A Melange of Musings: Christmas Music
It's that time of year! Time to pull down the ol' musty box of Christmas standards, run 'em through shiny new auto-tune, and put them on the radio for the next generation to poke their eyes out to. And I'm right there every year, bopping along, singing songs, thinking thoughts in my private Christmas head. Ah, but this year. This year I have a blog.
- Songs about children that were absolutely not written by children: “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” Because every child’s reaction to catching his mom cheating is a blithe, “What a laugh it would have been/If Daddy had only seen…!” Yeah right. If that kid is smiling, it’s to throw you off the scent of the storm clouds. I don’t care if you are my mystical twinkle-eyed benefactor, you fat snake. You’ve been buying me off all these years to move in on my mom. Oh, me and Dad’ll be laughing all right. AT YOUR CHARRED REMAINS.
- Children’s songs that actually get the childlike joy of Christmas: “Mi Burrito Sabanero.” * Tuki tuki tuki tuki! Kids sing in fantastic upbeat harmony about riding their donkey to Bethlehem to see Jesus. It’s adorable and fun. Christmas radio needs to take a break and turn on Navidad Latina radio. These guys know how to party.
( *Runner up: “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Captures the naivete of indignantly requesting ridiculous presents that make perfect sense when you’re seven.)
- I have a heart. I promise. But "Christmas Shoes" is the most maudlin, cloying piece of doodoo ever wrung from the bowels of radio. I don’t buy it. This kid’s mom is dying and he just wandered out of the house, alone, at night? And made his wide-eyed way into town to buy some high heels? My sister and I are convinced this tyke is a con artist and resells his ill-gotten loot on the street. You have been fleeced, sir. Ask to follow that kid back home and see what happens. But wait, here comes a horde of children, all singing the same doe-eyed chorus! How deep goes this city's corruption?!
- I’d like to thank each pop princess for bravely insisting that our solid Christmas standards were meant to be breathy flirt songs. I’ve always said there’s not enough sexy on my radio! I swear, music today would have you believe that mens and womens are all business and got no time for fun, and we’ve got to shake up this Puritan middle school dance is what I’ve always said. And what better time than Christmas? It’s the season for squeezin'! Let’s mingle our jingles!
- All covers of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” must end. You have almost ruined this song for me. Except Pentatonix. You may carry on.
- “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” A sweet relic from a time when a girl’s village worked to protect her integrity. We should update the song for now times, when a lady’s rep is wrecked if she doesn’t spend the night.
She: I simply must stay!
He: But baby I’m awfully tired.
She: I’ve got to go away?!
He: Babe I’m gonna watch The Wire.
- "O Holy Night" is less quiet awe of the Savior’s birth and more a vehicle for divas to demonstrate their ability to jump that final glistening octave. Anyway, y’all can stop. Mariah Carey already leapt into the heavens with her whistle register. If this isn't MC's Merry Christmas album, you can sit down. (You know you hold my 8th grade heart, Mariah. Be kind.)
- Ah, who am I kidding—I love Christmas music! I’m down with the standards, but I love a solid album of Christmas originals. The one who gets it completely right is Sufjan Stevens. I bought, but am not artsy enough to get, his 5-volume holiday kitchen sink. But IMHO, all you need is this free sampler from Noisetrade. http://noisetrade.com/sufjanstevens/silver-gold-noisetrade-holiday-sampler
Equal parts celebration and a side glare at materialism (“Justice Delivers Its Death,” yes), Sufjan’s music is everything Christmas is: Jesus, exhaustion, exuberance, anti-social, and the quiet craving for substance. My favorite Christmas song for four years running is “Christmas Unicorn.” And not just because it’s about a unicorn. We thought I was smart, but I don’t completely understand this song. 10 points if you make it through all 12 minutes and give me a read on its deeper meaning. Meanwhile, I’ll be zoned out in my car, this song on repeat, staring into the cold clouds and living in the last three minutes of this magnum opus.