Three Actually Good Christmas Songs: 2017

Well, it’s about goddamn time  I showed up.

Again, I apologize for the lack updates through this past month due to a lack of proper computer. Turns out that my OS got corrupted (likely due to heat damage as a hypothesize), but now I have a much more stable rig that runs much smoother and doesn’t crash every 60 seconds for an hour straight until it completely screws up my screen resolution and kills my audio rendering everything mute and illegible.

But alas, I’m way behind on the Christmas cheer this year as a result of this mess and god knows we need it with the absolute crap-sack that 2018 is starting us off with. Between the rampant sexual abuse stories, tax plans that threaten to loot the country, and the impending death of a free internet, we really need something uplifting to keep morale strong. So let’s kick out the jams and rock around the Christmas tree again this year.

“Run Rudolph Run” – Lemmy Kilmister

I’m one of those weirdos that think that Metal makes an acceptable genre of music for holiday cheer. And why not? It’s a horribly underexplored genre for being a global tribe that unites countries and cultures around the world (note to self: consider writing about country-specific Metal subgenres in the future).

Enter Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister with his cover of “Run Rudolph Run.” Honestly, I never liked the Chuck Berry original or the numerous covers aping him until I found this. If you go back and listen, a lot of Chuck Berry’s stuff sounds EXACTLY the same. Plus, most people that cover this just don’t have the force of character behind their voice to make it fun and interesting.

Lemmy, meanwhile, uses his gravelly tone with a thrashing bass to give the sort of sound you’d want play while racing the clock to the Christmas party. Remember; Motörhead is known for Speed Metal – a subgenre that’s all about going fast.

And since I’m going off on Metal…

“Jingle Bell Metal” – Psychostick

At this point, most of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know I have a soft spot for Comedy Metal. And among the greats like Dethklok, Primus, and Tenacious D,  Psychostick holds a special place; a flickering lighter in the Metal concert of my soul.

While the vast majority of their Christmas album, The Flesh Eating Rollerskate Holiday Joyride, is pessimistic towards the holiday, it still manages to be the only Christmas album I can listen to from beginning to end. And their Metal medley of holiday hijinx, “Jingle Bell Metal,” is actually quite celebratory… if only in the over-the-top way people picture most metalheads act.

It’s not the kind of music you put on for the family, but it’s good ridiculous fun.

“Alone On Christmas Day” – Phoenix w/ Bill Murray

One of the complaints I have about Christmas music is that it never changes; it’s just the same arbitrarily accepted canon of songs repeated ad nauseam. Seriously, did you know that “Silent Night” is the third most covered song in the history of music?

I’m of the opinion that, if you’re going to blatantly copy someone, it should be done to preserve the memory of their art – not to ride on their coattails. Hence why I’m so glad this cover of a forgotten Beach Boys song exists.

What’s more, it’s a rarity among Christmas tracks – a sad song about being alone for the holidays that has an uplifting message in the end; pick yourself up and keep moving on because you don’t know how much better it can get.

Plus, who knew that Bill Murray had such a good baritone voice?

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Great Gifts of Song: Three More Great Christmas Songs

So, last week saw a follow-up to last year’s bad Christmas song list. Now, like last year, we’ve come to the flip-side. After all, why would I dedicate a joyous celebration to nothing but the coal that was dumped in our stockings. This is Christmas, damn it. So let’s have some fun.

Christmas is A-Comin’ – Bing Crosby

It just doesn’t feel like Christmas until one of the old crooners shows up at the party.

This one is a new favorite that I just learned of this year. Here, Bing spins the tale of a lone beggar on the streets shortly before Christmas and how, despite his situation, he still manages to be one of the happiest and friendliest men in town; wishing well to others far better off than himself.

This is a happy little tune that manages to put you outside of your own head space to consider others without shaming the listener or painting the less fortunate as pathetic. You’d think that a concept like that would be a no-brainer, but you’d never know it from other Christmas songs like Do They Know It’s Christmas (Don’t worry – Band Aid’s time will come next year).

Christmas In Killarney – The Irish Rovers

Here’s a little treat for those who, like me, are of proud Irish descent.

You never really think of it, but it’s surprisingly easy to forget that Christmas isn’t celebrated just at your home. That said, other homes around the world have their own little touches that make them special and leave us wondering what it’s like on the other side of the ocean.

I like this one for both the pleasant reminder of my own heritage as well as the reminder to think more globally this year.

Now, it’s true that our friend Bing from earlier in this article did this song as well and that version seems to get more radio play. But, in my opinion, you absolutely need to hear The Irish Rovers’ take. There’s just something about having a few of the local boys do it in their style that feels more organic and natural.

Christmas All Over Again – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

I think Tom Petty may rank as one of my favorite singer/songwriters of all time. So it comes as no surprise that his contribution to the Christmas arts would make my personal ‘Nice’ list.

Even if I didn’t love Tom, this is a great song. There aren’t any of the overly lavish bells and whistles of most Christmas tracks – no cheesy synthesizers, no obnoxiously loud bells, just a simple sing-along about all of the stuff we look forward to on the holidays.

In that regard, it’s also the most honest song about Christmas as well. It’s not dripping with sickeningly sweet shmaltz nor is it bitterly pessimistic about holiday stressors. It simply tells it like it is; which, in my mind, has always been Tom’s best quality.

Also, I can’t deny that hearing Tom read off his wish list at the end puts a smile on my face every time I hear it.

Return of the Crappy Carols: Three More Terrible Christmas Songs

Last year, I gave you a short list of songs attached to the Christmas season that are guaranteed to kill my holiday spirit. However, if you thought that was all I had, prepare yourselves for another unfortunate lump of coal in your stocking. I have three more tinsel covered turds to ruin the mood.

Honestly, I’m not trying to ruin the holiday for anyone. But, if I can reach at least one musician and convince them to not pump out dreck like this, than that makes Christmas that much more merry for all of us. That said, let’s begin.

The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) – Alvin and The Chipmunks

Good lord, I hate The Chipmunks. I hated them before it was cool to hate them. Hell, I hated them before it was cool to LIKE them.

It’s not hard to understand why I despise them so deeply. With their halfhearted covers of classic pop tunes sped up to a dog whistle-like tone, they’re the unholy union of Kids Bop and Auto Tune that physically hurts me to listen to. And when I say “physically hurts me”, I mean no exaggeration, stomach-souring, eye-twitching, muscle-spasm-inducing pain.

All of these problems are on display in this song. In fact, this one is made all the worse by being an original song as opposed to a cover; showing how terrible the writing is without the guidance of another.

What’s more, it has nothing meaningful to give us. It’s just three ‘kids’ talking about the toys that they want for Christmas with no regard for the joy of giving. Is my life really enriched by a song promoting the already over-hyped commercialism of the holiday? No, of course not.

It’s not the most offensive song – Christmas or otherwise – but it IS one of the few that drive me to such irrational rage that it makes me want to beat some unfortunate soul to death with some other unfortunate soul’s body.

Fairytale Of New York – The Pogues Featuring Kirsty MacColl

This is supposed to be charming?

I really don’t get how this one ever got popular. It’s not happy, it has nothing to do with the values that we attach to Christmas, and it seems to go out of it’s way to be as mean spirited as possible.

This is one of those songs that could never be made today, but the fact that it was made with Christmas in mind while telling its bitter story and using its more ‘colorful’ language is absolutely mind-boggling to me regardless of the time in which it was made.

I really don’t think I need to justify my hate very much here, so I’m not going to comment on it any further. I would say that all you need to do is hear the song for yourself to understand, but that would require you to actually listen to it and I’m not that cruel.

The Christmas Shoes – NewSong

Okay, before we get too deep into this, I want to make it clear that this isn’t about “the Christ in Christmas.” I could sit here and rattle off how practically everything about this holiday was taken from some other celebration and that it has no place in modern Christianity, but pretending that means anything in this context a load of crap and we all know it. The fact is that everyone, regardless of faith, has the right to celebrate whenever, however, and for whatever reason they please as long as it’s not disruptive to the lives of others.

Are we clear?… Good, because this is the worst piece of music to crawl out of the gutters of the Contemporary Christian genre.

I guess this is just one of those songs that you need to say your prayers every night to appreciate, but it just sits wrong with me. I have to imagine that, if I were a devout Christian, I would be highly offended by the idea that The Great I Am would be so cold as to commit the premeditated and painfully slow murder of my mother and tell me to make my last act of love making sure she’s wearing a sweet new pair of Chuck Taylors when she gets to the pearly gates so he can use me to teach some wrinkled, rusted, rural country scrooge the true meaning of Christmas.

It wants so badly to be an uplifting message about love, kindness, and charity, but it just comes off as needlessly dark and depressing. And on a day that should be happy (and is often already depressing enough with the difficulties of shopping), I just don’t want it around me.

Three Christmas Songs I will Never Get Tired Of

Last week, I gave you a short list of songs that manage to suck the Christmas joy out of me every time I hear them (and as we all know, sucking out joy is ‘Disney Evil’).

So in an attempt to lighten the mood, it’s only fair that I look at the other end of the spectrum.

These are songs that have stuck with me long enough that they’ve become a yearly tradition and I can’t call it Christmas until I’ve heard them at least once.

Snoopy’s Christmas (Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron) – The Royal Guardsmen

I actually know a number of people who don’t like or even hate the Peanuts comics and T.V. specials. But, for me, they were a formative part of my youth. They were the earliest cartoons I remember seeing.

Even ignoring the nostalgic comfort of the image of Snoopy boldly flying his dog house into battle, the story behind this song reflects what the holidays are all about in a microcosm; two people pitted against one another putting aside their affiliations to remember that they are both human (or canine as the case may be) and kin. And even though they know that they will likely meet again as enemies, they can forget their animosities for at least one day.

This song serves to remind me that we have the ability to seek out and obtain peace, effectively restoring my faith in humanity.

The Little Drummer Boy – Various Artists

This one would have to make the list regardless how I constructed it.

Sadly, in these more conservative times, I feel this song falls by the wayside due to its religious connotations and people fearing that they may offend someone. But if you look past that, you can see the true touching nature of this little carol.

The titular boy is practically destitute and has no gifts to offer; all he can do is play a small song on his drum. But that little kindness is still felt and cherished. During a time known as ‘The Season of Giving’, wouldn’t you want a song that reflects that spirit so well?

For my money, the best versions of The Little Drummer Boy focus mostly, if not exclusively, on the percussion for obvious reasons and get more powerful and booming near the end as the boy, “[plays his] best for him.” That said, I have yet to find a single one of the over thirty covers of this song I don’t like.

Wait, Justin Bieber covered it with Busta Rhymes?! NOOOOOO!!!

The 12 Days Of Christmas – Straight No Chaser

What would ‘The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year’ be without a few good laughs?

Leave it to Straight No Chaser to take some of the most tired and overused Christmas anthems (plus one stray Chanukah song and a one-hit wonder from the 80’s) and breathe new life into them by creating a medley of hilarity.

The humor here is subtle. By combining so many staples of Christmas music, they satirize the way many of us feel during the holidays whenever those carols play – every song just fades into one another creating a big bland mess of sound.

Props to you, Straight No Chaser for saying what we’re all thinking in the most creative way possible.

Bonus: Santa Claus and His Old Lady – Cheech & Chong

It’s not music, but it just feels wrong to leave my most important and favorite Christmas audio tradition out of this list.

If you can’t laugh and slacker comedy pioneers Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, you have no soul and I can’t help you – close your browser window and just walk away.

This little recorded anecdote between the two most famous stoners in the history of comedy covers Cheech’s attempts to explain the story of Santa Claus to Chong because he, “[doesn’t] know too many local dudes.”

The humor comes from the fact that Cheech is attempting to explain the story in the only terms they can understand – putting it in the context of a sub-standard urban community like the one they live in. When you realize that, you also come to realize that every culture on earth has been doing the same thing for thousands of years.

Thanks for the Christmas cheer, you two. May your tree not be the only green you have this year.

Three Christmas Songs That I NEVER Want to Hear Again

It was inevitable folks; Christmas time is almost upon us again and that means a return to familiar scenes and trappings. The lights and trees are up, stores are having their sales, and the radio stations are running their Christmas line-ups.

Last year, I went on an exploration of what Christmas meant to me in an attempt to recapture the spirit that I once had as a child. I’m pleased to say that, for the most part it was a success; I’m much more optimistic about the season now then last year and years prior.

However, I still take some exceptions to the canon of Christmas music. While I find myself more tolerant to multiple renditions of Jingle Bell Rock that aren’t even rock music, there are still auditory atrocities that I have no patience for. So, if you’re going to invite me to your Christmas party, please make sure your music playlist doesn’t include the following.

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer – Elmo & Patsy

Might as well get the obvious one out of the way right now.

This song often tops several peoples lists of the worst Christmas songs made and for good reason – it’s just not funny or, at the very least not funny in the way it should be.

It’s not that I’m offended by the subject; I enjoy dark comedy (hence why I’ve mentioned The Binding of Issac with glowing praise multiple times). It’s just that the joke goes nowhere. It’s says, “Grandma’s dead,” and doesn’t do anything with it. It’s a subject that the now divorced Elmo and Patsy Shropshire clearly weren’t ready to handle.

The droning riff stolen from Jingle Bells doesn’t help matters either. It’s far too blunt and it sounds like it’s trying to pound it’s way through your skull.

If you want a death-as-comedy Christmas carol, I recommend Weird Al’s Christmas at Ground Zero which only delights in becoming more and more grotesque. Unlike this sorry tune which doesn’t know know what to do with the sleigh-hicular manslaughter of a beloved family member.

Santa Buddy – Michael Bublé

I’ll admit it, Eartha Kitt’s Santa Baby is my guilty pleasure. I know that it’s a stupid song about a gold digging woman using her sexuality to con Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick out of more presents, but that stupidity is part of it’s appeal to me. To me, sex is an inherently funny act that tends to get a chuckle out of me. Plus, It’s Eartha Kitt – I just can’t say no to Catwoman.

Basically what I’m trying to say is, if I may paraphrase Kitt herself, I used to have a lot of fun with this song… then Michael Bublé sang it.

Bublé misses the entire point of the song. He reworks the lyrics of the song to remove any and all hints of sexuality from the lyrics because he can’t stand the idea of people thinking he may be gay (which is a shame because a gay male take on Santa Baby might have been interesting) and there by removing what little edge the song had.

Also, by removing the sexual humor and changing the perspective to a male one, the song becomes a story about a greedy douchebag begging Santa for stuff he probably doesn’t deserve. Yup, Bublé unintentionally made the theme song for Jeremy Creek from The Town Santa Forgot.

So, just to clarify, Eartha Kitt was sexy and funny; Michael Bublé is rude and pathetic.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Various Artists

There exist no words to accurately describe the level of discomfort and blind fury I feel every time I hear this song. It is, quite simply, the worst Christmas song ever made and one of the worst songs of all time, purely based on how offensive it is.

Why is this song so bad? Well, the short version is this: there should not exist a Christmas song about DATE RAPE.

No, really; this is a song about a man using the state of the weather as an excuse to keep a woman at his home against her will and despite her pleas to leave. I really don’t think I need to justify my hate much further beyond that. It’s a sexist song on par with, if not worse than, Blurred Lines.

And just in case you think I and my fellow condemners of this song are reading too much into lyrics like, “The answer is no,” and, “What’s in this drink,” bare in mind that when the original writer Frank Loesser scripted the score, he named the female and male roles the Mouse and the Wolf respectively. He used the same language used to describe a sexual predator and their prey.

No means no, people. And I’m saying no to this song.