Stars are shining, sleigh bells ringing, carolers singing — it's officially Christmas music time! (Just ignore that you have been hearing it since Labor Day.)
Though we have been bombarded of late with "pro-holiday/non-offensive" seasonal tunes — a description used for PC Christmas songs that don't mention the season's reason — there are plenty of festive favorites for all.
First, however, let's discuss Christmas music don'ts. It's hard for Christmas music to get on my nerves, so kudos to the following for such an effort:
First on our list is the most sensitive song of them all: "The Christmas Pumps," or whatever it's called. I lost 127 Facebook friends because I posted that I found this song emotionally manipulative. Why stop at little boys buying shoes for their dying mother? Add match sticks, a few kittens and just kill me now.
There are two kinds of people in this world: people who like Neil Diamond and people who think he and his caffeinated chorale shouldn't be allowed near a microphone from just after Thanksgiving through, to, and including Valentine's Day.
While we are at it, someone ask Johnny Mathis to take a vacation during the same time period. Frankly, anytime I hear Johnny sing "Sleigh Ride," I am left with too many unanswered questions.
Two members of the Beatles were as equally off the mark. I understand they had an aversion to holiday staples — artistic individuality and all — but "So This is Christmas" and "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time" are John Lennon's and Sir Paul's most iffy offerings. Coincidentally, depression is at a premium during the holidays. Do the math.
Last Christmas, I gave you my heart; the very next day I hurled on my slacks. This year, to save me from tears ... I won't listen to George Michael."
The other song Mr. Wham contributed to is just as bad. With all due respect to honorable causes, "Do They Know it's Christmas?" — alternative title "Pray for Another Song," featuring Boy George and a few of his British buddies — makes me wish my ear wax would just seal me off from the outside world. Good intentions aside, it is a perfect song for drowning out the sound of cans being opened electronically or teeth being drilled.
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra's redundant, repetitive and redundant version of "Carol of the Bells" makes the little voices in my head converse all at once on the topic of mortality, electro-shock therapy and wider freeways. Then the little voices start dancing and chanting.
Speaking of disco, of which I am generally in favor, Donna Summer's "Rosie Posie Christmas" is only slightly better than "Disco Inferno on an Open Fire," or "Christmas Boogie Oogie Oogie." I would rather don my Angels Flight spray-on pants and do it the right way.
The Chipmunk Song isn't really on my bad Christmas song list, but I just don't like how Dave speaks to Alvin.
Belinda Carlisle of Go-Go's fame recreating Judy Garland's famous "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" sounds like she started the celebratory eggnog a little early — like on Black Friday.
"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" wouldn't be played if not for the charming Brenda Lee, and John Denver singing as a 7-year-old in "Daddy, Don't Get Drunk This Christmas" is fingernails on a chalkboard. Anything else by the former Mr. Dusseldorf is Christmas gold, including his duets with the Muppets. Try those instead.
"I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" should not be sung by anyone. Ever. Michael Jackson (Jackson-Five) couldn't do it. He did do it, but he shouldn't have. Celion Dion can't do it. I don't think Beverly Sills or even the daring Carrie Underwood accompanied by a Happy Jerusalem Synthesized Sound of Music Ensemble with seven key changes could save it — and I love me some Carrie Underwood.
Penultimately, I give you anything sung by Kathie Lee Gifford — especially "Mary, Did You Know?" Believe me; Mary, being great with knowledge, was better off not knowing. With that in mind, I applaud Kathie Lee on her contribution to world peace.
For those of you who need to feel better about their lives, try
Merry Christmas, I don't wanna fight tonight" by the Ramones. I am really on the fence about "God rest ye merry gentleman" by Bad Religion. I wouldn't play it at a party, but it's great for chopping wood.
And now the good stuff (and there's a lot of good stuff!)
My find this year is an a cappella group, Pentatonix. They were the hit of last year's season. It seems that good taste and popularity have merged. Dont miss their version of "O, Holy Night."
Elvis? Elvis! And I am not talking about having a Blue Christmas. His version of "Here comes Santa Claus" is endearing and surprisingly un-mannered.
Last year I discovered Louis Armstrong and "Zat you, Santa Claus?" It's a Christmas song that makes me smile and doesn't make me feel guilty for not having more money to spend.
The best of the best? Josh Groban has a few, and James Taylor has a bunch. Try Christmas songs by Frank Sinatra, the Carpenters, Doris Day, Natalie and Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Amy Grant, Manhattan Transfer, Harry Connick Jr., The Vince Guaraldi Trio, Mel Tormé, Ray Conniff, Gene Autry — and remember those Muppets and the soundtrack to A Muppet's Christmas Carol. And while you are at it, download their DVD for a holiday treat. Rizzo the Rat tells a great tale. (And here's looking forward to the Muppets and Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas album.)
Christmas music that makes you feel that life is worth living is never wrong — even if it is sung by Mariah Carey. Don't let anyone tell you differently. Have a merry Christmas ... darling.