Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Anti-Christmas Carols

John Scalzi asks,

Your Christmas gift is the ability to expunge one highly annoying yet popular Christmas song from the history of the world. Which one is it?

He picks on Feliz Navidad.  I wouldn't. I thought of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.  I thought of Mary's Boy Child, the medley version that's been so overplayed over the past decade or so.  I thought of a particular Mannheim Steamroller recording that used to annoy me by wandering so far from  the actual melody of the song.  I thought of Father Ireland's antipathy toward Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which he considers "sick and twisted" because everyone puts down Rudolph "until they find out they can exploit him."  Ultimately, however, I wouldn't pick those songs, either.
Instead, I remember a conversation John and I had last week about anti-Christmas songs.  John's been hanging out on some Christmas song newsgroup. He's seen many songs go by that disparage the whole Christmas season.  Christmas is about greed, these songs say.  It's about false sentiment.  Christmas doesn't fix war, and poverty, and violence. It revolves around an absurd, secular perversion of St. Nicholas, a red-suited hawker of consumer goods.  Christmas is a time for suicide and depression and disappointment. This is the attitude that underlies most of these anti-Christmas songs.

John is not the poster boy for Christmas spirit. He mostly has none.  Even so, he dislikes this whole genre of Christmas music.  He says the songs aren't clever, or funny, or even original. The subject has been covered, many times over.  What's the point in recording or collecting more music with the same nihilistic message?

Two years ago, John gave me a CD full of Christmas mp3s. Some of it was great stuff, but most of it was Christmas novelty songs, not all of which John had listened to himself.  A clip song about a flying saucer was mostly harmless, but nothing I'd care to hear very often.  Cool Yule was marginally more interesting, albeit dated.  Eartha Kitt's famous Santa Baby is too funny and sexy for its over-the-top greed to be taken seriously. Ditto the song's sequel, but that one's less appealing. A Steve Allen song about Christmas in Puerto Rico was kind of nice, albeit perhaps a little condescending by today's standards. A dialogue between Albert Brooks and his child was too cynical, and the humor of the Goons' I'm Walking Backwards for Christmas escaped me.  Beyond these, there were lots of songs that were crude and rude and depressing. Even Stan Freberg, whom I respect, has a particularly nasty rendition of Nuttin' For Christmas. And even that is nice and innocent compared to much of what's been recorded since then.

What's wrong with these people?  Okay, Christmas can get a little treacly, and a certain amount of satire can counteract this.  The Twelve Pains of Christmas does this well, without giving the impression that Christmas is harmful or stupid or worthless.  But some of these songs are completely hateful about Christmas.  They're the ones I would expunge.

The good news is that they mostly expunge themselves.  They aren't exactly chart toppers. They're kept alive mostly by novelty music collectors.  In that sense, they don't qualify for Scalzi's list.  Nevertheless, they are much more worthy of expungement (although I don't believe in censorship, even of these songs) than anything you're likely to hear on the radio.

I can't give you examples right now.  I don't have that mp3 CD cataloged or ripped onto a computer any more, and I'm at work and don't want to research.  But watch this space.  Tonight I'll give you a better idea what I'm talking about.  Meanwhile, take a look at the last question on last night's trivia quiz, and consider this: three of those titles are real.

Would you really want your Daddy to see this guy kissing your Mommy? On second thought, there is one oft-recorded, fairly popular Christmas song that I hate as much as Joel Ireland hates the song about  the exploited mutant reindeer. In I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,  a kid narrator sees his mom apparently cheating on his dad with the rotund gift-giver.  Rather than being troubled by this, the kid thinks it would have been "a laugh" had Daddy caught his wife in the act.  Never mind that "Santa" in the song is really Daddy.  The kid doesn't know that.  He wants to see his dad witness this moment of minor infidelity - and what?  Whup Santa for taking such liberties?  Laugh, because it doesn't matter if your wife is going around kissing strange saints in the middle of the night?  Whatever the answer, it can't be good!


Later: Okay, here's one: "I F-- on Santa's Lap (Now Christmas is Gonna Stink for Me) or Christmas Comedy 1, with It's a Wonderful Death and more PG titles.  Or how about Christmas with Satan? Um, no thanks.


sakishler said...

Ha! I like this entry.

My personal Christmas song demon is "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time." I mean, argh. It probably wouldn't grate on my nerves like it does if it wasn't by someone I admire so much.

ryanagi said...

I still say Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey needs to be taken out back and shot and his carcass dumped in a landfill in Jersey. ;-)