As anyone who read my December 9th post on this blog will recall, my brother Tom and I have made an annual tradition of venting about musical artists who mangle beloved Christmas carols--or just create really bad ones in the first place. As promised, here's our all-new Christmas Carol Hall of Shame for 2008. Enjoy!
TOM: My first pick this year is Extreme, “Christmas Time Again.” I don’t even know where this one came from. I have no clue why Extreme thought that they needed to make a Christmas song. It is dripping with sap, complete with the piano. You guys got one break with “More Than Words,” but this takes it over the top. Since these guys are from Massachusetts, I will give this song a "Wicked Awful." Plus, no matter what anyone says, Gary Cherone was NEVER in Van Halen.
TRACY: Ooooooooh. I hadn’t heard that one yet, so I just went and checked it out on iTunes. Ow. And why do some songwriters automatically think that if the lyrics rhyme, they’re all brilliantly high-brow? This one sounds like a Hallmark “Just How I Feel” card set to music. Can somebody pass the insulin?
“In the morning, I see you smile. It only lasts a little while."
This song I would really like to file. In a great big, nasty, steaming pile….
Extreme, if you want to make a comeback (I know—not bloody likely, but let’s pretend a Christmas miracle is pending.), butchering Christmas music isn’t the way to do it. Ay.
My first pick for the year is Michael Bolton, “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland.” Nothing fills me with the urge to drop a CD in my driveway and run it over repeatedly with my car like hearing Michael Bolton’s affected voice squeezing Every! Last! Drop! Of! Drama! from the world’s most beloved holiday carols. This year’s debacle is “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland,” with its pseudo-jazz whiny saxophones and those constipated swoops this guy does with his voice.
I loathe Michael Bolton. And this song! This song is so overwrought, it sounds like he’s singing about walkin’ in a winter wonderland with cancer, right after someone killed his puppy and ran off with his girlfriend. Mr. Bolton, meet Mr. Connick Jr., who so totally SCHOOLS you, you ought to just hang up your sheet music in shame and go sing vacuum cleaner jingles on local access cable. Seriously, stop, dude. Just stop.
TOM: At least we can snicker at the fact that he thought he was relevant again by re-hooking up with Nicolette Sheridan and then realizing that people think that she looks like a man and bailing on that. Moo hoo.
TRACY: Mean! Poor Nicolette Sheridan! On behalf of my brother, I apologize to every woman who ever lived. And aged.
TOM: Next is “O Come O Come Emmanuel” by Enya. Help! I am trapped in Narnia! Either that, or I am in a slow-motion sequence in one of the Lord of the Rings movies.
I feel like I should be scared listening to this. I like haunting Christmas carols, but this one gives me the willies. Plus, Enya sounds like a pump organ in this. Or is that a real pump organ?
TRACY: I like Enya! But I agree, this one is a little on the weird side. Second for me is “Mary Did You Know?” by anyone. This song is so cloying. But that’s not my biggest beef with it. That would be lyrics like this one: “Mary, did you know that your baby boy is lord of all creation?”
I’m just taking a stab here, but after receiving a prediction from her cousin Elizabeth, a VISIT from an ARCHANGEL, a giant star floating over her head for days on end, three kings visiting her in a freaking stable, and a heavenly choir of cherubim and seraphim singing in the sky shortly after she gave birth, I’m guessing that she does, Captain Obvious.
TOM: Yes! Totally agree! The version by Clay Aiken is especially bad. I don't know if he sings it or not, but Michael W. Smith would also make this a love-to-hate song. I don't want to listen to a Christmas carol from a guy that makes me feel that I am going to hell because I don't thrust my arm up in church and show everyone how hard I pray.
TRACY: But if you thrust your arms up and sway in a church where no one else EVER does that, it means you’re holier than the rest of the heathens surrounding you. Surely you knew that? (Mom is going to kill us for that one, because she'll know exactly who we're talking about. Sorry, Mom!)
TOM: “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by Jimmy Boyd. An alleged classic …
TRACY: Totally alleged.
TOM: … this song makes me want to stick chopsticks into my ears as far as possible and start scrambling. I am sure (at least I hope) that Jimmy was a young lad when he made this, but he sounds like a cross of a Munchkin, the leprechaun, and that old lady that you used to do yard work for and she would give you two quarters for five hours of work. Plus, I just hate this song overall. Is mommy having an affair with Santa? Does mommy have some sick ... wait, I will stop there. This is probably a PG site.
TRACY: As I noted last year with “Santa Baby,” sexualizing Santa is just nasty. Plus, you KNOW that child is scarred for life, and that totally kills the holiday spirit.
Hmmmm. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and It Turned Me Into a Serial Killer.” Has an intriguing (Pun alert!) ring to it. It’d HAVE to be better than the original!
How about “Please Come Home for Christmas” by the Eagles? Probably the single most narcoleptic holiday song in existence today. The relentless rimshot on EVERY fourth beat. The endless funeral dirge of a melody. The sleepy hoarseness of Don Henley’s voice. It all makes me want to—zzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Get this off my car radio before I accidentally lapse into a coma, run off the road, and haplessly plunge into a retention pond. And for all of those die-hard Eagles fans out there, I hate “Hotel California” with the white-hot fiery passion of a thousand suns, too, so feel free to go to the comments and BRING IT.
TOM: Nothing says Christmas like a bunch of guys who hate each other with a white-hot fiery passion singing about Christmas. I think that zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oops--I just fell asleep thinking about it.
TRACY: Speaking of funeral dirges, who was the genius who came up with “The 12 Days of Christmas?” I swear, just hearing that relentlessly cheerful holiday-death-march of a song gives me a migraine. Trying to sing it would probably land me in the hospital.
TOM: “You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch” by Manheim Steamroller. I like the original song …
TRACY: Boris Karloff, baby!
TOM: … and I like Manheim Steamroller, but these should not go together. Hey, I like peanut butter and I like chocolate, but they shouldn't ... oh wait. Anyway, this song to me is the equivalent of dancing on someone's grave--you just don't go there.
TRACY: I feel like I’ve entered Electronica Hell every time I hear it. My three-year-old Marin likes to turn to me whenever she has a slightly controversial action plan in her head (i.e. swan diving off the couch or smacking her sister in the head) and say, “Good idea, or bad idea?” I would have to say, “BAD IDEA, MANHEIM STEAMROLLER! VERY BAD IDEA!”
Oh, and I can’t forget Bob Seger’s version of “Little Drummer Boy.” I am such a sap that generally, hearing just the first few seconds of “The Little Drummer Boy” is enough to make me choke up and get all farklempt. (“He played his little drum! It was all he had! He did his best! *SOB!*” ) But when I heard Bob Seger’s version the other day, I started to cry for a whole new reason. Absolutely purgatorial.
Seger could give Michael Bolton a few lessons in musical melodrama. “RRRRRRAH-pah-pum-PUUUUUEEEEEUUUUUEEEEEUUUUMMMMM!” At least he added an electric guitar for originality, although that still didn’t save this mess.
Honestly, if Mr. Seger isn’t singing about taking those old records off his shelf, I have no time for him.
TOM: I totally get a great visual of Bob cutting this in the studio in July. He has his arm slightly extended in front of him, hand balled into a fist, eyes closed, neck straining. He finishes the song and there is silence in the room. Bob falls to his knees, the producer rushes in and tells him how touched he was by that. Hork!
Right there the producer should have really said what he thought: “Sorry, Bob, just sing songs about trucking. By the way, I put my pants on the same as you. The only difference is once my pants are on, I make gold records! You are going to want that cowbell in there!"
TRACY: That, ladies and gentlemen, is an obscure Saturday Night Live reference—the cowbell/Blue Oyster Cult skit featuring Christopher Walken. Tommy and I have a ton of these. In fact, we use them so often as verbal shorthand, I think SNL is our own language of twins. Except we’re not actually twins.
TOM: “Silver Bells” by Kenny G.
TRACY: UGH! Anything by Kenny G.! Is he really playing the saxophone, or did he just figure out how to force an air horn to make music?
TOM: I always think of the good byes on SNL when I hear this song. "I had fun hosting Saturday Night Live! Thanks to the cast! The crew! Special thanks to musical guest No Doubt!" And Kenny G's hair. Ugh.
TRACY: Total ugh. Tell you what. You grab his saxophone and bury it at sea, and I’ll put a metal bucket on his head and clang it with a spoon until the urge to make “music” and inflict it on the masses leaves him.
TOM: I guess this is good to listen to when I am waiting at the dentist's office or in a 25- person line at the post office to mail boxes to Florida. Good times!
TRACY: Yay! Presents for me! Anyway, next up: Carrie Underwood, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” Actually, it’s HORK, the Herald Angels’ Eardrums Bleed When They Hear You Sing This Song, Carrie Underwood!
Now I like Carrie Underwood. She seems like a very nice girl who isn’t busy flashing the free world or running from bar to bar w ith cocaine goobers in her nose. Great, great voice, too. She wants to sing about dragging her key on the side of some jerk’s pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive, I’m totally there.
But her version of this song blows. In fact, let the record show that any Christmas carol with a country twang just needs to be thrown into a supercollider and spun into protons and electrons that can float freely away.
Christmas carol + country twang = Tracy taking a screwdriver and a tire iron to her radio.
TOM: I am going to say that I like this song because I know that you and our brother Troy hate her. Yes, I voted for her on American Idol and I stick by my pick! You sing, Carrie! You sing and don't let the detractors get to you!
TRACY: I don’t hate her! I just liked Bo Bice better on that particular season of American Idol, but she’s really stepped up her stage presence, which was her biggest weakness back in the day. You just like to brag because you got that Idol winner right, Mr. “But I LIKE Anwar!”
TOM: Boney M., “Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord.” This wins the award for Biggest Train Wreck of the Holiday Season. Where do I start with them? First, these guys are from West Germany, but this is a calypso song. What?!
Next, their really lame band name. Are you supposed to wonder if it stands for Boney Maroney or something else? Are they trying to be hip with the shorthand or something? Do I really care?
TRACY: UGH! UGH! I HATE THIS SONG! THE PAIN! THE PAIN! MAKE IT STOP!!!!!!!
BTW, they also have another one called “Hooray! Hooray! It’s Holi- Holi-day!” that is perhaps even worse. Not only is it set to a horrifying calypso beat, but then they insert a veritable plethora of “heidi-heidi-hos” in there. Which are both annoying and deeply insulting to anyone named Heidi.
In the name of all that is holy, these people need to be stopped. Where’s Ironman when you need him?
I know I carped about it last year, but this one is so bad, it deserves a repeat: “Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey” by Lou Monte. It’s been a year since I last heard it, and I have to say, this one still sucks more than any single piece of music in the history of the planet. I dare you to listen to this and not be going “Da-da-dat-dat! HEEEEEEE-awwwwwww! HEEEEEE-awwwwww!” through your nose for the rest of the day.
Not only is this not a productive use of my time, it’s also almost enough to make me run screaming to the doctor to beg for some lobotomizing drug that will make it all go away. This song is the devil.
TOM: I came up with a sequel! Dominic becomes Elmer's Glue! Sorry to my friends in PETA, but I can't handle this.
TRACY: Poor Dominic! He didn’t ask to have an abysmal song dedicated in his honor. How do I know that? Because donkeys can’t talk, that’s how!
TOM: Well, how about Lou Monte becomes Elmer's Glue?
TRACY: I can live with that.
TOM: Finally, I pick the new Christmas Album by Tony Bennett. It is over Tony. You had a great resurgence thanks to Unplugged back in the 90s and parlayed that into some great casino gigs, but now it is time to fade away.
TRACY: HEY! I love Tony Bennett! You can’t do that! Picking on Tony Bennett is sick and wrong!
TOM: Well, I am probably harboring some ill will from the last time I saw him. He was performing in Minneapolis at the sales conference of my previously employer--also known as "The big-box bullseye retailer who must not be named." Anyway, he starts saying "I love this town. Every time I come to this town, I enjoy myself. I love the people, the food. What a great town that you live in." And I wanted to scream "What town is it? Do you know where you are?! Minneapolis! Minneapolis, dammit!”
Where's Padme? Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
TRACY: We are so totally having words when I get up to Minneapolis for Christmas. I was going to let you finish us off, but I’m going to have to pick another trainwreck song, because I can’t let this end by lambasting a LIVING LEGEND who HAPPENS TO BE EIGHTY-TWO and so should be excused for forgetting where he is. At least he remembered the lyrics. And he still sounds awesome.
Anyway, my final picks are: Bruce Springsteen singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." This song just sounds like the Boss is having digestive issues. I'm surprised the E Street Band actually played through this mess without stopping to offer him a Pepto Bismol or at least a cold cloth for his forehead. Honestly, I always think he's about to burst a blood vessel.
And last and least is Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.” I’m not a big Mariah Carey fan. She acts like the crazy hootchie at the PTA meetings who dresses in skirts with inappropriate hemlines and throws herself at your husband when she thinks you’re not looking. I can’t seem to separate her from her music, so I hate this song.
Yes, I know, it’s #1 on iTunes. You people are all insane.
TOM: This song being number 1 on iTunes reinforces my opinion that people should be more carefully screened before they can drive, vote, and have children.
TOM: Although, she was also one of the top TRL moments of all time for her meltdown. I can put up with the awful Christmas music if we keep getting the train wrecks. Ms. Spears! You are up next!
TRACY: But she had to go and “get better” on us. Sheesh.
Although Jayne on eHarlequin just told me Jessica Simpson has a new Christmas album called “Rejoyce.” And as Jayne so brilliantly asked, “Who is Joyce?” I think we’ll have to give it a listen for next year.
Also, JV on eHarlequin sent me this little gem on YouTube, called “I F-rted on Santa’s Lap.” Which is so revolting, I think all mall Santas across the country should be given legal permission by the Supreme Court to drop kick any child OFF their laps whose manners are this bad. And then open up a can of Dr. Phil on any parents who condone this sort of behavior with their egregious lack of discipline and refusal to instill consequences for public rudeness. UGH!
There’s also some talk on eHarlequin.com about some kids singing about wanting a hippo for Christmas, but I decided we should save that one until next year, too, because I just can’t take anymore of this.
Until then, may your radio deejays have the wherewithal to not inflict you with these abominations this holiday season!
P.S. If you'd like proof that Tom and I actually really, secretly love Christmas music, we posted the 2008 version of our Best. Christmas Carols. Evah. on eHarlequin. (I won't be blogging anymore in December, hence the link.) Happy holiday!
I'LL BE WATCHING YOU, 2008 nominee for Romantic Times Best Intrigue