Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Here I Come A-Wassailing

For your holiday entertainment, I've collected my favorite Christmas/winter/Hanukkah songs. They range from "carols pre-dating America" to "horribly inappropriate," so I'm providing commentary below each video for your benefit.

"12 Days of Christmas" Straight No Chaser
I have hated "12 Days of Christmas" my entire life. I think I hated it before I mastered speech. I hate the original, I hate the parodies, I hate trying to remember which lines go with which numbers when you get up past six or so. I really hated having to sit through elementary school concerts where the chorus teacher thought that song was a great way to eat up time without having to teach any extra songs. But this... this song is glorious. It's funny, it incorporates a surprise (hint: the easiest way to find it on YouTube is searching "straight no chaser Christmas in Africa") and these gentlemen are fantastic singers. I love it.

"Christmas Time in Hell" from South Park
I shouldn't have to tell you that this isn't really work/family appropriate, but now I've warned you. It's upbeat and catchy and funny (even if some of the pop culture references are dated now) and it makes me feel good. I can't find a video with all the animation included, which would make it better, but it's still pretty great.

"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / We Three Kings" Barenaked Ladies ft. Sarah McLachlan
This is from "Barenaked for the Holidays," simultaneously my favorite BNL album and favorite holiday album all in one. I was never a huge fan of either song, but this medley is awesome, and I love to sing along to it. (In the car. By myself. Because I don't sing that well.)

"Do They Know It's Christmas" Barenaked Ladies
I know, a duplicate on the artist, but... this song. Oh my peppermint-flavored gosh, this song. You know this one. It's the one Band Aid did to help Ethiopia in the '80s. It's so... well, let the lyrics speak for themselves. "The Christmas bells that ring there / are the clanging chimes of doom"? Doom, guys? My favorite part is how intensely BNL sings this song. I've never been 100% sure whether they're being serious or mocking the song's existence. I like to imagine it's half and half: they care about the plight of the hungry, but they think the song is a bit ridiculous. It's amazingly fun to sing along to, though. One thing that bugs me every time I hear it: I don't think "there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time" is a great way to make the point we're going for here. First of all, it will snow on Mount Kilimanjaro; Kibo - the summit that counts - is over 19,000 feet high. Secondly, do they want snow? If it did snow in Africa (in the parts you're thinking of, like the deserts and such) it would probably be pretty devastating. They aren't really prepared for snow. Sure, they could probably drink it, but it would be unbelievably cold... You know, I feel like I'm starting to be as insulting as the song feels, so I'll just go make a donation to a charity and move on to the next song.

"Baby It's Cold Outside" She & Him
Yes, this song is notoriously, historically creepy. (If you aren't familiar with it, it's essentially about a woman who is seemingly trapped at a pushy man's house because it's cold out and he's unwilling to help her get home because he would rather she stay with him.) But this is Zooey Deschanel's band, She & Him. So instead, it's quirky and cute and funny. She's like the King Midas of quirk, instead of gold. The male and female parts are switched (and I recognize the double standard while still finding it amusing) which gives it a cutesy Misery-ish vibe, and the animation makes the whole thing extra adorable.

"Hanukkah Blessings" Barenaked Ladies
Last one from BNL, I promise. But I had to put my favorite Hanukkah song on the list. I learned the Hanukkah blessing from this song! Not that we actually say it when we have Hanukkah dinner, but it makes me feel good to know it. (I can't remember it if I don't sing it to the tune of this song, but it should count for something anyway.)

"My Christmas List" Simple Plan
(Forgive the video; its quality is not its fault... it was made in 2006.)
This was a bonus track hidden on "Grow Up" on the 2002 album "No Pads, No Helmets, Just Balls." That song had a chorus containing the lines "I don't wanna be told to grow up / and I don't wanna change, I just wanna have fun." Another song on that album was "I'm Just A Kid" which held the timeless wisdom, "I'm just a kid, and life is a nightmare / I'm just a kid, I know that it's not fair / Nobody cares that I'm alone and the world is / having more fun than meeee / tonight." (No, I didn't have to look those lyrics up. Don't judge me; you had a terrible-music-loving phase in high school, too. Yes you did.) I like imagining all the things they would list if this song were written today. (For context, this album came out four months after the first iPods were sold.)

"Feliz Navidad" (Jose Feliciano)
If this song doesn't just make you smile like a damned fool and sing along, then you and the Grinch have too much in common. This is such a happy song!

"All I Really Want For Christmas" (from Family Guy)
Also, a very happy song. And funny, and incredibly catchy. This is one of those mildly inappropriate ones, depending on who you're with. I mean, it was aired on Fox, but you know what I mean. The unfortunate thing is that it's fairly hard to sing correctly (for me, anyway) so when it's stuck in my head, I can't hum/sing it aloud unless I'm by myself, or I'll get severely judged on my inability to hit higher notes.

"Auld Lang Syne" Barenaked Ladies
Okay, I said "Hanukkah Blessings" was the last BNL one, but then I remembered that this is my favorite song of all time, and couldn't leave it off the list. I like the song "Auld Lang Syne" to begin with. It has a good message (friends=good) and it's a heck of a lot easier for the non-musically-inclined to sing than "Happy Birthday." It's a tradition that a huge percentage of our country's population participates in (it's the first song Rockin' New Year's Eve plays after midnight every year) and it just sounds nice. That said, this is my favorite version, because... well, it just is. It's my own tradition and it's comfortable because I've been listening to it since high school. I'll bust it out in the middle of the summer if I need a musical pick-me-up. If you don't think it's moving enough, consider this: in World War II, a Japanese ship (the Montevideo Maru) was sinking with over 1000 Australians on board (mostly POWs) and the  Australian men in the water sang this song for the trapped ones.

With that depressing fact, I will wrap up my Christmas Songlist and wish you all a Merry Christmas (or a really belated Hanukkah) and a Happy New Year.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE the BNL holiday album. That, and Carbon Leaf's Christmas album are the only ones I can listen to without being really annoyed. :)