito (Cover of Fat Joe and Remy Ma)

Udini La Voz is the pride of Panama in Philly, and the rapper lets it be known in his most popular and performed song, “Amo a mi Panama.” 

But beyond his original tracks, Udini is also a master of covering pop rap anthems in Spanish. One of them, which he did in 2016, was a cover of that year’s club bop, “All The Way Up,” by Fat Joe and Remy Ma featuring French Montana.

Udini’s energy matches the beat throughout the cover, and while the topics he covers are much deeper than those marking the original, it still makes for good listen, especially on New Year’s Eve.

Todos Santos - “Voces Invisibles”

What goes better with a new year than a song to honor those oft-ignored in society and the revolutionaries that fight for them?

Todos Santos, a Philly-based Latin rock band has “Voces Invisibles” from their 2019 project Huespedes Incomodos to match the vibe.

The song, which is composed of heavy guitar riffs, and equal parts powerful drums and vocals, is perfect for kicking off the year in the mood to fight the power and demand audience.

De Tierra Caliente - “Traigo Alegría”

To round out our top five songs to add to a New Year’s Eve playlist this year is a return to the positivity set by Kenty Love to kick off this portion of the list.

Philly-based De Tierra Caliente comes from the same mold of warm, colorful music, and even though they’re pitched like a band that prefers a beach and Summer sunset, “they deliver the sabor, spice, and alegría of warm-weather countries to American audiences, where formidable winters and nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic sometimes overshadows simple pleasures,” reads their website.

In short, they know how to throw a party with their music no matter the season, and “Traigo Alegría” is just one of many of the band’s tracks that could work to get the people going.

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