Calm, collected holiday shopper, what's on your iPod? (Part III)
(Check our first and second installments.)
My mother grew up in the Caribbean, so when I was a lad, reggae and calypso were part of the general aural ambiance around the house. Thus, nothing quite said "Christmas season is again upon us like a cackling, top-hatted spectre" like the Imaginations' calypso smash "Santa Send Me," a vaguely risque single about some dude out in the Virgin Islands who takes it upon himself to actually be Santa, albeit for the glory of trim. But then just when you think everything's headed in an X-rated direction, the husband of the lady our protagonist is plying with "toys and candy" emerges, and our hero digs deep into his bag of gifts to find something for the dude. Which could mean this song - which is painfully obscure, I've been trying to find it on CD forever, but as far as I know my mother's vinyl copy is the last known facsimile on Earth - is either a lot more wholesome or a lot more bi-curious that it seems at first blush. The flip side - it's titled "Xmas in a Rub A Dub Style," I think - manages to be both more sumptuous and more chaste, but I can't find a YouTube link for that one.
The Chipmunks, "The Christmas Song"
Kind of one of the classic fundamentals of modern or pre-modern Christmas overload, no? And there's a poetic or karmic connection with the plasticine, artificial nature of this over-commercialized holiday season as we've come to know it. Someone who probably loved this song as a kid and dreamed, for years, of capitalizing on the wheedling, cloying outcome of sped-up voices? Kanye West. A hula hoop? Nah. Skip Toys'R'Us, Mom! Radio Shack, por favor.
Whitney Houston, "O Holy Night"
I get it, sure. After a long Saturday of Christmas shopping, all you probably want to do is get home, get a quick dinner, and settle in for a long night of television and spiked egg-nog. You've probably had more than your fill of other people's bullshit - the shoving, the pushing, the oneupsmanship, the extremely close automotive calls - to say nothing of the rude salespeople, we're talking your fellow, not-so-merry holiday consumers here - because this time of year has the effect of driving everyone slightly manic. It's like we're under a full moon that lasts a month, right? So what I'm saying is that maybe what you need to do upon arriving home is to gather everybody into the mini-van. Drive around the 'hood, scope the many and sundry displays of Christmas lights - many of them ingenious and jaw-dropping - erected with care during the day by people who were smart enough to do all of their Christmas shopping online, and maybe discover a sense of wonder about this time of year that's easy to lose sight of. Whitney Houston Christmas pop? Optional. But it's nice, you know?
The Ramones, "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)"
If you and your steady sweetie are feuding - over gifts, over holiday plans, over shit that isn't even tangentally related to the holiday - this song won't help much. It's just a half-assed Ramones Christmas song that nobody ever needs to hear more than once. But the video's so horribly cast, directed, and acted that the two of you may be laughing too hard to quarrel about where Aunt Bess is sleeping on Christmas Eve.
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, "Jo-Jo's Jacket"
Malkmus stans know that "Jacket" isn't about Christmas; it's about the erstwhile Pavement frontman's self-reinvention as a solo artist, about a newfound self-confidence, about Yul Brynner, about twisted cut-'n'paste videographic techniques, etc. I really just threw it in for the "Come over on Christmas Day/And make believe that you are my candy cane" lyric, which was an unusually sassy aside for The Malk to toss off at that point in his career and should serve as a reminder to you that you totally need to buy a few more boxes of candy canes before you quit the mall.