Friday, December 19, 2008

The Friday Rant: It's the Holiday Season, With The Whoop De Do...

Editor's Note: Vince wrote weekly rants for the site in 2006 and 2007. After a 20 month absence, he felt a need to burn on the holiday season.

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Has the spirit of anything in the history of human existence been bastardized more than that of Christmas? While this is a music site and my rant will focus mostly on the theme of Christmas music, it is impossible for me to ignore the complete and utter commercialization and secularization of Christmas, and in turn – the music that helps define the season.

In listening to a Christmas (nee “Holiday”) music station, it became apparent that pop culture has left Jesus so far behind in the rear-view mirror that “Christ” may as well be removed from the equation altogether. What’s left is “Mas”, Spanish for “more”. Christmas has stopped being about religion for many Americans as nativity scenes have been replaced with giant blow-up Tigger snow globes and the baby Jesus has been replaced by secular pop culture holiday icons such as Frosty the Snowman, Yukon Cornelius and the Heat Miser. Now don’t get me wrong, I am the same guy who will roll through my neighborhood with the windows down blasting "The Miser Song" from A Year Without a Santa Claus, but still. This will not be a “Jesus Is the Reason for the Season” rant, but can Jesus get some props?

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Christmas has been over-commercialized to the point that the holiday has been reduced to a scorecard for the economy. Industries use the holiday buying season as a barometer for their success each year. The fact that “Christmas shopping season” has become such an oft-used phrase in our lexicon is indictment enough. The country is in trouble. How do we know this? Holiday spending is down!!! Oh, the humanity.

It would be too easy to rant about the claptrap posing as Christmas music flooding the airwaves this time of year. Instead I will start with the airwaves themselves. In the Philadelphia market alone, no fewer than three FM radio stations have been running non-stop holiday music since November 1st. Three! I enjoy Christmas music during the holidays. I do not consider November 1 a part of the holiday season. Has Philly radio expanded the holiday season to include Halloween? If so, why aren’t we hearing any Halloween songs? On November 1 I am cursing myself for dipping into my son’s trick-or-treat candy and I sure as hell am not ready for “Holly Jolly Christmas”. Burl Ives has grown on me over the years, but there are such things as too early and too much of a good thing. These stations, who shall remain unnamed here, will run Christmas music non-stop for two solid months. If something is available to you one sixth of the year, is it special anymore? I have long thought it excessive that shopping malls are decorated for the holiday shopping season the day after Halloween, but I never expected radio stations to follow suit.

And damn it if there isn’t one song in particular that drives me absolutely to the brink of the lunatic fringe every time I hear it. No, it’s not Paul McCartney’s abysmal “Wonderful Christmastime” or the Elmo and Patsy garish tack-fest “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”.The song I hate more than any other Christmas song is "Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season” by Andy Williams. There are a ton of Christmas songs that should never have been made, but this song is on a completely different plane of suckdom. If there are seven circles of music hell, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Tomas de Torquemada, Idi Amin, Vlad Tepes and Dick Cheney will be slam-dancing to this little ditty nonstop until the end of time in cozy circle number seven. Pop music history is littered with mailed-in half-assed recordings from pop acts looking to cash in on their version of a holiday retread. I can not speak to the career of Andy Williams and what might be a vast catalog, but I can tell when a recording artist is going through the motions, even if they were going through them in the 1950s.

To be honest, I have a tough time putting into words what exactly makes me hate this song so much. What I can tell you is that every time I hear it I am filled with total infuriation. Some songs make me sad, others get me fired up. This song makes me twitch every time. Two parts of the song are particularly irritating to me. The first is the lyric “It's the holiday season/With the whoop-de-do and hickory dock”. What does that mean? It sounds like Williams is singing this line while rolling his eyes and twirling his index finger in the air in a la-di-da I can barely be bothered motion. The second is the “He'll be coming down the chimney, down/Coming down the chimney, down” stanza. I don't get the repeating of "down" twice after chimney. Did the songwriter really want to emphasize the direction Santa was traveling through the chimney? Is it necessary to explain gravity thusly and repeatedly? Whatever it is, it bothers me.

I pray every year that this song does not come on the radio while someone cuts me off in traffic with a “W” sticker on their bumper while I am hurrying to do eleventh hour Christmas shopping. The combination of this perfect storm of fury would undoubtedly lead me to spend the rest of my days in prison. It’s not Williams’ voice that gets to me. In fact, I happen to love his version of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. I believe what bothers me most about the song is that despite how much I loathe it, once I hear it, I can’t for the life of me get it out of my head. I find myself humming or singing it and I can’t bring myself to stop. The only cure is to blast some good anthemic punk rock, which is a tough thing to find when you work in an office building. I don’t know. Some things just set me off like this - evil dictators, corrupt politicians and business leaders, unskilled aggressive drivers, right-wing zealots and this Andy Williams song. I know, I have issues.

My Top 10 Christmas Songs
1. Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song
2. Burl Ives – Holly Jolly Christmas
3. Nat King Cole – Do You Hear What I Hear?
4. Bing Crosby – Little Drummer Boy
5. Andy Williams – It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (see? I am fair!)
6. The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping
7. Johnny Mathis – O Holy Night
8. Perry Como – It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
9. Bing Crosby – White Christmas
10. Elvis Presley – Blue Christmas
Honorable Mention: "The Miser Song" (from The Year Without a Santa Claus), "O Holy Night" (South Park version sung by Cartman), Olivia Olson’s "All I Want For Christmas Is You" (from Love Actually)

Merry ‘Mas, everybody! I'm off to finish my Christmas shopping.



Blogger goooooood girl said...

i like your blog......

Friday, December 19, 2008  
Blogger Cassidy said...

To be honest and fair, I'm not a very religious person anymore, so posting here is probably a bad idea.

But I live in Colorado, and I have to hear about Focus on the Family all the time, and their fight against the "War on Christmas"

Having grown up in a Jewish neighborhood, as a Catholic girl, I LIKED singing Dreidl songs and saying Happy Holidays so that none of my friends felt left out.

So Focus on the Family - an ultra fundamentalist Christian organization posted a list of stores they they endorsed shopping for during the Christmas Season - because these stores prominantly displayed "Merry Christmas" and left out any references to the neutral Holiday, or Kwanzaa, Hannukah, or even Festivus. So that's what the uber religious care about at Christmas? Is consumerism and intolerance?

Because of that, I'll listen to my Heat Miser and Cold Miser songs, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, and Bruce Springsteen singing Santa Clause is Coming to Town - because even the religious have lost sight of Christmas. And until they get it back, I'm celebrating Festivus.

Saturday, December 20, 2008  
Blogger Vince said...

Cassidy, I don't blame you in the slightest. I didn't want to get too uber-political on a music site, but you are right. I am no holy roller, and I too will be Miser Song-ing it. I can't stand most of the stances that have been taken by the religious right in this country, and you are smack dab in the middle of it. Christianity's fundamental message is of love and forgiveness - two things lost on many right-wing zealots that have lost their way.

Merry Christmas anyway, joyous Festivus, and Happy New Year!

P.S. Thanks for the kind words goooooood girl!

Saturday, December 20, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Jesus was born, he was God in man form. He was the perfect lamb.
2. Jesus was here to save man of his sins.
3. Jesus died on the cross and became sin for all of us, so that we may be forgiven and not live under God's wrath.

We as a country have become so distracted as the meaning of Christmas and of the bible in general that we will be judged. And God will not have mercy. I pray that each and every one of you stop and realize that apart of Christ we are nothing, living in total sin and condemnation, but through his grace we are saved and can live in grace filled freedom. Take a moment to worship Jesus, and praise him, be thankful for all that he has given you, repent of your sins and he will forgive you. Trust in God, he loves you. The commercial part of Christmas needs to go, agreed, great article Vince.


Monday, December 22, 2008  

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