Other than sending our tax money to the Pentagon, there is nothing we Americans do more mindlessly and without regard for consequence than listen to Christmas music. For some reason, we’ve been throwing on the same records for decades without any irony at all but somehow we haven’t taken two seconds to ask ourselves why we are still listening to them. Now that we have the Internet, there is no excuse for this, and the first step for all of us was to admit that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was really about a woman who is unable to leave a man’s house after drinking a mystery cocktail. Here’s a few more that we should leave to history.
1) “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” – Band-AID
To say this song is pretentious isn’t doing anyone justice. Most people think Bono wrote this, but he only wishes he did. In reality, it was written by another pair of Irish/Scottish singers who wanted to raise funds for famine victims in Ethiopia.
Here we have a song that, if I’m being honest with myself, likely had it’s heart in the right place. But Dear God did they butcher the execution. Most people are familiar with the 80’s supergroup that was put together for the recording, called…*sigh*…”Band-AID.” It featured many popular English musicians, like Bono, Phil Collins, Sting, George Michael, Duran Duran, some guy who coincidentally has the same name as famous comedian Ricky Gervais…wait…holy shit.
Yup. THAT Ricky Gervais is credited on the sleeve of the single under his new-wave band, Seona Dancing.
Anyway, the real problems with this song start and end with the lyrics. I mean look at this crap, it’s like a freakin’ fourth grader wrote it for Christmas Class.
It’s Christmastime; there’s no need to be afraid
At Christmastime, we let in light and we banish shade
It doesn’t help much that the song takes a sharp left turn into gloomyville:
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there
Are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you
I mean Jesus, “chimes of doom?” What makes this section even worse is the last line, which those of us with basic reading comprehension skills will recognize as sarcasm, but Bono belts out with absolutely no irony and awareness of that fact. Finally we come to the big finish:
Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow
Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?
Yeah nothing fucking grows in Africa and no rivers flow except for, you know, the biggest one. And additionally I’d wager that, yes, many Africans are aware that it’s Christmastime judging by the fact that central Africa is more Roman Catholic than North America. I guess the song is specifically about Ethiopia, which is only 1% catholic, but why lump that in with everything else? Otherwise the line about having no snow could just as easily apply to all of America because of Florida.
Even if any of the shit in the lyrics were 100% accurate, who the fuck would want to listen to this song at Christmastime? All it does is make me feel bad for being white during the whitest time of the year. Its so depressing. It’s like if Walgreen’s blasted Radiohead over the loudspeaker on Valentine’s Day. So why the hell is it still played all over the place?
2) “Same Old Lang Syne” – Dan Folgelberg
Some might think I’m picking on 80’s music here, and they would be absolutely right.
This song has the same main problem, in that it’s just depressing as Hell. If your ears haven’t had the displeasure here’s a summary: a guy meets his old girlfriend in the frozen foods section at a grocery store on Christmas Eve. The two catch up by getting shitfaced in a parking lot and reminiscing about old times. Oh damn, she’s married. Well, see ya!
I’m paraphrasing, but the real song just makes you wanna cry. Both of the characters hate their life and then she lets him out in the rain. Merry Christmas.
Interestingly, the song is actually autobiographical. The woman from the song heard it on the radio but kept quiet about it until after Fogelberg died in 2007 even though she knew it was about her. She said most of the story was true: they bumped into each other at a convenient store grabbing last minute supplies and then split a six-pack in her car. What’s not clear is how Folgelberg explained to his family why it took him 2 hours to get whipped cream.
Other than being solely responsible for the myth that the suicide rate increases around the holidays, the song is also barely a Christmas song. Other than the mention in the beginning, there isn’t any lyrics that would suggest it has to be about Christmas. If Dan hadn’t included that line maybe this song wouldn’t have gained immortality like it has just because radio stations are desperate for material.
If the only criteria for being included in the Christmas line-up is shoe-horning lyrics that make you want to kill yourself than I see no reason why “R2D2, We Wish You A Merry Christmas” shouldn’t be given the same amount of airplay.
3) “Dominic The Donkey” – Lou Monte
It’s important to remember the difference between a silly cultural song and a song that is just culturally insensitive. The former is “Dominic The Donkey”. But that hasn’t kept it from being a stupid song. (The latter is “Kung Fu Fighting.”)
This Italian sonata was recorded in 1960 and it’s about how Santa has a little donkey helper that helps him deliver presents. All the lyrics are full of Italian inside jokes that even my Grandfather probably wouldn’t understand. Probably my worst holiday memory as a child was getting introduced by this song in the car, my Dad “hee-haw”-ing for the whole 20 minute ride to my Nana’s house for Christmas Eve.
If this sounds like something the Italian mob would’ve churned out to somehow use the record sales to launder money, you are actually partly correct. According to Wikipedia, the studio that this was recorded in was financed by the Gambino family of New York, however take that with a grain of salt as there are no sources (which generally means some guy on the Internet heard it one time.) However, it IS true that the record company was basically a front for the mob. The owner of Roulette Records was arrested on extortion charges for alleged ties to the Genovese crime family. In any case the guy was a grade-A A-hole who stiffed musicians for royalties, pressed pirated records, and literally stole writing credits from black R&B singers to enrich himself.
I’ll admit I actually haven’t heard this played yet on the radio this year but I can’t tell if it’s because people came to their senses, or if all prints of the record were seized. Maybe it’s just because every single person who ever sang along to this in the car was pulled over by the New Jersey state cops and punched in the face.