All Hail, Burl Ives!

All I want for Christmas is some decent music.

About 2,000 years ago, a baby was born in Bethlehem who would change the world, and every musician on earth will never let us forget it. Now, I am not a Scrooge nor a Grinch nor the Christmas Hitler. I love the Christmas season: The lights, the presents, the eggnog, the cookies, the eggnog-cookie vomit, and especially the music. Nothing sets the mood for the Christmas season like the music. I hear it in the mall, in my car, and even at my dentist’s office. There is nothing like listening to “Silent Night” while having my teeth scraped by a dental hygienist whose boobs kept hitting me in the head. The problem is that listening to most Christmas songs is like getting one’s teeth scraped by Captain Hook. My goal is to help distinguish the good from the bad, the pretty from the ugly, and the ear-pleasing from the ear-abusing.

First, one must remember it is very hard to mess up a traditional, religious Christmas song. I have never heard a bad version of “O Holy Night.” Even the South Park version of the song is wonderful, even with Cartman getting electrocuted throughout the song. (I ignore the ’N Sync version in order to pretend it never existed). Nobody can really screw up songs like “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” and “First Noel.” “Silent Night” is the exception. “Silent Night” is the Christmas whore, passed from singer to singer until it resembles Courtney Love. It has the cigarette burns and STDs to prove it.

Secular songs are a mixed bag of candy and excrement. There are some songs that are Christmas staples. It’s just not Christmas without Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” or Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis.” These songs are traditions. My grandma used to play these songs every Christmas until her untimely adoption of the gangsta rap lifestyle. Unfortunately, radio stations rarely play these classics, instead choosing a lighter fare of newer artists singing the classic songs. It’s just not the same. I would rather listen to Judy Garland or Frank Sinatra’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” than hear The Pretenders warble it out. I mean, why did they let Debbie Gibson sing “Sleigh Ride”? What kind of God would allow that?

A good way to judge whether a song will be good or bad is to examine the morality of the artist. The plastic Andy Williams singing “Winter Wonderland” is good; Britney Spears singing any Christmas song is very, very bad. Josh Groban’s Noel became a number-one selling album for good reason: There are no headlines reading “Josh Groban Caught in Sex Sting with 20 Midgets” or “Josh Groban Covers Children with Cocaine: Many Children Sniffed,” nor have there been any pictures of him flashing his vagina to photographers … yet.

The morality factor works in almost every case, and I don’t use “morality” just in the Christian sense. Everyone on Earth can agree that Johnny Mathis is Satan, and every song he sings contains evil within it. The man is orange and never ages. He’s either Satan or the Ponce de Leon of oompa loompas.

And if Johnny Mathis is Satan, his minions are Wilson-Phillips. They sing the worst song in the history of Christmas songs: “Hey, Santa.” This song is an ode to their talentless, tangerine ruler cleverly disguised as a Christmas song. Notice the similarities between “Hey, Santa” and “Hail Satan!” This Wilson-Phillips ditty caused Mama Cass to choke on a ham sandwich.

Other songs that are in league with Satan are Wyclef Jean’s “Little Drummer Boy/Hot Hot Hot,” Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” and the unfortunately titled “Back Door Santa” by B.B. King.

The only way to combat their power is to listen to, in order, Bruce Springstein’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” U2′s version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” Sting’s “I Saw Three Ships,” and The Chipmunks’ “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late).” This summons Burl Ives, who destroys Johnny Mathis and saves baby Jesus. Only then will Christmas come.

Clearly, Christmas carols are very important to the celebration of the season. From “Jingle Bells” to “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” holiday melodies add to the ambiance of this very special time of the year. They can harm eardrums or warm the cockles of hearts. They can be used for good and for evil. I’ve given you guidance — choose your songs wisely. Merry Christmas! And all hail, Burl Ives!

Article © 2007 by Mike Meagher