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?


Great Christmas Songs: Part 3 – The Cheer Strikes Back

So, it’s come to be that time of year again. As per holiday tradition, I’ve come to present you with my gift of various Christmas carols and songs that I’ve been taking note of.

Now, normally I present you with a list of absolutely terrible songs to start. But, in my attempts to follow my unstated goal of making this blog more upbeat and positive, I’ve decided to forgo that half of the tradition this year and just jump right into the good times.

So, no more lollygagging; Let’s get this sleigh ride in gear!

A Swingin’ Little Christmas Time – Jane Lynch

This has to be the newest song I’ve ever praised in this annual series of mine. Most new Christmas songs I hear are usually just rehashings of older songs that were done much better before and/or adhere to the tropes of modern pop so tightly that they feel out of place in the season.

Not the case with A Swingin’ Little Christmas Time. Not only does this happy and bouncy number stand out from the beige sea of flatly flavorless pop music, it does so by bringing back one of my favorite genres of music; Swing.

Swing is great for when you want to liven up a party; It has all the danceability of modern EDM with the classic feeling of refinement that comes with Jazz. And on a day that should be all about celebration while fondly remembering or golden years and spreading joy to others like a classy gent/lady, a song like this really helps to put me in the spirit.

Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy – Bing Crosby & David Bowie

I mentioned in the past that of all the Christmas songs that get remade every year, Little Drummer Boy was the one that hits with me more often than it misses. I also mentioned that of all the people to cover it Burl Ives was probably my favorite.

Well, I need to amend that statement. Burl is great, don’t get me wrong, but he comes an EXTREMELY close second to Bing and David.

You’d think that pairing one of the classic king crooners with a god of Experimental Rock would be discordant at best. But then you remember how Bowie’s softer, almost dove-like tones make a perfect complement to Bing’s dulcet bass.

I also found myself enjoying the way the two sets of lyrics play off each other. While Bing retells the tale of the boy with nothing to give but a simple song, David reminds us why we need to follow that boy’s example and make the world as comfortable a home as possible for all of us.

Sleigh Ride – Los Straitjackets

You know what I never realized about most covers until this year? Half the reason I don’t like them is because the vocals are sung by people whose voices don’t carry nearly enough emotion and/or experience to justify them performing it. A lot of these covers work better just by making them instrumentals and letting the music be the centerpiece.

Case in point; Los Straitjackets’ Surf Rock cover of Sleigh Ride is an entertaining piece Christmas spirit; juxtaposing the joys of a winter ride through the snow with the music most closely associated with warm, sunny beaches.

Much like the aforementioned A Swingin’ Little Christmas Time, it’s a lively song that stands out among the more repetitive sound of other Christmas songs played back to back and that makes it a valuable spirit-lifter.

One-Hit Wonderful: Part Three – The Bands Play On

So, with the modest resurgence of one of my childhood favorites in the music business with Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ “Dark Necessities”, I’ve – once again – found myself digging back through the old catalog of my favorite songs of yesteryear. In doing so, I’ve uncovered more one-hit wonders that deserved better.

So, let’s go for the hat trick and take a look at three more underrated classics from pop music’s past.

Semisonic – “Chemistry”

Awhile back, I briefly talked about how Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson wrote and produced Adele’s best work. That said, he and his band still did great stuff on their own beyond “Closing Time”. Oh, it was an important milestone for indie music for my generation, but there was so much more.

Their third studio album, “All About Chemistry”, was much more mature yet playful (read: had a lot more coded sex talk) than previous outings. Most of the time, it was trying to sneak helpful lessons about safe and healthy sex for the teens that were buying up their music at the time. For example, “Get A Grip” was a silly, light-hearted story about how healthy and normal regular masturbation is.

However, it was the title track “Chemistry” that sticks with me. It’s a tale about playing the field (experimenting, to use the chemistry analogy) to find the one that won’t burn you out or hurt you. That’s an important lesson considering how many unhappy relationships we see due to people staying together for the sake of some outdated idea of what faithfulness should be.

If people aren’t adding to your happiness, they shouldn’t occupy space (or at least AS MUCH space) in your life. It’s only going to make you both miserable. That’s the moral to take away from this little number.

Dexy’s Midnight Runners – “Jackie Wilson Said”

As great as the hit song “Come On Eileen” is, I feel the message of youthful abandon in the face of darker times was lost on most listeners… mostly because we had difficulty understanding the lyrics.

However, if you were already familiar with Van Morrison, you didn’t have to guess what their cover of “Jackie Wilson Said” was saying; you already knew.

See, Dexy’s – like other acts born from the U.K.’s Northern Soul movement – was heavily influenced by lesser known or sadly forgotten American Soul artists. Here, they fly their colors proudly by directly referencing a great name from Soul’s past.

Add to that how the vocals are – in my humble opinion – much better than those of Van Morrison’s original, and you have the makings of an undervalued gem.

Deee-Lite – “Picnic In The Summertime”

Did I mention how much I F***ING LOVE Deee-Lite?

But damn, if you thought “Power Of Love” was a departure from the norm for Deee-Lite, “Picnic In The Summertime” is a whole different beast altogether.

There’s no deep message or meaning here; it’s just a really happy song about enjoying the little joys of life set to a more urban sound than what they traditionally were used to.

Honestly, I respect the decision to experiment with a new sound every now and again. It keeps things fresh and interesting. It’s just a shame that the public at large wasn’t more receptive at the time.

One-Hit Wonderful: Part Two – The Search for A Second Hit

So, I promised during my breakdown/recap of my #UnpopularMusicOpinionHour tirade on Twitter in January that I would revisit this topic. At last, the time has come to encourage you to rediscover the lesser known works of artists that just couldn’t stick around longer.

In Addition, I’d like to hear some thoughts from the field this time. I want to hear what songs you remember from artists OTHER than their one big hit that you think are worth listening again. I may just analyze a few of them for a trilogy. But enough time wasting. Let’s get to the tunes.

Michael Sembello- “Automatic Man”

Here’s a fun fact about Michael Sembello’s smash hit “Manic” from the soundtrack from the movie Flashdance – it was never meant to back a dance film. It was meant for a horror movie; hence, it’s hurried tempo and panicked tone. But, as it turns out, genre films are a key source of inspiration for Sembello. At least, that the idea you get when you hear “Automatic Man.”

“Automatic Man” is such a delightfully upbeat and silly story of a mechanical humanoid built to dance and seduce, that you have to just sit back and enjoy for all of it’s Velveeta-like cheesy glory. With the 80’s nostalgia wave we’re currently under combined with the heavy increase in sales of older albums, I can totally see stuff like this becoming a thing again. And that’s a good thing because, as I’ve said in the past, this world needs more fun.

Deee-Lite – “Power Of Love”

Deee-Lite is one of those dance acts that should have stuck around longer to keep the world grooving for the good of the collective human heart. In fact, their appropriately titled hit “Groove Is In The Heart” is a more than adequate defense of that statement.

While their follow-up is a bit of a departure in style from their big hit (which might be a major factor in its failure to find a pop music audience), “Power Of Love” certainly follows the same spirit as “Groove Is In The Heart.” It’s a happy, easy-to-dance-to jam that combines the visual aesthetics of the 70’s with the dance/house sound of the 80’s and 90’s. Both the song and the video seek to add a splash of color to a grayed-out world.

Also, if I may devolve into hopeless romanticism, I could watch the art and fashion of Deee-Lite frontwoman Lady Miss Kier unfold in front of me all day every day and it would not be a wasted life. It’s okay, Miss Kier; I forgive you for trying to sue Sega for Space Channel 5.

Chumbawamba – “Amnesia”

Going back the Twitter hashtag storm that inspired this revisit, followers may recall my insistence that Chumbawamba, the band responsible for “Tubthumping”, deserved much better treatment – and for good reason. Their career stretched 15 years before AND after the release of their hit and during that time, they constantly experimented with their sound in the name of art. In fact, their pop success was largely an accident that came from wanting to screw around with their record label.

That said, if you’re like me and seem to remember their follow-up “Amnesia” from somewhere, you probably watched a lot of music countdowns on VH1 growing up. I wish I could explain what it is about this song that makes me gravitate to it. It seems to recreate the feeling of drifting hazily and lost in your own head space while still remaining surprisingly fast paced. Most people need to channel the sounds of Pink Floyd to get that effect, but not Chumbawamba.

Nicki Minaj and “Anaconda” Are NOT Feminist

Do you want to know what is the most infuriating thing as a sex-positive feminist? People confusing sexual marketing for sex-positive feminism.

Female rapper Nicki Minaj has been stirring up controversy lately with her latest single Anaconda, where she is supposedly (I personally see little difference from her usual schtick) more sexual in her verses and her video then ever before.

Rather than writing her off as another sad example of the trope of sex obsessed rap music though, it seems that people have been flocking to her defense and justifying the existence of Minaj’s new single by claiming it’s a feminist rallying cry.

… We ARE listening to the same song here, right? I mean, I listened to the whole thing from start to finish multiple times and the only message I got from her was, “I can use my booty as a bartering chip to trade for anything I want.”

I guess you could make the argument that if men are foolish enough to be stupefied by T&A, then they deserve to have a beautiful woman fleece him out of everything he owns. But, on that same note, it shouldn’t be the only thing that a lady (or even a man for that matter) should aspire to. What about getting an education? Are you not interested in becoming a respected player in a high-powered field of business? No, you’re content with being your sugar daddy’s sex toy? Okay, your loss then.

More annoying are the people with the gall to claim that Minaj’s blatant sampling of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Baby Got Back is her taking back the song for women and that it was one of the most sexist moments in music history.

As I briefly observed in my article on one-hit-wonders, Mix intended Baby Got Back as an indictment of the fashion and media industries and their narrow minded, sexist, and even racist standards of beauty.

Now, one could claim that Mix was just trading one standard of beauty for another. However, you could also see how other songs, including Anaconda, are even more guilty of that accusation. Plus, any song whose verses include, “I’m tired of magazines / Sayin’ flat butts are the thing,” and, “So, Cosmo says, ‘You’re fat.’ / Well, I ain’t down with that,” is clearly out to make a change.

Do you want to know who the REAL sex-positive feminist icons of music are? Because they aren’t difficult to find.

Meghan Trainor released a single recently about defying the standard of beauty that was handled expertly and was really catchy at that.

One-hit-wonder female rapper Tweet did a whole song with Missy Elliot about how important, natural, and healthy female masturbation is.

And speaking of Missy, she made an entire career out of the phrase, “I have a vagina, I don’t fit the standard, and I’m sexually active; deal with it.”

My point is this; there is a very broad and visible line between using your sexuality to deliver a positive message and being a literal corporate whore and, honestly, Nicki Minaj is either not smart enough or too lazy to be the former.

Also, it’s hard to take any perceived sex-positive message seriously when it comes from the mouth of a woman that lied about her sexual preferences to sell more records.

Bottom line (no pun intended), I don’t appreciate someone literally sticking their thong-clad butt in my face only to figuratively fart in it.

Why the “Turn Down For What” Video Is Exactly What Pop Music Needs


For those of you that don’t follow the modern music scene, a recent music video has been making waves across the internet. That video being the hit from DJ Snake featuring the “King of Crunk” Lil Jon – “Turn Down For What”.

Now, I realize that some of you may not ‘get’ the new trend of electronic dance music (EDM, if you’re in a hurry), but I can at least appreciate it. The hard rhythmic bass can give me the much needed energy to motivate me into action.

But more so than the song, I think the video is an important change in pop music.

Yes, the video is a completely ridiculous mess of imagery and the dual images of destruction via pelvic thrust and puppetry of both the penis and breasts will haunt my dreams for some time. No one worth being taken seriously would call this high art.

That being said, the alternative would have been just another faux-insprational, pseudo-philosophical video – the likes of which have been plaguing pop music lately and aren’t nearly as smart as they portend to be.

“Turn Down For What” knows that it isn’t smart; it’s mouth-breathing, paste-eating, tighty-whities-on-its-head stupid. But instead of trying to hide its foolishness and acting pretentious, it revels in its goofiness as it laughs with the audience.

What’s more, it dared to do something so radically different in order to stand out from the rest of the drab world it occupies. Love or hate the video, I have to congratulate it for at least being experimental in its approach and hope that its success forces other music video directors to be a bit bolder as well.

To put it in the simplest terms I can muster, we need more fun in the world to balance out the sad and boring. Thank you, DJ Snake and Lil Jon.