In this joyous time of year, when Christmas carols ringing from every speaker and cell phone in every retail shop, few of us would voice complaints about the incessantly repeated songs that find our laaaaast nerve … and stomp all over it. Don’t get me wrong — I love Christmas carols, but not every one is a gem, and the worst seem to get the most airplay. I’d be thrilled if I didn’t get to hear the following songs for, well, the rest of my life:
- Santa Baby (Madonna version): I love the Eartha Kitt original. It’s a cute and satirical look at the most utilitarian look at Christmas. Madonna’s version makes my skin crawl. It replaces cute and kittenish with screechiness and about as much subtlety as one would see on the streets of Las Vegas.
- Happy Christmas (War Is Over), aka And So This Is Christmas: Without the War Is Over chorus, it’s a weakly-written poetic attempt at a Hallmark card level. When it veers into War Is Over If You Want It and talk about “the yellow and red ones” [correction provided by the Llama Butchers], it becomes a preachy political chant, and a mindlessly naive one at that, no surprise from John Lennon, who “Imagine”d an end to religion. War isn’t over just because we want it, as 9/11 proved. Sorry, but there are people in the world that want to kill other people, and believing that all we need to do is wish war away is stupid beyond belief.
- Last Christmas: Wham? This breathy jilted-love ballad hardly fits the Christmas spirit, and its upbeat pace makes it a terrible ballad even without Christmas. The enduring life of this dance-hall downer is absolutely inexplicable.
- Wonderful Christmastime (had it originally as “Simply Christmastime”): I’ll spread the love, such as it is, to another Beatle. Paul McCartney’s dully repetitive paen to secular celebration isn’t terrible on the first listen, but by the time you’ve heard it three or four times, you’ll wish it was simply New Year’s Day.
- Christmas Bride – Ray Coniff produced a slew of Christmas classics, so he’s allowed a clunker — and this was it. I’ve only heard it once, and that was enough to send the FM and me into gales of laughter. Someone should get that couple into communications counseling.
I’m more a fan of classics, but I did find one relatively new version of a traditional carol that I really enjoyed. Barenaked Ladies teamed with Sarah McLachlan on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and gave it a folk-rock treatment that actually works very well. Have a listen:
What carols can you do without, and which are absolute essentials?
Update: A couple of corrections, as noted above. Comments thread is great — be sure to read them all.