Archive for the ‘Beauty Pageant Calls for Peace’ Category

Do you know what I know (that this song was written by a UU)?

December 13, 2013

One of Christmas Spirit Fail’s least favorite mainstream seasonal songs–it always gets a thumbs-down when it pops up, whac-a-mole style, on our Pandora channels–is the cloying “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (Special bonus bad points when sung by Carrie Underwood below, although this song has been covered by everybody, and we do mean everybody, from St. Bing to Kenny G to Rosie O’Donnell and Elmo.)

We were always a little skeptical of this song’s rather impressionistic narrative of–maybe?–the birth of the Christ Child, with the shepherds somehow bringing the news to Herod, who welcomes the arrival of the child, the child, who will bring goodness and light.

Turns out the narrative is inspired more by the Cuban Missile Crisis and the lyricist’s desire for world peace than by Matthew or Luke. Add to this that the composer–the lyricist’s husband at the time–was a Unitarian Universalist and this Christmas spirit fail suddenly makes a lot more sense.


“The operation of Grace”

December 4, 2013

That was what Evelyn Waugh described as the theme of Brideshead Revisited.

Oh, how far we have fallen when, at Christmastime, that phrase refers to Point of Grace:

The insipid lyrics and the popcorn audio track are matched only by the sub-VeggieTales animation featuring some poor girl with a unibrow to create a true Christmas Spirit Fail classic. [This text refers to a now-unavailable video version since removed. You’re welcome. –Ed.]

And why in the name of all that is good would anyone sing this “Love Came Down” song when Christina Rossetti’s vastly superior version is available?

And so this is…Christmas Spirit Fail

November 20, 2012

Merry Christmas, failers! Welcome back to a new season of festive curmudgeonliness (or is that curmudgeonly festivity?) You may have thought that we would hang up our homburg after covering “The Christmas Shoes,” but you should have known better. Just like Peak Oil after the growth of fracking, Peak Bad Christmas Music is a long way off.

And so we present perhaps the most choleric beauty-pageant call for peace masquerading as holiday cheer: John and Yoko’s un-classic “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”:

John and Yoko manage to combine the soporific effect of Josh Groban’s “Believe,” the lyrical inanity of Taylor Swift’s “Christmas Must Be Something More,” and the quasi-ethical heavy-handedness of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” You can just about hear the Chipmunks in there if you listen hard enough. Yes, it’s a stocking overflowing with an abundance of Christmas craptitude.

Somehow, these songs never die

December 19, 2011

Nothing says festive like terminal illness and eventual death!

I suppose it’s inevitable that tear-jerking trauma is commingled with Christmas cheer. Even Dickens interposed Tiny Tim into his Christmas carol.

There’s just something so very grubby, and manipulative, about efforts to sell songs by taking advantage of the emotionally vulnerable.

The reigning champion of this effort is “The Christmas Shoes,” which has been for three years the animating horror of your intrepid team here at Christmas Spirit Fail:

This song has spawned an execrable film and a novelization, not to mentioned being played every seven minutes on the radio from November 1 to December 25. It’s so awful that there is nothing we can say that would call attention to this abomination that it doesn’t do for itself.

But country-Christian crooner Matthew West has a strong contender to knock the “Shoes” off their pedestal, and that’s “One Last Christmas”:

It is the story of a toddler, Dax, diagnosed with leukemia, and how his family goes all out to give him “one last Christmas” before they lose him. (It has also been turned into an F-list movie.)

Now, CSF is fully sympathetic to the families whose Christmases come tinged with loss, grief, and sadness. (Indeed, CSF was itself treated for cancer at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where Dax also received treatment, and feels a pang when reading Dax’s story.)

But songs like “The Christmas Shoes” and “One Last Christmas” don’t  memorialize the dead and comfort the survivors; they trivialize the loss and commercialize the lost. The Christmas Shoes lady and Dax both died, but these songs will play on forever–and that’s a triple tragedy.

Do they know how awful they sound at all?

December 12, 2009

File this obnoxious little ditty under “Not Getting It, Department of.”

Leave aside the execrable pop/rock tune. Leave aside Bob Geldof’s ghastly 80s hairstyle. And leave aside the fact that this song is all about moral posturing with other people’s resources.

Leave all this aside and merely consider the ludicrous lyrics that alone make this a Christmas Spirit Fail.

  • And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy / Throw your arms around the world at Christmastime.” This is just BS on the level of “We Are the World.” It means nothing.
  • “Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears / And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom.” Well, the Congo River has the second-heaviest flow of any river in the world. And the Nile is the world’s longest. Dammit, Africa is overflowing with natural resources. It’s not like the whole continent is some kind of wasteland. If China can extract Africa’s resources, why not Africa? Moreover, this song was written to raise support for famine relief. Amartya Sen showed, however, that famine is more of a political problem than a resource problem. “Famines are easy to prevent if there is a serious effort to do so, and a democratic government, facing elections and criticisms from opposition parties and independent newspapers, cannot help but make such an effort. Not surprisingly, while India continued to have famines under British rule right up to independence. . . . They disappeared suddenly with the establishment of a multiparty democracy and a free press.” It’s no coincidence that a mostly undemocratic continent conforms to Sen’s sad logic.
  • “There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime.” O RLY? (Actually, there will be.)
  • “(Oooh) Where nothing ever grows / No rain nor rivers flow.” That “oooh” is some good poetry there, man. But seriously, see comment above.
  • “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.” No comment necessary, but seriously, that’s all there is to this song. The single may have been used to raise money for anti-hunger efforts, but the words themselves leave you in a place of smug depression at the sad state of the world, poor them.

This ghastly ballad ends with a “(Here’s to you) raise a glass for everyone / (Here’s to them) underneath that burning sun,” signifying nothing done other than sanctimonious moral preening. Merry Christmas, yeah right.

P.S. What would it take to get a supergroup of pop/rock stars to record an anti-foreign-aid single based on Dambisa Moyo’s book?

Not so Swift

December 11, 2009

She’s not one of the Disnettes, but Taylor Swift is firmly holding down the country corner of the teen queen sector, with original tripe like this:

Christmas must be something more, indeed. It’s about a God, transcendent beyond all knowing, who took on tainted flesh and conquered the rebellion (nay, insurgency) that grows in human hearts. Incarnation! As Swift sings, something “wholly not superficial.”

To which the only response is to sing a contrived, sappy, pop country song that could have come off the shelf at the Nashville Creativity Five and Dime. “Here’s to the birthday boy who saved our liiives”? Is that the best way to project “something more”?

With Filipino Christmas music, you can’t luzon.

December 9, 2009

Today’s entry comes from the other side of the globe, where the Filipino band Itchyworms (do they mean ohrwurms?) has given us “Season of Smiles.”

The video contains images of the Philippines’ off-the-hook Christmas celebration, and the song itself contains dozens of profound thoughts: “Don’t forget to wear a smile.” “Kiss me if you want to.” “One smile will make you feel at home.”

Man, these lyrics are so bland that you might call them plain manila.

A Generic Wish for World Peace

November 14, 2009

In keeping with the Amy Grant theme, we have “Grown-up Christmas List.” In case the lyrics aren’t cheesy enough on their own, the video takes this song to another level. Why is the sleeping child cradling a possessed-looking Santa? What is the significance of the mildly diverse group of children alternately looking scared or grinning in that “remember to keep a smile on your face” kind of way? With lines like “Everyone would have a friend” and “Right would always win,” this song is indeed a winner.