Archive for the ‘Saccharine Treats’ Category

Kel-ly. You don’t have to put on the red dress.

December 9, 2013

Your team at Christmas Spirit Fail notes with much dismay that Love Actually seems to have entered the (adult, anyway) Christmas movie canon. This is probably in part due to its silly notion that the purpose of Christmas is little more than that people declare their secret loves for one another, no matter how fantastical those romances may be. No matter whether the object of your desire is older or younger, gay or straight, boss or serving-wench, single or married to your old chum — Christmas is the season that sanctifies your romantic desires.

(And in drearily secular Britain, sure, why not?)

Kelly Clarkson doubles down on that principle with her new holiday album and its lead single:

After starting out with some of the purest inanities ever uttered in a Christmas album (“Everybody’s happy/prayers are being nicer/miracles all around”), Kelly goes on to describe an unrequited love:

From afar I’ve loved you/but never let it show/and every year another/December comes and goes
But this Christmas/I’m gonna risk it all/This Christmas/I’m not afraid to fall

Kelly does this by showing up dressed in red, perhaps, which is assumed to be the universal language–replacing “words I never said”–for “I love you.”

So watch out, ladies, when you put on the red dress this Christmas, lest you signal something you don’t really intend to the men in your company.


Dreaming of a green Christmas…

December 6, 2013

Everyone from Tennessee to California to the District of Columbia seems to have a special pride in the way they celebrate Christmas at home. With a tip of the homburg to @anikapanika, the Pacific Northwest is no exception:

The point of regional pride, of course, is that Christmas isn’t white in the Northwest–it’s green (unless, of course, you find yourself east of the Cascades, but let’s do like most people in Seattle do and pretend those folks don’t exist).

And… that’s about the entire substance of this five-minute song. You might be forgiven for feeling like that “gift wrapped up in green” was a wee bit oversold.

Where are you, Christmas spirit? Not here

December 6, 2012

From Polar Express to The Santa Clause 3, America’s worst Christmas movies are often paired with America’s worst Christmas pop standards! So it makes perfect sense that, paired with Jim Carrey’s execrable The Grinch would be a truly obnoxious song: “Where Are You Christmas?” by Faith Hill.

The one redeeming feature of this video is the grand joke the costume designer played on Faith Hill, ostensibly dressing her as a denizen of Whoville but really giving her crimped ’80s hair and a White Witch coat.

There is no lyrical depth at all. “Where is Christmas? Christmas is here–in your heart!” It’s fitting, really. How much Christmas spirit can you have when the Christmas spirit becomes the object of Christmas? Christmas becomes a self-referential holiday whose only purpose is to occur–in Faith Hill’s caterwauling, it has no significance at all.

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.

Pucker Up

December 2, 2011

Hello again, friends! Once again, it’s the time of year when radio stations start shaking things up by shelving their regular rotation of 20 songs in favor of their Christmas mix. You might be thinking, “Finally! I get a reprieve from Justin Bieber.” Not so fast. Standard practice among pop stars seems to be that once they reach a certain level of popularity, they take it upon themselves to reinterpret holiday favorites and to add one or two new, poorly written tunes to the anthology of bad Christmas music. This year, Justin Bieber assaults our ears with his original song, “Mistletoe.”

This should be a melancholy tune because he laments the holiday activities he’s missing due to spending time under the mistletoe. I guess it’s ok because he’s going to be “With you, shawty with you. With you, shawty with you. With you under the mistletoe.” I assume his tween fans insert themselves into this by imagining that he’s singing directly to them. Have your ears started bleeding yet? No? Keep listening for lines like, “I don’t want to miss out on the holiday, but I can’t stop staring at your face,” and “Wise men followed a star, the way I followed my heart.” (Note: those lyrics are intended to rhyme.)  

The music video contradicts the song, showing him outside in the snow-one of the things he’s supposedly not doing because he’s under the mistletoe. He also proves that he’s finally old enough to drive by briefly cruising in, but mostly just standing in front of, a Porsche. It would be much more appropriate to show him idly standing below a ball of mistletoe, staring at some girl, while the camera cuts to his friends and family enjoying the season without him. Sadly, they didn’t ask for my creative direction. Maybe next time…

The feds should go after this kind of sugary treat…

December 6, 2010

We at Christmas Spirit Fail hang our homburg in the District of Columbia, where we have for several years now enjoyed a festive and charming Christmas season, accented by the “national” Christmas trees and other public displays. (The wreaths at Union Station may be our favorite.)

And since there’s no chance that a pleasant thing won’t get ruined by attempts to memorialize it in song:

The music alone makes our teeth ache, but the lyrics are worse: like a cut-rate Peggy Noonan under a close deadline to bang out a religious-patriotic holiday column, Maura Sullivan (the singer) and John London’s syrupy verse places even Christmas under the thumb of our federal frolic-masters in “America’s hometown.”

(That’s right: they call it “America’s hometown.” Notwithstanding the fact that at least half of D.C. area residents were born somewhere else, and often call that place their hometown, what claim does the federal city have of being the place where Americans devote their patriotic affection? I think Philly has a much better claim.)

And the chorus ought to offend every red-blooded American: Read the rest of this entry »

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”?


November 18, 2009

Refrains can be good: Psalm 136 comes to mind. (“His steadfast love endures forever.”) Others seem a little less inspired–if no less fun–filling out a line, looking for a rhyme. “Sha-na-na,” “Na na na na na na na na na na na,” and “Pa rum pa pum pum.”

“The Little Drummer Boy” is proof that oldies are not necessarily goodies. First written in 1941, it has been covered more than 220 times, by artists as diverse as the Trapp Family Singers, Joan Jett, Alicia Keys, Boyz II Men, Gladys Knight, John Denver, the Brady Bunch, Neil Diamond, and a very-strange-bedfellows pairing of Bing Crosby and David Bowie. It was Richard Nixon’s favorite Christmas song. (‘Nuff said.) Apart from its uncreative refrain, the song is a shiny plastic piece of Christmas kitsch, on the order of “Silent Night” or “Away in a Manger,” downplaying the gritty fleshiness of the birth of Jesus.

On the plus side, it is the centerpiece of a charming Rankin-Bass TV special, and I think we can all long for the days when Yuletide TV specials were more like this and less like this.

And, as a holiday bonus, enjoy this little gem:

Christmas heartache (and earache)

November 17, 2009

What do you think of at Christmas? Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Sweet memories with family? Cider and egg nog? Making snowmen? The birth of the Christ child?

George Michael and someone else think about this time someone broke their heart.

“Last Christmas” embodies so much about Christmas spirit fail. First off, it has a noxious but insistent melody, which makes itself an unwelcome guest in your ears. It has relentlessly syrupy lyrics. And it’s depressing to boot–a song deliberately designed to kill your Christmas cheer.

Its one grace note may be when Wham! whines “I thought you were someone special” on the seemingly endless denouement. (Did I mention that “Last Christmas” clocks in at almost 7 minutes? It feels as though it lasts all the way from last Christmas to this one.)

And because it is so uniquely awful, “Last Christmas” is a top choice for cover artists, including Ashley Tisdale, who seems intent on proving that there’s no tune that the Disney Channel’s subtalented tweens won’t make even worse.

Teary Christmas, everyone.