It’s as much a part of the holiday season as colored lights and mistletoe. Venture outside the safety of your home and you are bound to be audibly assaulted by some pop star’s auto-tuned mangling of a Christmas song. Does every recording contract these days have a clause that requires them to release a Christmas album?
While I like some better than others, classic Christmas songs and carols all get a pass in my book on pure nostalgia. What's getting my ire up is the proliferation of renditions of classic Christmas songs by current artists and, even worse, some new Christmas songs.
I have had a volitile relationship with Christmas music all my life. I used to adore it in almost any form. When I was 8, I had a 45 rpm vinyl record of Alvin & the Chipmunks singing “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” which I played and played and played. I found it hilarious because I, too, was missing my two front teeth. What were the odds! I was also sick with the chicken pox during this prelude to Christmas so I had little else to do to entertain myself. I'm sure my parents had a great holiday that year. A miserably sick kid who played Chipmunks songs non-stop for a week. I'll wager that the adults in my family consumed more eggnog during that holiday than in any other since.
Now with my discerning adult music tastes, I find that song annoying. Same with any rendition of “Feliz Navidad.” I am not exaggerating when I say that I consciously make an effort to get through each holiday season without hearing that song. Among other things, this means avoiding Mexican restaurants completely from Thanksgiving until New Years Day. I was successful one year but have already blown it this year by carelessly flipping through radio stations in the car and stumbling upon the offending song. Rookie move.
My boyfriend claims to have been driving across a vast, desolate section of Texas many years ago when he came across a mysterious radio station that played nothing but “Feliz Navidad” over and over on a loop for days on end. No commercials, no DJ’s, no explanations. And it was in mid-July. This one reeks of a Tall Tale from the great state of Texas but he swears it happened.
That last paragraph would also make a good opening for an early Stephen King novel.
Every year there seems to be one song that just drives me bananas. The winner (or is it loser?) for me for the 2012 Holiday Season is…drumroll please…Jessica Simpson singing “Let It Snow”. It’s not new so I have no idea why I find it so particularly noxious this time around. My cat who yowls at the front door every night sounds more pleasing to me that that song.
Michael Buble is a notorious repeat offender but I have to give him props for having a sense of humor about his many Christmas music forays. Here is a clip of him on SNL, poking fun at the making of a Christmas Duet album (the only incarnation more vile than a single artist Christmas album) with the likes of Justin Beiber, Sting, Ke$ha, and Taylor Swift. So funny.
Now there are some decent Christmas songs that have come from this trend of musicians cashing in…err…I mean…contributing to the holiday spirit. With so many being churned out, it stands to reason that every once in a while a good song will rise to the top. In looking over my list of the ones I enjoy, there is no doubt that I lean strongly towards the odd, unusual, and just plain weird.
Under the “weird” umbrella comes a duet that sounded like a disaster from the get go. Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.” To get the true impact of this piece, you have to watch the video for it, including the awkward banter that leads up to one of the strangest and most uncomfortable duets of all times. It’s bad, it’s good, but it’s memorable. That’s for sure.
“Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” has been a favorite of mine since I first heard twangy-voiced Elmo and Patsy weave their dark but humorous tale of Grandma’s demise at the hand of Ol’ Saint Nick and the repercussions after. I think there is still a little of my 10-year-old self left in me that thinks this is so funny.
“Father Christmas” by the Kinks slips some social commentary into a rocking Christmas song. Well done by the boys from across the pond.
My favorite, by a long shot, is “Merry Christmas From the Family” and the rendition by Jill Sobule in particular. This is an eerily accurate description of the dysfunctional but oh-so-fun family Christmas parties we used to have every year with my mom’s large and wonderfully eccentric family. So many hilarious memories. I can’t help but smile and wonder when we are going to get that crazy Garry family together to do it again whenever I hear this song.
I’m going to leave you with a Christmas song from the musical genius that is Hall and Oates. This is another one that must be accompanied by the video to get the full effect. If I have to listen to so-bad-it’s-good Christmas music, I’m going "all in" with this corny version of "Jingle Bell Rock."
So do you have any Christmas songs that you love…or love to hate? Please share in the comments.