Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy ... Whatever

You know, once upon a time it was considered polite not to instantly assume that whoever you were speaking to shared the same religion as you.  Consider the possibility, at least, that they might have an alternative viewpoint, and respect that viewpoint by tempering your message.  Do that nowadays and you get in trouble.  For instance, if I were to wish you “happy holidays,” I would, according to the carefully crafted outrage evinced by the majority of the personalities on Fox “News,” be aligning myself with those who are waging a War on Christmas.  So I won’t say that.

I will, instead hope that you have a very merry Christmas today, and may God bless you and keep you.  I also hope that you are in the midst of a happy Hannukah, as it enters its 6th day at sunset tonight; shalom, and peace be on you always.  I hope that you had a lovely Yule (or Solstice, if you prefer that term) three days ago, and wish you merry meet and blessed be.  I wish you a joyous Kwanzaa starting tomorrow, and in case I don’t see you that week, Habari Gani?  A happy Pancha Ganapati to you on this, the orange day, and may the Lord of Categories bless you.  And for Monday, the 26th, I’ll wish you a happy Zartosht No-Diso or Boxing Day, depending on whether you happen to be Zoroastrian or Canadian.  And if you subscribe to a religion that doesn’t have a holiday at this time of year, or you subscribe to no religion at all, I still find that this lull, as the one year winds down and the next prepares to launch, is a beautiful time to contemplate the blessings of family and good fortune, and be hopeful that the new year brings us new opportunities and even more of life’s bounty.

Of course, my thoughts about the new year may be premature, if you subscribe to a different calendar system.  If you happen to be Chinese, I’m about 23 days early.  If you happen to be Jewish, I’m more like 259 days early (or perhaps 95 days late).  If you happen to be Muslim, I’m more like 36 days late (or 318 days early), but of course that will change significantly from year to year (in 2008, I would have only been off by 9 days).

Man, this all-inclusiveness is hard.  Maybe we should just come up with a generic way to say all that ... something like ... oh, I don’t know ... “happy holidays” or something.  It’s just a thought.

While you ponder my thoroughly original suggestion, I will give you a <insert holiday here> present, which may be either early, late, or totally on time, depending on the holiday you inserted.  Every year, I tend to be surrounded by Christmas music: The Mother loves to listen to it, my father (a record collector who focusses on early rock-n-roll music) loves to make CDs of it and send it to us, and of course radio stations and even cable music channels love to devote large blocks of time to it.  It’s sort of inescapable.  And every year I bitch about it.  I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for hating Christmas music.  And that’s sad.  I don’t hate Christmas music.  I just hate the Christmas music I keep hearing.

There are any number of problems with the Christmas music you typically hear this time of year.  Almost all of it has one or more of the following characteristics, all of which bug the shit out of me:

It’s sappy.  Yes, yes, we’re supposed to be counting our blessings and celebrating serious religious events and all that, but does everything have to be so heartwarming all the damn time?  It’s enough to make you barf.

It’s goofy.  When it’s not sappy, it has a tendency to swing too far in the other direction.  This is true of many of the songs my dad scrapes together for his CDs; he favors classics like “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” or “Santa Claus is Watching You”.  Now admittedly, these sorts of songs are pretty funny the first time you hear them, but they drop to “vaguely amusing” by the third or fourth time, and it’s not far to “eyeroll-inspiring.”

It’s tired.  There are a certain number of Christmas songs, and by this point, we all know them all, by heart.  Why can’t we hear something new for a change?

It’s uninspired.  “Something new for a change” is often interpreted as “a crusty old carol redone by a hip new artist.”  Okay, sure, it might be vaguely amusing to listen to the Madonna version of “Santa Baby” ... once.  And if I hear one more listless retread of “Jingle Bell Rock” ... bleaagh!

So I set out to correct this problem.  I went and scoured Amazon for good Christmas songs: songs that were new, and fresh, and fun, but not too silly, and just plain fun to sing along with.  Now, your interpretation of “fun to sing along with” might not match mine, of course.  I like some pretty songs (I picked an Enya, after all), but mostly I like my stuff to be more rockin’.  It doesn’t have to be death metal, or even hardcore punk, but for the most part I’m looking for a little bit of kick, ya know?

There’s also some wiggle room on “not too silly.”  Everyone has a different sense of humour, and a different tolerance for irreverance and surrealism, and a different opinion on what constitutes bad taste.  I’m sure my father, for instance, would be fairly disgusted with “My First Christmas (As a Woman)”, and he probably just wouldn’t “get” the South Park songs.  But if you share my love of, say, Monty Python, Beavis and Butt-Head, and Tim Burton films, you’re probably pretty safe with the below.

To my knowledge, only 8 of the 25 songs I picked are not original to the artists singing them.  Three are “traditional” songs, but they’re mangled enough to give them a freshness that made me deem them worthy.  Three are songs which were originally song by animated characters*they’re Christmas songs, and you’ll probably recognize them, but they should be surprising nonetheless.  The other 2 are remakes of songs that you’ve likely never heard before anyway; I just chose them because I happened to like them better than the originals.  Also, only 3 of the songs could even remotely be considered serious.  All three are right in a row so at least you can get past them quickly.  But I felt that even those three added something special; hopefully you’ll agree.

The coolest thing about this list of songs is, of course, that, since I just downloaded them all of Amazon and burned them onto a CD, you can too.  Links helpfully provided.  Arrange them in the order presented though; I carefully researched the optimum playlist order for maximum smoothness and coherency.  Fingers off the shuffle button, pally!

Download, and enjoy.  It’ll run you about 25 bucks.  But it’s totally worth it.

Yuletidal Pools I
    [featuring Michael Bublé]

        “Happy Birthday” by Mojo Nixon & the Toadliquors [Single]
        “I Won't Be Home for Christmas” by blink-182 [Single]
        “Oi to the World” by No Doubt [Single]
        “Last Night (I Went Out with Santa Claus)” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy [Single]
        “Elf's Lament” by Barenaked Ladies [Single]
        “You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch” by Whirling Dervishes [Single]
        “Halloween on Xmas” by The Coffin Caddies [Single]
        “Christmas Time in Hell” by Satan, the Dark Prince (from South Park) [Single]
        “Christmas at Ground Zero” by "Weird Al" Yankovic [Single]
        “Grandpa's Last Xmas” by The Vandals [Single]
        “Christmas Don't Be Late (Chipmunk Song)” by Powder [Single]
        “Christmas Is” by Run-D.M.C. [Single]
        “Twelve Days of Christmas” by Bob and Doug McKenzie [Single]
        “Shot My Baby for Christmas” by The Vaudevilles [Single]
        “Santa's Coming Home” by Cocktail Slippers [Single]
        “Christmas Wrapping [long version]” by The Waitresses [Single]
        “Mr. Heatmiser” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy [Single]
        “Carol of the Bells” by Mr. Mackey (from South Park) [Single]
        “White Is in the Winter Night” by Enya [Single]
        “Peppermint Winter” by Owl City [Single]
        “Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight)” by Ramones [Single]
        “My First Xmas, as a Woman” by The Vandals [Single]
        “I'm Getting Pissed for Christmas” by Bamboula [Single]
        “Is Zat You, Santa Claus?” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy [Single]
        “Merry Merry Merry Frickin' Christmas” by Frickin' A [Single]
Total:  25 tracks,  73:54


* Okay, for those nitpicky music historians out there, yes, I’m aware that you can make an argument against all 3 of these being “originally sung by an animated character,” in that a) you could consider claymation different from animation, b) if the song is used in the background of a cartoon, then an animated character is not technially singing it, and c) if the characters singing it were not animated until well after the song was released, that doesn’t really count as being sung by an animated character.  But I felt it was a sufficiently descriptive umbrella term.  So sue me.

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