GAMBLE: Don’t touch that Christmas song

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MollyI’ve never had a problem getting into the holiday spirit. I sneak Christmas music before Thanksgiving and warmly welcome the return of Salvation Army collectors to the door of Pick ‘n Save.

But if I hear certain Christmas songs, I suddenly turn into the Grinch.

It’s one thing to record a new hit single, but a good Christmas song is a whole different ball game. Artists have to walk that delicate line between making the tune their own without butchering or disrespecting the original. John Lennon, Mariah Carey and The Eagles all mastered this with their respective hits, earning them permanent spots in the Christmas Music Hall of Fame.

Others are not so lucky. For the sake of humanity, some musicians should stay far, far away from Christmas carols. This may be the one genre of music that is most difficult to recreate or improve, and it doesn’t help that people are painfully protective of their sentimental favorites.

For example, if some lowly musician ever touches Vince Guaraldi’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” it would be an all-out travesty. I love this album as much as Christmas itself. It holds so much family nostalgia that I have to listen to it in a specific albeit arbitrary order, courtesy of my father. Track five first, then back to track one, and if you turn it off in midst of a song you have to start again from the beginning.

See what I mean? People are particular about the sounds that have provided a soundtrack to all their Christmas memories.

Some artists never got this memo, like Lady Gaga, who released a song called “Christmas Tree.” In typical shameless Gaga fashion, the song is a poorly veiled metaphor for something that no one in their right mind would want to listen to in the company of family. It makes Christmas feel dirty, which I didn’t think was possible. But, then again, Gaga could make a bar of Irish Spring soap turn into filth if she looked at it for too long.

I used to think “The Christmas Shoes,” a song about a kid buying shoes for his dying mother, was the most miserable Christmas tune. Until I heard Sufjan Stevens’ music, that is. Christmas is the season of perpetual hope, but Stevens apparently believes otherwise.

His song “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!” brings seasonal depression to a whole new level. Every time it pops up on shuffle, I trip over my own feet in a hasty effort to turn it off. It’s about some serious family dysfunction, including a screaming father throwing gifts in a stove and a sister running away. It ends with Stevens singing, “Silent night, Holy night, nothing feels right.” Mercy. I would rather listen to Alvin and the Chipmunks for three days straight than listen to this song, well, ever.

Finally, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” This song was banned in my house growing up because my mother found the message too twisted. To this day I can’t stand listening to it. After examining the lyrics closer, I realized this song is pure country bumpkin. Grandma gets run over by a reindeer after drinking too much eggnog and forgetting medication, and everyone’s proud of Grandpa, because he’s taking it really well, drinking beer and watching football. Unhealthy grieving — now that’s a Merry Christmas!

Okay, enough of this. I better listen to some Vince Guaraldi before I completely lose spirit.

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