I can hear the bells. The silver bells, the jingle bells, the sleigh bells — they’re all here. Are your ears ringing yet with all that holiday cheer? Me, I’m nine Love Actually viewings in and simply having a “Wonderful Christmastime.” It’s a musical time of year. It has been since 12:01 a.m. Nov. 29. But for every work of seasonal art like “Holly Jolly Christmas,” “All I Want for Christmas is You” and “Please, Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas” (yet to be fully appreciated in the canon), the radio DJs, shopping malls and automated online streaming services of this great nation are keen to trot out some Christmas cudgels.
These are the songs that get played just because they have been played before. Ad nauseam. The ones that have you frantically scrambling for the skip button. Below are five of the wintry jams I find most repulsive and how they could potentially be bettered. (Left out in the cold are the Chipmunks, whose musical outing has no hope for improvement.)
Step 1: Attain aging pop legend (or Nick Lachey).
Step 2: Attain young female songstress.
Step 3: Place them in front of a microphone and pretend like this has never been done before.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” suffers from two main deficiencies: its ubiquity and its quasi-creepy situational lyrics. No means no, you nymphomaniac. Granted, scrapping this ditty might well put Harry Connick Jr. out on the streets, but I’m willing to chance it.
Possible improvement: Lorde takes the mic for the pleading parenthetical vocal (all the “But baby, it’s cold outsides”) and does for a tired old duet what she did for “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Meanwhile, for the sake of traditional yuletide vocalism, Josh Groban is the frail fretter worried about his maiden aunt — acting here as the Rihanna to Lorde’s Eminem.
Launching into a recitation of the 12 long, arduous days of Christmas is like setting up the beer pong table on a Tuesday: It sounds like a good idea, it’ll take longer than you expect and everyone in the near vicinity will be aggrieved. Normally, I’m a fan of rote memorization, but this ish isn’t even realistic. The last time Christmas lasted a mere 12 days was sometime in the 19th century — also the last era in which a live, forested partridge was the piece de resistance of holiday gift-giving. Now, ABC Family starts the Christmas countdown at 25. Corporate America starts the advent calendar somewhere around Sept. 15. “101 Days of Christmas” is quickly veering into “Alice’s Restaurant” territory.
Possible improvement: A less generous beloved would be a start, or a RiffTrax-esque version with these two trolls.
Eartha Kitt’s original isn’t so much the problem, because Yzma is fabulous. But the subsequent covers of the sole “sexy” Christmas song have attempted to do for winter’s favorite holiday what the costume industry has done to Halloween: Sassy Mrs. Claus is being pimped out by The Man leaning on a candy cane.
Possible improvement: Drag queens. (Challenge idea, RuPaul!)
“Frosty” is such a boring tune not even Jimmy Durante’s best staccato pirate rendition can save it. Central to this dilemma is the aforementioned snowman’s distinct lack of charisma. He is vanilla. As far as moistened troubadours go, Sam the Snowman (and banjo) is clearly the brand-name superstar.
Possible improvement: Frosty needs soul. Burl Ives has sopped up the snowman-folk niche, so Frosty’s got to up the ante. He’s got to sing the blues as the meltable Muddy Waters.
There has been exactly one acceptable version of “The Little Drummer Boy.” It is this mind-boggling pairing.
As an addendum, I would be more than OK with those two performing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” together.
But this song is the percussive pits, serving only as one long, lazy rhyming exercise. In most instances, I applaud alternative storytelling, but good grief, couldn’t it have been the Little Maracas Boy?
Possible improvement: Either resuscitate Bing Crosby and pair him with
Tilda Swinton David Bowie or call it a day.