Archive for the ‘Give Us Your Hard-Earned Money’ Category

Going hunting for cash

December 11, 2013

Christmas Spirit Fail supposes it was inevitable.

Really, for the family that commands TV ratings and book bestseller lists, branching out with a Christmas album (and associated DVD) was sort of a no-brainer.

We don’t actually have that big a problem with these songs. “Hairy Christmas” is probably the cutest of the lot:

We can only ask: was this truly necessary? Is there any artistic virtue to this project? Is there any purpose to it beyond vacuuming more money out of the pockets of Duck Dynasty fans?

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Keep this thing in a galaxy far, far away

December 14, 2009

This post features what is perhaps the most awful piece of cultural detritus ever produced to take advantage of the Christmas season. It’s not so-bad-it’s-good. It’s painful to watch, especially for two hours. Indeed, it’s completely forgettable, except that it’s the bastard stepchild of one of the most profitable cultural franchises of all time:

The Star Wars Holiday Special.

Where to begin with this hideous thing? (George Lucas himself said that “if I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.”) The bizarre roster of guest stars? The fact that the first ten minutes, and much of the rest, are in untranslated Wookiee, as if this was some kind of grad student art film? Carrie Fisher’s “Happy Life Day” solo at the end? The acid-trip sequences? Bea Arthur as proprietress of the Mos Eisley cantina? The seduction of Chewbacca’s father by a holographic Diahann Carroll?

The Holiday Special merges the worst of George Lucas’s imagination, commercial exploitation, and the (in)aesthetics of the 70s.

The afro of St. Nick

December 8, 2009

This might be the single best (as in, so-worst-it’s-best) Christmas spirit fail.

“Santa Claus Is a Black Man” is performed by Akim (the little girl) and the Teddy Vann Production Company (link to a probably unofficial MySpace). When and where, we couldn’t figure. According to this message board, you’ll see that it has a following in New Orleans, which was where we first heard it played repeatedly in our college cafeteria. The song was semi-popularized (or at least made known more widely among the weirdo community) when John Waters included it on his 2004 kitschy Christmas record.

At any rate, it’s a classically bad novelty Christmas song, but it has its charms–the adorable Akim, a delightfully preposterous premise, random Kwanzaa wishes, and the stereotype inversion that reminds us of, yes, the universality of the season.

All I want for Christmas is for singers to stop covering this song

November 6, 2009

There’s something delightful about Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”–it’s got a simple charm, a singable tune, amplified, of course, by the wide range of Carey’s voice. I’m not alone in this assessment. The New Yorker called the song “one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday canon.”

But the musical powers that be seem to think that a cute song sung well by its originator is thus worthy of being sung by anyone with a microphone. Take a hint, folks, it’s not “The First Noel.” “All I Want” is charming, but it’s not a carol or a hymn, meant for singing by those who don’t have Carey’s ability to pull it off.

Exhibit A:

You can take your fingers out of your ears now.

Exhibit B:

(Incidentally, Love Actually could headline a movie version of Christmas Spirit Fail–it’s at the pinnacle of contrived, manipulative, saccharine, “patently fantastical” holiday cinema. And the movie is also notable for featuring a purpose-written bad Christmas song.)

Bob Dylan, wishing you a very wheezy Christmas

November 6, 2009

It’s November, folks, and that means it’s time to kick off the blog of Christmas Spirit Fail–all those awful songs that will be invading your eardrums and declaring victory over the next two months.

Let’s start with an item in The Weekly Standard, which includes a fine article on how Bob Dylan fans “are the battered wives of the music industry.” Now, I’m OK with the early, dating-Joan-Baez Dylan as much as the next guy, but I can’t admit to being inspired with the hazy, lazy, wheezy, greasy stuff that Dylan spins out in his latter days. And that’s not going to change with Christmas in the Heart, Dylan’s schlocky holiday album. (Just listen to the song previews on Amazon!)

And then luxuriate in Andy Ferguson’s bilious criticism:

Christmas in the Heart, the most misanthropic Dylan album ever, spreads it all on the outer layer. The record is a collection of Christmas standards, familiar kitsch classics like “Winter Wonderland” and “Silver Bells” and forgotten kitsch classics like Sammy Cahn’s “Christmas Blues,” along with the obligatory quasi-hymns, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” sung, Deus misereatur, in Latin.

The production and packaging are professional. The band is competent in a midnight-at-the-Nashville Hyatt sort of way–maybe a little heavy on the tremolo but still. And the songs themselves are fine, of course. The arrangements, though, are jarringly slick, with sleigh bells and gossamer strings and cooing girl singers–as if Dylan had chosen to lift the backing tracks from an Andy Williams Christmas special circa 1968. Oozing just beneath his asthmatic croak, the arrangements give an effect of overwhelming creepiness. His voice gets worse with every track. You wonder whether someone left the karaoke machine on in the emphysema ward at the old folks’ home. He doesn’t sing notes so much as make exhausted gestures in their general direction, until at a break he falls silent and is rescued by the backup singers, who reestablish the melody in the proper key. But then he starts singing again.

Merry Christmas!