Monday, December 15, 2003

What is it about Christmas music which brings out the worst, and occasionally, best, in artists? There need to be rules. Those of you considering recording a Christmas record for 2004, please remember the following:

1. Stop recording "The Christmas Song." Accept that Nat "King" Cole recorded the definitive version, and move on. There are plenty of other Christmas songs for you to cover. Black artists, however, may cover "The Christmas Song" if promising not to touch Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas."

2. Adding scatalogical humor, your pornographic fantasies, and/or a gratuitous "fuck" or "shit" to your Christmas song does not make it funny, except to those who purchase CDs released by "morning zoo" DJs. Bob Rivers, please accept that you're a talentless loser and preheat that gas oven.

3. Try something different for a change; cover a lesser-known song, or write your own. Think about it: many of the Christmas songs we most often hear during December, especially on the radio, are originals, from Macca's "Wonderful Christmastime" (we'll allow painfully dated production in the spirit of the season) to the mighty colossus that is "Christmas In Hollis" by Run-D.M.C.. Of course, different does not necessarily = good: when Reverend Run made his second appearance on a Very Special Christmas album, putting together a conglomeration of late-'90s hip-hop stars to "cover" "Santa Baby," he made the unfortunate decision to include Onyx. Funny, being shouted at somehow doesn't put me in the holiday spirit.

4. Rappers, more of you should cut Christmas songs. But please, put the cursing on hold for just this once, okay? We know you're "hard," really. [Addendum: this does not apply to DMX, who should never, ever attempt a Christmas record.]

5. Gospel artists, pick up a copy of Kirk Franklin and the Family's Christmas, go home, and listen to it. Enjoy it. And realize that you'll likely never top it. Anyone who can make a song titled "Jesus Is the Reason for the Season" as funky as Franklin and company did deserves a medal, or something.

6. Christmas is not an excuse to pile on the gloppy, overdone production. Josh Groban, Celine Dion ("buy my new par-fem and smell like a French-Canadian whore!"), and anyone associated with American Idol (especially the insufferably dweebish Gay - I mean, Clay - Aiken), are you listening to me? However, this does not mean you can't use superstar producers for the season, as TLC proved when they had Dallas Austin helm their "Sleigh Ride," which still sounds so fresh and so clean. Chad and Pharrell, please - the library of Christmas songs needs you.

7. For proof that not all rock Christmas records have to end up like Slade's "Merry Christmas Everybody," I present the cover of "Run Run Rudolph" by Keith Richards. And the original by Chuck Berry. Take notes.

8. The only perfect-from-start-to-finish Christmas album ever released is A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Period. Though the one Phil Spector helmed comes oh so close. And the worst, or at least most unnecessary? Undoubtedly Christmas on Death Row, not a comp of killers and rapists warbling holiday cheer, but Suge Knight's cabal of artists circa '95, redeemed only by Snoop Dogg's take on "Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto."

Forthcoming: my guide to the definitive Christmas songs. And yes, it most certainly does include Wham!. And at least two other Christmas-not-Christmas songs from 1984 (a good year for such records). As well as the only great Christmas song to include the word "faggot." [Who knows which one that is? C'mon, it's easy! The "comment" box awaits your response(s)...]

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