Celebrity Holiday Playlist: TeeVee.org
No, we do not hate Spinal Tap. We admire the poignant juxtaposition of the secular and religious imagery with elves and angels alike in bondage gear, but this is the kind of song a dreary 15-year-old plays for Grandma, then lips off to his horrified parents, "You don't get the real meaning of Christmas!" And for that, it's on the Hell list.
Because our cup runneth over when it comes to rotten Christmas music, we could not actually decide which cut from Rosie O'Donnell's ill-considered series of Christmas albums (yes, plural) to include on this list. So you can opt to hear the Queen of Nice belt her way through the modestly titled "Rosie Christmas" or listen to Rosie murder a beloved Christmas carol with Sesame Street's Elmo as her accomplice.
The question lingers, however: which song is actually worse?
If you have a Rosie, Rosie Christmas, you're splitting your time between running a magazine into the ground, backing a failed Broadway musical and hectoring others to give generously, all to the kind of overproduced backbeat Madonna relies on to placate her Ecstasy-addled fanbase. If you hear what Rosie and Elmo hear -- here's a hint: they're not listening to themselves sing -- you will hear a strident, self-important B-lister and a grating sock puppet declaring their unnatural love for each other. That is if you can listen that long.
So which is worse? All we know is, that if you make it through either song, you're made of sterner stuff than us.
While we're on the subject of wretched Christmas duets, perhaps no holiday pairing has yielded more unintentional comedy over the years than the unholy union of the Thin White Duke and Der Bingle. "Every child must be made aware/Every child must be made to care," Ziggy and Bing croon. And if the nippers are still apathetic, then it's off to the study for a heart-to-heart session with Bing, Bing's belt and a thermos of Salty Dogs.
This song -- a creepily upbeat tune about a young child inadvertently stumbling upon his mother as she cuckolds her husband with Saint Nick -- is unbearable under the best of circumstances. When sung by the Jackson Five, unwitting witness Michael lends an unwholesome subtext to the number. "I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus... and it's screwed me up so bad, I made the plastic surgeons give me Joan Crawford's face."
It's beginning to look a lot like Kathie Lee is desperate to evoke anything other than snorting contempt. But too late! It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas because Kathie Lee's replaced her sweatshop's shackles with festive green and red tinsel.
Hey, you know what would help us all get in the holiday mood? A lighthearted ditty about a gin-soaked loser who repeatedly ruins Christmas for his loved ones by coming home each year in a drunken stupor. The kids singing along seem to think so, anyway.
What this version needs is a little more David Bowie. Or a lot less Chicago.
Sometimes, you don't need vocals to wreck the song because the instrumentation is enough. If you're listening to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, you'll wonder when Christmas became the angry holiday; if you're listening to Kenny G mangle Schubert's usually-exalted classic, you'll wonder when you scheduled that root canal.
Bobby Brown is joined by his friends Bell, Biv, and DeVoe to remind us that it's Christmas all over the world. Except in China. And Vietnam. And large swaths of Asia and Africa. And not until January in Greek and Russian Orthodox countries. And in several Middle East countries, it is most decidedly not Christmas. But everywhere else? Christmas. All over the world.
Make no mistake about it: "O Holy Night" is a very pretty song that, when performed modestly with minimal orchestration, can be quite moving. Sadly, for Mariah Carey, "performed modestly" means "Whitney Houston, I am gonna sing your ass out to President's Day!" and "minimal orchestration" means "you'll feel the percussion in your toes." Fall on your knees, y'all.
Let us tell you a story about a little boy, a magical pair of Christmas shoes, and the horrifically maudlin song that has a nation in its death grip.
When we were driving from Baltimore to Fredericksburg for the Christmas pilgrimage in '00, we were listening to WASH-FM, a local station that plays Christmas music non-stop from mid-November to midnight, December 25. After suffering through any one of the songs listed above, we heard this one: a treacly ditty about some smug yuppie who gets the real meaning of Christmas when the filthy little urchin in front of him requests help buying a pair of shoes for his momma so she'll meet the dress code in Heaven. "I knew that God had sent that little boy to remind me what Christmas is all about," the narrator warbles, apparently forgetting that a woman has been sent to an early grave just so he can be reminded to not be such a grump around the holidays. The Lord works in mysterious ways, we guess.
After hearing this song for the first time, we had to pull over to I-95's shoulder, lest our laughter cause us to drive into a tree. Later, when recounting this horrible song to our parents and/or in-laws, we noticed their faces grew ashen -- _they actually liked the song!_ And they weren't alone; apparently, when it comes to hating "The Christmas Shoes" and all it stands for, we are squarely in the minority.
We have never been happier that our tastes run so counter to the mainstream. Now won't you buy some shoes for this kid's mom already? What's wrong with you, Christmas grumpus?
And now the good songs.
If you ever find yourself in one of those improbable "Sophie's Choice"-like moments where someone tells you that you can only listen to one Christmas album ever again, take our advice and make it the soundtrack to "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
Little-known fact: though the "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" CD credits Boris Karloff with this song, it's actually performed by Thurl Ravenscroft (better known to breakfast cereal lovers everywhere as the voice of Tony the Tiger). Thurl's other notable musical achievement: singing the haunting tune, "No Dogs Allowed" from "Snoopy, Come Home." Impress friends and bar patrons with this bit of arcana.
It's wrong for the Redheaded Stranger to have a blue Christmas, lovely though it sounds. Now kiss him under this "mistletoe." You can smoke it later.
James Brown loves you. He can't stop himself. Good God.
Wonderful for those holiday moments when you're maxed out on forced cheer and poinsettias, and want only to curl up in bed and ease out of the egg nog hangover with a little hair of the dog that bit you.
Who doesn't love Canadians funking up a tune about escaping Satan's grasp and scoring some myrrh in the process? Not us!
You didn't think a list from the Schmeiser/Michaels family wouldn't include a track from the Chairman of the Board, did you?
Anyone would sleep in heavenly peace if Dinah crooned this to them shortly beforehand. It's perfect -- simple and powerful.
Additional contributions to this article by: Philip Michaels, Lisa Schmeiser.
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