Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Love Songs for the Desperate and Needy

I have a soft spot for Christmas and romance, but I have never really thought of the two as natural partners. However, judging from the Christmas movies playing on Lifetime and ABC Family and the five million holiday-themed jewelry commercials in constant rotation, most people (or, at the very least, most people in charge of movies and marketing) think that Christmas is a romantic time of year. Perhaps this association explains the numerous Christmas songs that have to do with romance.

Done well, these songs can be very touching. Unfortunately, something that songwriters and singers have yet to learn is that, when combining romance and Christmas music, it is wise to tread with caution. Individually, Christmas carols and love songs must be handled with utmost care in order to keep from becoming cloyingly sweet or completely cheesy. When put together, this combination can be more dangerous than mixing bleach and ammonia and attempting to clean your unventilated bathroom. The over-the-top emotion and unabashed pathos that often accompany Christmas and romance can lead to a perfect storm of kitsch that leaves nothing but a few strands of tinsel in its wake.

There are many versions of the romantic Christmas song, but most annoying are the Christmas love songs that revolve around the intense desire to find true love (or, at the very least, get a holiday hook up). In most of these songs, the singer (or one of the singers) is alone, and the song acts as a desperate plea for love, company, and affection. Although this sounds like it has the potential to be effective, in most cases, it is just depressing or laughable. Here are some of the worst offenders:

"Baby It's Cold Outside"

"Baby It's Cold Outside" is perhaps the creepiest songs with this theme. It is, in essence, about a guy who is trying to convince/ coerce a woman to spend some more time with him. He gets some unexpected assistance in this quest by the weather. Emphasizing the unsettling thought that this song is about sexual harassment and/ or date rape is the girl's line: "Say, what's in this drink?" Although we are probably supposed to believe that she is referring to his excellent bar tending skills, I think I can safely say that, when most people hear this line, they are thinking that he slipped roofies into her cup of eggnog.
  • Worst Versions: While no version of this song is good (or even acceptable), the worst rendition is Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey's. Nick doesn't sound horrible, but Jessica's vocals are so bad that I am convinced Nick slipped some sort of sleeping pill (rather than a date-rape drug) into her drink in order to get her to shut up. Honorable mention for the worst cover of this song goes to Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton.
"Please Come Home for Christmas"

This song needs a dose of Prozac, stat! If you take away the music (which isn't half bad), what is left is the lyrical equivalent of a drunken voice mail message. Without too many vocal theatrics, this song is bearable and fills a niche for people who must deal with breakups during the holidays. However, when the singer becomes overwrought, the song takes a decided turn for the worst.
  • Worst Version: Jon Bon Jovi, without a doubt, has the most depressing and over-the-top version of this song. While the Charles Brown original is the perfect example of how "Please Come Home for Christmas" benefits from a straightforward interpretation, Bon Jovi opts to give it the the full Celine Dion/ Whitney Houston treatment. Be certain to watch the unintentionally hilarious music video, which features Bon Jovi making out with Cindy Crawford and smelling an abandoned Santa hat.
"What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"

At first glance, the singer sounds so utterly depressed that hating the song would be like kicking a puppy. Unlike the somewhat playful quality of "Baby It's Cold Outside" or the impassioned pleading in "Please Come Home for Christmas," the singer here seems to have abandoned all hope and sounds like he (or she) is one rejection away from doing something desperate. That said, this song seems awfully manipulative, and its blatant use of guilt to get a date on New Year's Eve makes me think that the singer isn't nearly as downtrodden as he or she tries to appear. Based on the lyrics, it is almost impossible to turn the singer down. In most cases, I can't see anyone rejecting a date request that includes the lines:
Maybe I'm crazy to suppose
I'd ever be the one you chose
Out of a thousand invitations
You'd receive

Ah, but in case I stand one little chance
Here comes the jackpot question in advance
What are you doing New Year's
New Year's Eve?
  • Worst Version: This probably has to go to the much maligned American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken. It isn't that I hate his voice, but his interpretation sounds much too cheery and smooth. Aiken emphasizes that fact that the phrase "What are you doing New Year's Eve?" is a pickup line you get from that insincere douche who's hitting on every girl at the bar. While this is more straightforward than the soulful pleading found in numerous other versions, it doesn't make the song any better.