We Need A New Christmas Song
The Action Cookbook Newsletter's desperate attempt to save the season
This Christmas season is looking a little bit shaky, but I know what we need to save it.
Universal availability and widespread acceptance of a vaccine that can help stop the tide of a virus that has upended all aspects of normal life for the majority of the last year, and also financial assistance for the people and industries most directly impacted until a meaningful societal recovery can be realized?
I mean, well, yes, but no. That all would be good, definitely: it would ease the pain millions of people are currently feeling, prevent further senseless loss, and of course allow me to return to doing the things I love, like spending time with relatives, attending crowded events, and breathing heavily on buffet tables. But I know that’s not going to happen in the next 18 days.
No, what we need to save this Christmas season is a new Christmas song.
But Scott, there are already many Christmas songs.
This is incorrect. There are actually seven Christmas songs.
I came to this realization on Saturday night, when I took my children to see a drive-through holiday lights display. There were a ton of people waiting to get into the cave (what? Louisville is a normal place), and as we sat in standstill traffic on the highway off-ramp, we listened to a Christmas music playlist on repeat. From this mildly harrowing experience, and having worked multiple holiday seasons in retail, I can definitively say there are only seven core Christmas songs, and every song you hear is just a variation on one of those seven.
Those songs are:
It Is Christmas
For decades, musical artists have found long-lasting radio play and consistent royalty checks from simply standing in front of a microphone and declaring that it is Christmas. That’s pretty much all you needed to do for a hit. “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”, “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, etc. State the obvious, and get out before anyone asks more complicated questions.
But Also, Here Are Some Details About Christmas
Maybe stating that it’s Christmas isn’t enough for you—you’ve got to add to the canon. Frosty The Snowman, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town—these songs give us the origin stories, introduce new characters, tell us what those characters are doing in the lead-up to the holiday. It’s the Christmas Extended Universe, and it has a lot of continuity issues.
(As a complete side note, my four-year-old daughter broke down into tears when I couldn’t tell her the names of Santa’s reindeer the other night. I offered Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen and Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen, but before I could even get to Rudolph she was sobbing and insisting “not the ones from the song, I MEAN THE REAL ONES”. If you know the real ones, please let me know. It has been very tense around here not knowing.)
It Is Christmas, But I Am Sad
Most actually *good* Christmas music falls into this category. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”, “White Christmas”, etc. Any song that you can picture a World War II GI singing outside their tent on a snowy night, really. This also includes this year’s song of the season, Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December”.
(Here is my favorite version of that song.)
It Is Christmas, But I Am Singing About It In An Unexpected Way (And That Is The Entire Point of This Song)
[SCENE: DECCA RECORDS, 1957]
RECORD EXEC, chewing cigar: Alright, kid, you got a Christmas song for me?
BOBBY HELMS: yeah, it’s called Jingle Bell—
RECORD EXEC: [gruffly] It’s been done!
BOBBY HELMS: —Rock.
RECORD EXEC: [jaw drops, cigar falls out, desk catches on fire] I love it.
These range from classics like “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”, “Run Rudolph Run” all the way up to newer standards like “Christmas In Hollis” and yes I just called a song from 1986 “newer” so we’re going to move on before anyone thinks too hard about that.
It Is Christmas, And I Have Been Doing Drugs, Because It Is The 1960s
I have not received any more satisfactory explanation for the existence of the Alvin & Chipmunks Christmas song than this.
It Is Christmas, And I Am Horny For Some Reason
Christmas is a time of cold weather, gift-giving pressures, financial obligations and (in other years) travel to family gatherings; it is the least sexy time of the year. Yet some of you insist on being horny for Santa, a rotund mythical elf who is hundreds of years old and is also already married. I cannot help you if you refuse to help yourself.
It was kinda weird when Eartha Kitt did “Santa, Baby”, but it was so much weirder when Michael Buble changed the lyrics to “Santa, Buddy”. Quit sending Santa mixed signals, Michael. Tell the man what you want and don’t waste his time with games.
Anyways, you can lump in “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, and pretty much anything Katy Perry has sung while wearing a Santa hat here.
It Is Christmas, And I Would Like To Buy Another House
There is no other reason why Bruce Springsteen or Paul McCartney would or should have done Christmas songs, but they did.
If you are ever stuck on a long car ride with me and this song comes on, you will be subjected to my rant about how Bruce Springsteen should know more personal details about Clarence Clemons than the fact that he played saxophone. Why would Santa bring him a new sax, Bruce? He already has a sax. He’s playing it now. Did you ever bother to find out what his hobbies were? Maybe he likes making pasta.
I’m a delight on car rides.
That is all of the Christmas songs.
And they’re mostly fine, but none of them have saved *this* Christmas. What decades of Christmas movies have taught me, though, is that a catchy song and a heart full of holiday cheer might be all it takes to turn your fortunes around.
Maybe it’ll work for us! Maybe we can send 2020 packing with the right catchy tune.
With that in mind, I would like to write a new Christmas song this week, and I’m going to need your help. Please jump into the comments with one or more details, pulling from each of the Seven Core Christmas Songs. We’re going to combine them all like they’re Infinity Stones and come up with the best* Christmas song ever made.
*results not guaranteed
I NEED FROM YOU:
A weird way of stating that it is Christmas
A strange addition to the Christmas canon, like a new animal or something
A thing that we are sad about, and maybe not the obvious thing we are all sad about, because hopefully that’s less of a thing after this year and we’d like to keep cashing satellite radio royalty checks
A musical genre that those fools listening out there in Radioland wouldn’t expect to have a Christmas song, but it DOES
A twist to this song that could only be conceived of by a 1960s writer on drugs
A Christmas thing you are horny about, you degenerate weirdo
An artist in dire need of a comeback hit that we can try to sell this to
I will pick from the details you supply, and write a Christmas song that I will share in this Friday’s newsletter. Dolly Parton says she wrote “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You” in a single day (a miracle). Paul McCartney is said to have dashed off “Wonderful Christmastime” in 10 minutes (it shows). I think we can write a lasting Christmas hit this week, and maybe, just maybe, we can save this season.
—Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)