Monday, December 10, 2007


Lousy Christmas Music: A Seasonal Snark

Bowing to the inevitable, I've spent far too much time lately shopping. Which means...

The aural assault of cheesy Christmas music has begun.

I'll admit, having been raised in a musically unfortunate household (Neil Diamond, Anne Murray, Rita Coolidge, Air Supply), I'm a little jumpy when it comes to awful music. Part of the reason I grabbed onto satellite radio the way drowning people grab onto life preservers was that it offered the prospect of escaping the tyranny of Lite Hits and NPR pledge drives.

But this time of year, there is no escape. And the Lite Hits stations are at their worst, replacing the boring-but-tolerable (Avril Lavigne, Matchbox Twenty) with music so awful that I have an actual physical reaction.

The worst, I think, is “Christmas in Sarajevo,” by Mannheim Steamroller. When I hear this, I actually feel capable of violence. Mostly against Mannheim Steamroller. It's as if you took the soundtrack to a series of beer commercials, ran it through a blender, and added chimes. It's like John Tesh meets Yanni, without the subtlety. Every time a radio station plays this, the baby Jesus cries.

“Feliz Navidad,” by Jose Feliciano, gets my hand to the 'off' button at warp speed. I'm all for cultural inclusiveness, but crap is crap.

And that #*(%&)#% Paul McCartney song – the one where he keeps repeating “simply, simply” -- simply induces nausea. That's not hyperbole. I actually feel sick to my stomach when I hear that song.

Honesty, I'd rather hear the dogs bark “Jingle Bells.”

The Christmas songs that don't bother me are the ones clearly intended for kids. “Frosty the Snowman,” especially the original, is disarmingly sweet, as is “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The Charlie Brown songs are lovely. And there's nothing wrong with “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.”

For adults, the classic carols are perfectly fine, if a bit predictable. And some songs just sound like Christmas songs, even if they aren't. (“Better Days,” by the Goo Goo Dolls, sounds like a Christmas song to me.) I'll even cop to liking Adam Sandler's “Hanukkah Song,” though I think slightly less of myself for it. And Bob and Doug McKenzie's version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a neglected classic.

But if I hear that #*%@)% McCartney song one more time...

What Christmas songs drive you around the bend? What's your nominee for Most Annoying Christmas Song?

Whatever song it is that has the line "And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time". Drives me batty for so many reasons.
Oh man, I was going to say the same one as C'trix. That's Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas" which, like Paul McCartney's song, is quite popular o'er here.
I'm going to go a different route, and choose my fave bad Christmas song:

"I am Santa Claus" (sung to the tune of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man"

Very bad. Very fun.
Actually Christmas Eve Sarajevo is by Trans-siberian Orchestra - just wanted you to send your death thoughts in the right direction :)
There is actual good Christmas music. I just spent some money and time at emusic buying some. Here's some of my favs:

"Santa Baby" by Eartha Kitt
"Santa Claus got stuck in my chimney" by Ella Fitzgerald
"Zat you Santa Claus?" by the Brian Setzer Orchestra
"Baby it's cold outside" by Dean Martin

There's really nothing like good, old-fashioned big band music. I also like to belt out Handel's Messiah (even though I'm an atheist; the music is just damn good).
"I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," particularly the Alvin and the Chipmunks version. Eeeeeeyew.

As it happens, my least favorite Christmas pop song is Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime." It was stuck in my head all last Friday. I came home and complained to Stubb, who didn't remember the song. I made the mistake of showing him the video on YouTube. I went to bed with it ringing in my ears.

And now it's back. Thanks, DD.
It would have to be "The Christmas Shoes," an absurd tale sung by a poor imitation of Joe Cocker. I simply refuse to listen to it.
Ah, Christmas music, opportunity for a major rant, since the author has 3 (count em!) 3 degrees in music.

Things I avoid during this season:

1. All handbell choirs. Handbells were invented for people who love music but (a) Can't sing; and more dangerously (b) can't count. If you like watching specatcular car crashes, a concert of handbells has your name on it.

2. The Messiah. Over done, badly done, and there are endless drunken versions. Bleh. Unfortunately, pitch is an exact place not a general region--too bad neither the choir, orchestra, or in many instances the soloists, can find it. To me, the musical effect is similar to tossing 50 kittens in a blender. (and JUST as evil).

3. Any office Christmas parties with live music. This gives the drunks in the firm the opportunitiy to harrass the underpaid musicians. Been on the receiving end of this--endless times. Run Bambi!

Seasons Greetings!
During the Bad Old Days, I worked over a holiday season in a crap department store (now dead) that had only one Christmas music tape. Its forty minutes of torturous treacle cycled over and over, all day long.

My Christmas present to the world that year was not beating everyone in the store to death with a frying pan.

Hearing "Feliz Navidad" still gives me ths shakes. Brrr...
"Sweet Silver Bells" will drive me to throw a brick at the device or human being who is producing the noise.
Without a doubt The Christmas Shoes, badly done, emotionally manipulative, and who wouldn't buy the kid the damn shoes?

Also, Mariah Carey's Joy to the World, which for some reason finds it necessary to launch in to the non-Christmas Joy to the World half-way through (aka Jeremiah was a Bullfrog)
Without a doubt, "Gramma Got Run Over By A Reindeer". I think that is the name. I have no idea who sings it. The song needs to die.

A very close second is the one posted by joea1776 - "The Christmas Shoes".
Another vote for Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime"...repetitive, banal, lousy tune, what's not to hate?

Since my husband and I are interfaith, my compromise is to listen to very esoteric Christmas music (the Christmas Revels albums are favorites). My latest happy acquisition is a klezmer Christmas album called "Oy to the World".
That Chipmunks Christmas song. #$&%* helium-sucking rodents. Shouldn't they be hibernating or something?
c-trix & kait: You beat me to it! That "snow in Africa" song sends me into a lengthy diatribe about how it doesn't make any $#*&#@*@^ sense. Why the hell do they need snow in Africa? Why do they need Christmas for that matter?
SO snarky! Perhaps it is because I am a Jew who loves Christmas (by association and marriage), but I am a fool for the Christmas music. Favorites include oldies like Bing Crosby, semi-oldies like the Carpenters, and somewhat newer folks like the Roches (*love this CD)...

That said, and this is counter-intuitive I know, but I resent university choirs performing "vespers" on campus. Are we a religious school? I mean, really, vespers?? Ick. I listen to Christmas music on my own time, and in my personal space, not in my state-funded recital hall.
Another vote for the Christmas Shoes song. That song makes my blood pressure rise, I hate it so much.
Most people complain about what I listen to (Tales From The Crypt, Have Yourself A Scary Little Christmas), but I still like it. I've been told it is sacrilegious and just plain wrong, but what can I say, I come from a family of morticians.

But, yeah, the Band Aid song annoys the hell out of me. Especially the part where they sing "so they even know it's Christmas time at all." So unbelievably condescending and paternalistic.
Definitely "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."

But "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is a close second.
"Jingle Bell Rock" and "Rockin' around the Christmas Tree" set me on edge. I usually leave a store when one of them comes on.
"Do you hear what I hear?" (though am not entirely certain that's the actual title. Whatever the case, that song's driven me nuts since I was about 8 years old and we had to sing it for the school Christmas pageant.)

Oh, and I can't believe nobody's said it yet - the 12 days of Christmas is HORRIBLE.
I like the idea of "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas," but I find that I hate the actual song.
How dare you compare bad music to dogs barking Jingle Bells! It really isn't Christmas until I hear that classic.

Speaking of which, ever hear Jorge Jorgenson sing "I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas"? It is the perfect song for Black Friday shopping. I should transcribe it to my blog when I find my Round Tuit.
Need I say more?
Grey Beard Loon nails it. "The Little Drummer Boy has no excuse for its existence.

I am, however, quite partial to John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." Here's a YouTube link
Yet another vote for (or is that against?) Grandma Got Run Over By a Raindeer. Ugh. And yeah, that Band-Aid song bugs me on a philosophical level, although I find the tune unfortunately catchy.

I must be lucky, as I'm not at all familiar with either the McCartney or the Christmas Shoes songs.

I'm a sucker, OTOH, for the handbell choir thing, traditional music, or Nat King Cole. :)
Another vote for "The Christmas Shoes." Worst. Song. Ever. All that's missing is a limping puppy and a starving nun.
there's a song...I don't even know who it's by but they used to play it when I worked retail:

last christmas I gave you my heart, the very next day you gave it away, this christmas, I'll save it for someone speh hu shull.

That song makes me want to throw things. Also, a tune that goes:

I'm the happiest christmas tree ho ho ho hee hee hee, which I suspect is burl ives. Kill me now.

also with you on hating the transiberian whatever the hell it is and the whole simply having a wonderful christmastime horror.
ok, number one is Santa Baby. I HATE that song with a passion. Especially since it reminds me of the Ally McBeal version. And second place is "Last Christmas", that odious song that Anastasia refers to as well.
Any traditional carol (O Holy Night seems to be their favorite) sung by the pop/R&B/country sensation du jour, in which (usually but not always) she tries to prove how much Christmas means to her by going all Whitney Houston on the lyrics.

(O Nii-hiight diviiiiIIIIIIIIIIne)
I actually kinda like the whole Transsiberian Orchestra record. Enough to listen to it all year round.

Haven't heard the Sarajevo song though.

Also really good, but resisting my attempts to track it down is the Louis Armstrong "Zat you Santa Claus". I heard an excerpt on some TV show - House or West Wing - but haven't been able to locate it since.

There's a lot cringe-worthy out there too though. One of the reasons I almost never listen to the radio, preferring to set my own playlists.
I hate "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" the most, probably. "Wonderful Christmastime" is horrible too, though.

Songs I like:

"2000 Miles" -- The Pretenders
"River" -- Joni Mitchell
"Silver Bells"
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (the Judy Garland version)
Also, "Christmas in Hollis" by Run DMC isn't too bad.
I am loathing any holiday music by Josh Grobin - can he sing a line in one breath for goodness sake. The pace is excrutiatingly slow. Which makes me reflect on how slow some of the older Christmas songs are, which I love since it calms my holiday season stress.

I can't stand the McCarteney, Band Aid, The Italian Christmas Donkey, and some of the new faster versions of Silver Bells

I love Mariah Carey's All I want for christmas, except it has not been playing that much. Martina McBride and Harry Connick Jr. have some good stuff also.

Dean Dad, we must be listening to the same regional stations or the entire country's lite stations are on 24/7 Christmas music.
Clearly I live a in a bubble of my own devising since I have never heard the Christmas Shoes song, of the Sarajevo song, or the McCartney song.

I shop 100% on line and don't listen to public radio. I do have some cheapo Christmas CDs with Holly Jolly Christmas, the barking dogs, etc. The kids love this obscure Jerry Lewis song where he complains about all his presents!

I guess in comparison I am doing alright. I like all the old crooners doing Christmas songs and of course, the Charlie Brown Christmas album.
Clearly none of you has had the pleasure Ang and I have partaken in: the hippo song. In all its garish, cheesy glory, it totally wins the bad xmas contest. Hometown plays it incessantly, at least three times an hour. It has single-handledly made me dread Christmas.
Here in the flag-lovin', towel-head hatin' midwest, the Christmas station plays this AWFUL spoken piece about Santa visting a brave, but lonely soldier on Christmas. CAN YOU SAY PROPAGANDA???

Love the Roches Christmas album, though. And also Elvis.
I LOVE Christmas songs:

Band Aid's "Do they know it's Christmas?" for the energy and inspiration.

I particularly like the live version from the Live Aid concert when Bob Geldof says "This might be a cock up. But if you're going to cock things up, you might as well do it with the whole world watching!" They hadn't rehearsed the song so the mikes and tunefulness didn't quite work, but who cares!

The line "And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas" is not intended to be patronising, but to remind people in England to think of others (There's a world outside your window)

Christmas begins for me the first time I hear Snoopy's Christmas (Christmas Bells!)

I love the Christmas song from Love Actually. All I want for Christmas, is You.
Not quite sure how you could confuse Mannheim Steamroller with Trans Siberian Orchestra... one is "easy listening" while the other (TSO) definitely lets their "rocking" side come through.

I would recommend though that you not pass judgment on their tune, separate from the body/album that contained it. TSO likes to tell a story with their music, and that song is no different.

Of course, to each their own. Heck, I heard some people actually prefer Family Guy over Futurama.
Ah, here is what DD is not looking for:

(found while looking for something off-the-wall to grade to this afternoon)
Anything off that obnoxious Mariah Carey Christmas album makes my skin crawl.
Snarky Prof and Ang took mine. If I hear that damned "Hippopotamus for Christmas" one more time, I'm going to throw my radio out the window.

The McCartney one sucks as does the "Last Christmas" and Band Aid songs.

I have not heard the Christmas Shoes song, and it looks like I'm glad that I haven't.

But, I hate, hate, hate, hate Bruce String-bean's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" for three reasons: dumbass "The Boss" always looks and sounds like he's constipated and in pain, he cannot sing to save his ass, and he's laughing through the song -- none of which is funny.

Oh, and I hate the version of "Rudolph" where some dumbass calls him Rudy. Gah!

The one stupid song that I find -- much to my shock and horror -- growing on me is the Barenaked Ladies' rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." I'm duly embarrassed by this last point.
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