Calm, collected holiday shopper, what's on your iPod? (Part V)
Isn't it weird how, in the summertime, it's possible to think about the holiday season with an easy fondness because it seems like it's so far away, so distant? And then all of a sudden it's on top of you like a two-ton German Shepherd who wants to play fetch with your end table. Crazy. In any event, below are a few of the tunes that'll be worming our way through my mind and yours as we struggle to wrap up this annual, stress-inducing production we call "Christmas."
(For more merry carols and yule-log bangers, peep our first, second, third, and fourth installments in this series.)
Ben Folds Five, "Brick"
The most achingly beautiful, tender ballad ever written about taking your boo to get an abortion on the day after Christmas and feeling like you're on some never-ending Robinson Crusoe bullshit. And selling off the presents you got -- probably to fund the abortion. (This sort of bittersweet ivory pop is what Folds was known for pre-The Sing Off.) Not exactly Boston Boys' Choir Charity Ball fare, but in its own odd way, it's emblematic of the mixed emotions that the holidays are capable to stirring in us; majestic, piercing piano chords facing off against poetic downer plaints that become all the more pathetic and selfish when the listener contrasts them against whatever the girlfriend's going through. Remember, this is the season when the most suicides occur. So, like, don't buy depressive cousin Heidi a Gucci belt.
Kurtis Blow, "Christmas Rappin'"
Blow cannily and opportunistic flips the beat from "Rapper's Delight" for a decidedly blah Christmas-themed rap. Are those people in the audience actually booing him, or does it just sound like they are? Either way, it's somehow impossible to enjoy this performance with all the noise they're making - a huge, naggling distraction. Do I like this? Really not sure. Would I throw this into my set if I was a DJ and it was December 23rd? Nope.
David Bowie & Bing Crosby, "Little Drummer Boy"
No, that really just happened. (Well, not just - a long, long frickin' time ago.) Pre-freakshow Bowie and not-quite-yet-on-life-support Crosby chatting amiably to and past one another in horribly faded Technicolor. (Is that an alligator on Crosby's blue Mister Rogers sweater? Preppy!) Then they find their way to a piano, where this unlikely duo perform an indelible, soaring version of "Little Drummer Boy" like old comrades-in-arms who, you know, get together every December to compare notes and elevate Christmas carols, with Crosby tackling the lower-register trad lyrics/rum-pum-pum and Bowie taking the higher road. Awesome.
Jason Segel & Jack Black, "Little Drummer Boy"
Segel bothers Black for some ginger for cooking purposes, but they wind up paying homage to the Bowie/Crosby duet above, only with more guitars and power chords. Would be a lot funnier and inspiring and touching if it wasn't a horribly illustrated cartoon.
A Charlie Brown Christmas, "Christmas Time Is Here"
Peanuts cartoon holiday specials, of course, are eminently unfuckwithable, and A Charlie Brown Christmas stands unchallenged as the best of them, having things both ways by initially condemning and demonizing the modern, over-commercialized concept of Christmas with a daringly adult sense of cynicism and risking a descent into excessively maudlin navel-gazing before rescuing itself at the last possible minute. "Christmas Time Is Here," of course, perfectly crystallizes this joy/despair duality; it's impossible to listen to it without a commingled sense of festive elation and bone-numbed sadness.