It’s officially Holiday Month. Nothing you can do about it. The harder you try to tune it out, the louder your grocery store will blast Paul McCartney‘s feverish, surreal, so-terrible-it kinda-blows-your-mind-and-becomes-awesome “Wonderful Christmastime.”
Let’s face it, most Christmas songs are not good. Well, the hymns can be quite beautiful — think “O Holy Night” — but the radio-friendly versions of them are invariably nauseating. (Think Celine Dion strangling “O Holy Night.” Yeah. Sorry.)
What’s the discerning connoisseur of popular song to do? Ignore the stifling contemporary readings of hymns and boring carol retreads: look to original Christmas-themed material to really roast your chestnuts.
The late-1940s boozy duet “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” was classed up by Dean Martin in ’59. (Listen to those lyrics; ring-a-ding-date-rape!) It seemed to have a moment a few years ago. Its culmination was getting Deschaneled in the Will Ferrell vehicle Elf, to admittedly adorable effect. But its since served time on too many car commercials to charm anymore.
Run-DMC‘s “Christmas in Hollis” will always be near and dear to my heart. Unfortunately, it’s right on the line between Actual Song and Novelty Song. Okay, the exclamation “Oh my god! A ill reindeer!” might push it over that line. But notice how the production (hard beats, turntabling, no singing) and their personal style (slim black jeans) are so dated, they now feel fresh.
The Pogues‘ “Fairytale of New York” is a perfect Christmas song. If Shane MacGowan realizes it’s Christmas eve, there’s no choice but to celebrate with him. Kirsty MacColl‘s soaring harmony lifts you out of the drunk tank and onto the city streets, with the bells and the chill and the promise of another dawning year. Plus, I can’t prove this, but I’m fairly certain this is the only Christmas duet in which the woman is called a “slut” and the man a “faggot.” [NB: Yep, that’s Matt Dillon as Shane’s arresting officer in the vid.]
But for me, what’s below is the ultimate version of the ultimate Christmas song. It’s a Christmas song that’s actually a breakup song. A Christmas song which acknowledges that, while sometimes this season makes you want to put a batch of cookies in the oven, sometimes you’ll just want to stick your head in it. (It’s a Joni Mitchell joint, but I prefer Fran Healy‘s voice on it.)
What are your favorites? Is it ever okay to love this, for example, or is it merely an amusing curiosity for the Bowie loyalist?