Archive for the ‘Probably Not a Sweet Aroma in His Nostrils’ 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?

Why, Wynonna? Why?

December 11, 2012

The chorus on this failer really grabs your attention:

Yes, that’s right:

Let’s make a baby king
Let’s make him Lord of all
Let’s give him everything
Let’s make a baby king

There’s a mystery here. The rest of the song of the song is a conventional account of and analysis of Jesus’ birth and life (with the mistaken notion slipped in there that Jesus’ chief purpose was to be a moral exemplar). The chorus is actually designed to be the voice of angels heralding the coming of Christ.

Instead, it envisions Mary as a cast member on Teen Mom casually discussing the whole pregnancy idea with no-goodnik boyfriend Joseph. And that’s enough to qualify “Let’s Make a Baby King” as an all-time Christmas Spirit Fail contender.

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.

Can you handel the ’80s?

November 26, 2010

A merry Advent for a new year, Christmas Spirit Failers! Your favorite misanthropes had thought about hanging up their knit cap after last year, but let’s face it — awful Christmas music just goes on and on and on and on. And we haven’t even gotten to “The Christmas Shoes” yet.

But save that for another time. Here, we have what appears to be three-fourths of a Goth-ABBA tribute band strutting across a faux-marble stage while belting out a synco-pop version of “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted,” from Handel’s Messiah.

The band was called First Call, and this video dates to 1989[?], a contemporary Christian version of Messiah that features a whole array of mediocre singers, ear-rending accompaniment, and 80s hair.

Indeed, every great oratorio shall be made low.

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”?

The Advent of something wonderful

November 30, 2009

Welcome back from Thanksgiving, everyone! On Friday, Christmas shopping picked up in earnest, and on Sunday, the Christian year began with the season of Advent. The latter observance is a beautiful occasion in the parish of this blog’s authors, for we dust off timeless Advent classics. Not Christmas carols, mind you–those are reserved for our special Lessons and Carols service and otherwise for the season of Christmas, which begins December 25. No, I’m talking about Advent hymns: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus,” and “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.”

(May we also put in a good word for Catherine Winkworth’s beautiful translation of Johann Olearius’s hymn based on Isaiah 40, “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People“?)

Of course, this blog is nothing if not relentlessly misanthropic, so we cannot wax on about the beauty of Advent hymnody. However, it was hard to find a Christmas Spirit Fail that is actually about Advent. But fear not: your relentless team of bloggers has unearthed “21st Advent Hymn,” by a serendipitously named Dutch band “This Beautiful Mess.” (The last word of the name is the serendipitous part.) You can find it here. I think it’s fair to say this will not become part of the Advent canon.