Friday, 26 December 2014

The Return of the Christmas Music Compilation (2014)

Like an old acquaintance shoving a photo of his kids in your face, Christmas has once again forced itself upon us. And it's just as unwelcome as ever. Now I used to like Christmas back in my halcyon childhood years. There was something positively enchanting about gathering around the fire with your closest family members as a deluge of snow laid waste to the world beyond the confines of your home. But when you grow up it's like watching a behind-the-scenes feature on the DVD of your favourite film: the magic inevitably fades. I felt it around the time I realised people were willing to tear each other apart over naff television sets, like they're in the Sudan fighting over the last scraps of food.

And when you're stood in shops beginning to resemble the Battle of the Hornburg you will, inevitably, be subjected to Christmas music. Which leads me to the crux of this article: another round of reviewing terrible Christmas music! If you cast your mind back to the Golden Age of 2009, then you'll remember I compiled a collection of songs I claimed to be the most terrible Christmas songs ever. Well, it would seem my haste to be definitive left me in a worse position for a sequel than the ending of The Dutchess of Malfi. But, blah, Christmas, something, Scrooge McDuck, blah.

Here are five more Christmas songs so awful they could tear the beard off Santa’s face. So sit back, get yourself a nice warm, frothy cocoa and let me explain why buying a lump of coal for your children was the right decision.

Note: This article, not unlike Mary Shelly's Modern Prometheus, has been patched together from unfinished articles and notes. Therefore, it may read as such. But this blog has never had particularly high production standards - humorous, given my pen name.

1) Donny Hathaway – This Christmas 

I’ve never understood why many artists romanticize Christmas, presenting it as a Hallmark style sipping red wine by a roaring fire affair. Look at the ugly truth behind Christmas – the stress, sinking further into debt, depression, marital strain, and family gatherings inevitably ruined by someone drinking way over the Russian drink drive limit. You’d be forgiven for expecting Christmas music to be fronted by doom merchants Throbbing Gristle. But no, they keep forcing the aforementioned romantic version upon us like the world’s most needy philanthropist. And frankly, it’s as inappropriate as attempting to open a manicure salon in a town inhabited solely by armless men.

Enter the late Donny Hathaway, the soul artist with the silky voice of a thousand snake oil salesmen, and his R&B/ Christmas love song ‘This Christmas’. Opening with blues style Christmas music it instantly conjures images of a Coca Cola Christmas advert. Being both a romantic song, and a celebration of a holiday that has lost its way to such an extent it should be renamed the Ludwig Leichhardt memorial day, it features expectedly smooth lyrics such as: “And as I look around your eyes outshine the town, they do,” mixed with Christmas references and puns, “Hang all the mistletoe I'm gonna get to know you better, yeah”. This means that for the majority of the time it sounds like a bad parody featured in The Simpsons, whenever the writers create a Christmas episode.

The Christmas themed lyrics, coupled with their subtle hints of sexuality, come across as lines you expect to hear escaping the mouth of a rapist who has broken into your house dressed as Santa. Particularly cringe-worthy is: “And as we trim the tree, how much fun it's gonna be together, yeah ha”. Then this gem which crops up later: “Fireside is blazing bright, we're carolling through the night,” is the zenith of the absurdity. Just what are the connotations of carolling all through the night next to a roaring fire? Are we meant to take it at face value? Or do we assume it is Hathaway code informing his female fans that tonight they are going to be ding donging merrily whilst shepherds watch? All in all, Donny Hathaway should have stuck to what he was good at – committing suicide.

"Well someone's getting a million grandma sweaters for that remark..."

2) Barry Gordon - Nuttin’ for Christmas 

It is hardly secret that I firmly dislike children. In fact, I spend most nights browsing the internet for a window sticker that will allow to me to publicly display my approval of the tenth plague that blighted Egypt. I also prescribe to the Victorian standard of “children should be seen not heard.” Which may seem overly harsh, but whilst they had to endure the horrors that came with rapid urbanization, the Victorians were at least spared Justin Bieber and Jaden Smith. And this 1955 ‘classic’ represents my irrational hatred perfectly. Much like how the supporters of Ibis Football Club must feel every time the team steps onto the pitch; you know it’s going to go downhill from the offset as soon you hear the opening music and it borders on reaching the same pitch as the mating call of the average female Geordie.

The vocals are horribly accented in that way that all children do when singing, such as singing nuttin’ and gettin’ in a manner most befitting a bad Artful Dodger impersonation. It is supposed to sound cute, a sort of ode to that pitiful remorse you feel as a child when you're about to face punishment for your behaviour.  But the boy comes across as a right royal twat. A product of an enabling culture that wraps him in cotton wool and gold star graphs. He's like one of the weird psychic kids from Children of the Damned, wondering why he's being hauled down to Scotland Yard for slaughtering his entire village.

Musically it sounds like something created by the Silver Shamrock company from Halloween III. Antagonising lyrics aside, the ear-splitting instrumental warble is agonisingly bad. It's the type of unharmonious wailing you'd expect to emanate from a portal to a universe inhabited solely by cumbersome scrotums and giant zips. I just cannot fathom how anyone can hear this song and think: "Oh. Here is a classic song which epitomises the Christmas experience." Maybe if Christmas was some post-apocalyptic wasteland in which survivors are ruthlessly hunted down by monsters that have taken the form of children. And when the survivors are found these monsters kill them by exposing them to an unceasing barrage of subsonic noise, until their heads explode like those of many a jelly baby. Err, moving on...

"Oh god...a choir of mutant children!"

3) Cliff Richard – 21st Century Christmas

In accordance with probability theory, Cliff Richard ending up on this list was as inevitable as the Pied Piper of Hamelin ending up on his own ‘special list’. He has written the majority of Christmas songs you’ll have heard which places him just below Peter Waterman on the list of Pop music’s most evil men. One of his later offerings, 21st Century Christmas, is simply a blatant attempt to appear hip with references to texting and DVDs whilst peddling his Christian ideals like many a Christian Metal band before him. There is only one way that the word hip could be attributed to Cliff Richard, and that is in the term ‘hip replacement’. At the core of the very concept of the song lays an air of desperation. It's similar to a typical modern American priest who cynically injects his sermons with things that he found on a wiki page about what teenagers like in order to convert America’s youth.

For many, Cliff is the de facto face of Christmas. I understand why; his songs have a simple universal message: be a good, virtuous person and embrace the spirit of Christmas. And secretly judge and plot the slaughter of anyone who gets in the way of your festive celebrations. A tried and tested approach which, akin to the aging man trying to desperately cling onto his Club 18-30 days, Old Cliffy has barely altered since his heyday. The man single-handedly proves that the United Nations would have a far easier time abandoning stuffy politics for middle-of-the-road music. Unfortunately, his kindly pastor approach to his song making has shred him of any lingering hint of his Cliff and the Shadows, or Devil Woman era image. So 21st Century Christmas comes across as an ignominious attempt at a soft rock anthem. It's a bit like your parents asking "which one's Pikachu?" when you're playing The Legend of Zelda.

Funnily enough, I fully intended to include this song in the 2009 original list before he became embroiled in the 'everything from the Seventies was a molester and must henceforth be banned,' debacle. I wrote the opening line but decided not to winnow poor Cliff Richard. It seemed too obvious a choice, and I wanted to remain on my grandmother's good side (she promised me a PS3, and I have no integrity). Whilst this song is by no means the absolute 'worst' I was touched by the prescient irony. And no, Cliff's lawyers, that was not an admission that he bummed me.

4) Los Del Rio – Christmas Macarena 

For those of you too young to remember, the Macarena was the nineties’ Gangnam Style. And yes, it was as equally annoying and repetitive. If you have ever been on a work Christmas outing then you'll surely have seen the Macarena in action. It's the female equivalent of the 'Dad dancing pistols'. As priorly mentioned, the Macarena was an inexplicably massive hit. Naturally the studio wanted to continue to cash in on the success before public interest waned like the flaccid cock of Henry VIII as he carried Anne of Cleaves over the threshold. And they only had one option really. In a stagnating horror movie franchise the story would be taken to the final frontier of space, but this is a pop song - which therefore means re-branding it as a 'Christmas' version.

The Christmas Macarena is, however, downright bizarre. For the most part, it's the same song. Two well-dressed Spanish gentlemen compare the object of their affections to Mary Magdalene while doing an assembly line dance, like they're the overseers at a factory that which produces slutty boxes. But between the verses, the female dancers sing lines from such popular Christmas carols as; "Joy to the World," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and "Auld Lang Syne". And it is done in such a hauntingly ethereal style, that it clashes with the Latino beat of the rest of the track. You don't need to be an Immunologist to know that putting these antithetical styles go together is going to have the same effect as T4 Bacteriophage binding with E.Coli cells.

It probably doesn't help that the video resembles something a particularly festive serial killer would coerce his victims to perform in his basement. The women are all dressed in 'sexy' Christmas themed clothes and performing a rather uncomfortable rendition of the dance; it's essentially every end of year disco my alma mater organised. All the while these ladies sing in the manner of a ghost who realised it had won the lottery mere moments before being splattered by a bus. Undoubtedly, this is not a song you'd want on in the background whilst you're trying to avoid being dragged into the inevitable Prosecco fueled Christmas Day argument.

5) Robbie Williams – Walk This Sleigh 

Like how every female sand tiger shark anticipates the day it'll get to eat its bastard offspring, I too have been preparing for the day when I can crown what is unequivocally the worst Christmas song of all time. At first the title suggests a Christmas parody of the 1975 classic ‘Walk This Way’. And whilst it may have been as cringe-worthy as a Pathologist who brings his work home with him, it would have at least been able to justify its existence. The actual song however is not humorous, or (I suspect) it was intended to be humorous but came off as funny as a particular November 2006 performance at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood.

The idea of the song fits with the pseudo running theme I presented throughout this article; that akin to donning a comb over hairstyle, there is little point in pretending. After all we all know the day is no longer about Jesus, God or even Father Christmas. It's barely even about enjoying the actual festivities. Just dance around the capitalist maypole. Robbie Williams doesn't even bother pretending he isn't a bigger dick than a Richard Kiel blimp, however. As is evident in this next track; a track so awful that it is being deployed against the ISIS scourge. If the terrorists think they hate western culture now...

Walk this Sleigh is a combination of the typical Williams' tuneless singing and piss-poor pseudo-rapping/talking. The two styles battling against one another is also reflected in the subject matter. One moment he's performing a saccharine (if a little smarmy) chorus about Christmas spirit, and then in the verse he claims: "You definitely won't find a virgin." Clearly Robbie Williams can get women into bed faster than a cold breeze from an open window. He also seems to, rather weirdly, confuse enjoying the Christmas period with performing night-time executions. Seriously: "I don't care if lords are leaping, I take a gat to the back, While they are sleeping, And make sure that they won't be breathing." Sorry, Mr. Stoke-on-Trent. I can't wait for his new track -  'The Wire: Christmas Edition.'

"This is my Christmas Spirit killing gun."

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