‘Tis the Season for Bad Christmas Music

 

The Christmas season brings with it holiday music: some quite good, some not so good, and some wonderfully bad. Every wave of popular music brings with it eventual Christmas singles or albums. Singing stars, and others, seem drawn like the wise men following the star. Consider a few examples, but do set your beverage down before listening, as some are inadvertently merry and bright.

We start, of course, with disco. At the tail end of the disco craze, you could expect orchestras to show they are with it. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra did not disappoint, recording a medley, “Hooked on Christmas” in 1981. The Universal Robot Band released “Disco Christmas” in 1977, straddling street cred and sentiment. Then there were the combined efforts of various session musicians and disco labels. Salsoul released the 1976 album whose cover art you see here. I think the Salsoul OrchestraChristmas Medley” is better than the philharmonic attempt. All of these are better than the perhaps earnest attempt by Charo: “Mamacita, Donde este Santa Clause.” Then there is the album by Mirror Image, a group of studio musicians, turned out Disco Noël with “Silver Bells” as you’ve never heard it before:

The tradition of Christmas novelty tunes goes back a long way, with early examples like Spike Jones & His City Slickers 1948 recording, “All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth).” Joe Diffie’s recent “Leroy The Redneck Reindeer” follows the tradition of Lou Monte and “Dominick The Donkey.” Elmo & Patsy’s “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” is terribly catchy, silly, and possibly obnoxious:

Rap, hip hop if you prefer, has its share of Christmas (w)rapping. Consider Kurtis Blow’s “Christmas Rappin.” Of course, the biggest names had to get in on the act. See Run DNC’s “Christmas in Hollis:”

Stars have taken their turn at old standards, with mixed results. Consider Bob Dylan attempting “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” At least William Shatner is entirely self-aware, but what on earth was Judy Collins doing, joining him in “White Christmas?”

Then there is the long line of contemporary songs in various genres, for which your mileage may vary. Elvis Presley’s 1968 live recording of “Blue Christmas” wears fairly well, as does Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run,” provided you like their other music. Mariah Carey “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is quite bubbly, while Wham! gives you big hair 1980s pop in “Last Christmas.” José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” is a staple of holiday radio and shopping music. Consider the fun he has with Daryl Hall (Live From Daryl’s House):

https://youtu.be/PvwbBkGasQg

In a similar vein, ABBA fans still like “Happy New Year,” although the appeal may not be apparent to others. If you like the Kinks and 1970s rock, you will appreciate Father Christmas,” else not. At the far edge of this, I think you have to be a hard core Dropkick Murphys fan to appreciate “The Season’s Upon Us.” I found it too misanthropic, and if it catches the family dysfunctions’ fueled by alcoholic lifestyles, the listener is left wondering what the other family members think of the singers.

I leave you with more pleasant fare. Boney M. “Mary’s Boy Child,” popularizing Jester Hairton’s gospel song, is a great sonic palette cleanser after all these offerings:

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  1. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    This post is part of our Group Writing Series under the December 2020 Group Writing Theme: “’Tis the Season.” We still have plenty of open days. You can do better than disco, I’m sure, and Ricochet will thank you. Stop by soon, our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #1
  2. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Really?! You neglected the greatest Christmas song ever recorded?! No other music video had more Aqua Net than this’n:

    • #2
  3. LC Member
    LC
    @LidensCheng

    Clearly a master at work

    • #3
  4. CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker
    @CarolJoy

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Really?! You neglected the greatest Christmas song ever recorded?! No other music video had more Aqua Net than this’n:

    I guess it was all the hair gel that prevented the singers from realizing that the people in the countries they were concerned with were for the most part Muslims and usually wouldn’t know it was Christmas. (Just as you and I wouldn’t necessarily know when it was Eid.)

    • #4
  5. JimGoneWild Coolidge
    JimGoneWild
    @JimGoneWild

    The rap version is actually pretty good.

    • #5
  6. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    • #6
  7. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Disco Noel has whacka-chu guitar, pew! synths, and massed strings playing outtakes from a Shaft sequel soundtrack, so yes, it qualifies as a perfect period piece. 

    The terrifying thing about Steyn’s musical career is the suspicion that he’s serious. If so, it’s a Shatnerian level of cringe. (And I love the Shat, despite our unfortunate interview.)

    • #7
  8. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    The terrifying thing about Steyn’s musical career is the suspicion that he’s serious. If so, it’s a Shatnerian level of cringe. (And I love the Shat, despite our unfortunate interview.)

    Doesn’t the presence of Jessica Martin make it all okay?

    • #8
  9. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Really?! You neglected the greatest Christmas song ever recorded?! No other music video had more Aqua Net than this’n:

    I almost included that, along with the Lennon/Ono tune. I think such belong in a category of musicians trying to be very serious people.

    • #9
  10. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Django (View Comment):

    Thank you. I had somehow purged that from my memory banks. 

    • #10
  11. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    LC (View Comment):

    Clearly a master at work

    I just couldn’t decide how to characterize this. More Shatner or Dylan?

    • #11
  12. Chris Member
    Chris
    @Chris

    This brings great amusement to our kids in college – who are just old enough to have been only somewhat affected by the cultural jiggery wokery despite our best efforts.

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Oh my goodness, most of these were truly awful! Good job! I did enjoy “Mary’s Boy Child,” the outfits, the beat and music and the kids were just too adorable. 

    • #13
  14. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    • #14
  15. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t039p6xqutU

    • #15
  16. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    • #16
  17. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    • #17
  18. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    • #18
  19. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    • #19
  20. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    • #20
  21. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    LC (View Comment):

    Clearly a master at work

    Mark Steyn does not have a good singing voice but I cannot help grinning every time I see one of his music videos.

    • #21
  22. colleenb Member
    colleenb
    @colleenb

    Silver Bells Disco Noel so makes me want to sit down and watch an episode of CHiPs!

    • #22
  23. LC Member
    LC
    @LidensCheng

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    LC (View Comment):

    Clearly a master at work

    I just couldn’t decide how to characterize this. More Shatner or Dylan?

    Probably an amazing combo of both

    • #23
  24. LC Member
    LC
    @LidensCheng

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):

    LC (View Comment):

    Clearly a master at work

    Mark Steyn does not have a good singing voice but I cannot help grinning every time I see one of his music videos.

    I know. All his music videos and live performances are so hilarious.

    • #24
  25. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    Django (View Comment):

    My favorite Christmas music.

    • #25
  26. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    And in the Northern Hemisphere, is’t normally cold outside at Christmas.

    • #26
  27. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Well, Grandma got run over by a reindeer may be cringey, but Da Yoopers took the tune and made a more plausible story:

    • #27
  28. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    And Weird Al has done 2 spectacular Christmas songs that are now old family favorites:

    https://youtu.be/t039p6xqutU

    • #28
  29. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    My wife loves Pentatonix*, so the Sirius/XM is always tuned to channel 105 this time of year: “Holly, Pop Christmas.” They seem to alternate good songs with the worst garbage imaginable: John Legend’s bowdlerized Baby It’s Cold Outside, any version of Santa Baby not by Eartha Kitt, Michael Bubble’s sterile smarm, every version of Last Christmas. But, by far the worst is this**:

    * Pentatonix actually does good, respectful versions of both carols and pop songs.

     ** This is truly awful, and not in a fun-bad or so-bad-it’s-good way. No, it’s “You’ll want to clean out your ears with bleach” bad. What, you didn’t read the footnotes before clicking on the video? I thought you would have learned by now.

    • #29
  30. Sal Member
    Sal
    @Sal

    @cliffordbrown @jameslileks fellow Catholic @peterrobinson and Mr. High Church Episco @roblong My favorite, not-bad Christmas tradition. You should check out these little guys. A contribution is required to support Boston’s archdiocesan boy’s choir. They’re angels, almost. https://christmasinharvardsquare.com

    • #30