Santa Claus Is Looking For Love?

Santa Claus Is Looking For Love?

I had a bit of a drive to pick out a Christmas tree, and, feeling seasonally challenged, I figured the best way to jollify myself would be to find some holiday music somewhere on the radio dial.  I stumbled into a Country Christmas Celebration expecting Amy Grant’s “Tennessee Christmas” or at worst, Patsy and Elmo’s “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”.

No such luck.

What I got was Johnny Lee’s “Santa Claus Is Looking for Love”, recorded, as far as I could tell, in an after hours dive with recording equipment last used to capture Wendell Wilkie’s concession speech.  I am not familiar with the rest of the Johnny Lee songbook, a privilege I intend to protect.  Niggling issues of quality aside, the idea of Santa cruising the streets to find sweet, sweet love in his off-season did little to bounce me into snow-flecked good cheer.

There have been so many  great holiday classics, and I’m a sucker for all of them.  My tastes are broad; Country Christmas is fine by me:  Clint Black’s “‘Til Santa’s Gone”, Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper”, and Alan Jackson’s “Let It Be Christmas”.  I’ve been attached to Burl Ives’ “Holly Jolly Christmas” for decades, anybody’s “Let It Snow”, Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” (I’ll have uh huh huh blue Christmas without you) ), Bing’s “Mele Kalikimaka”, K.D. Lang’s “Jingle Bell Rock”,  Mariah’s “All I Want For Christmas is You”,  Don Henley’s “Please Come Home For Christmas”, even the marginally creepy “Santa Baby” as sung by Eartha Kitt and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”… Wait …OK, maybe not.  “Say, what’s in this drink”, puts me in mind of a Cosby Christmas.

Nevertheless, there are dozens, hundreds, of perfectly hummable holiday pop standards alongside the traditional carols ( A Pentatonix Christmas combines both!), but by some dark turn of circumstance, there are two or three unexceptional songs that crawl uninvited deep into the midbrain, sending intrusive blasts of tedious blather again and again.

Repetitive.  That’s the key, I think.  The droning, repetitive choruses are inescapable.

I want to wish you a Merry Christmas

I want to wish you a Merry Christmas

I want to wish you a Merry Christmas

From the bottom of my heart …

And repeat.

But the most devastating brainworm is the work of a remarkable songwriter, Paul McCartney, whose gift for lyrical composition is evident in almost a hundred pop classics.

Here goes:

The moon is right

The Spirits up

We’re here tonight

And that’s enough    (uh, “up” and “enough”? )

Simply having a wonderful Christmastime

Simply having a wonderful Christmastime

The party’s on

The feelin ‘s here

That only comes  (wait for it!)

This time of year.

Simply having a wonderful Christmastime

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time

I try, I try to block it out.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  Ears covered.  But then, this bit takes me all the way to holiday hell.  McCartney leaps down the scale.  One note per word.  ONE note per word.  Why not just punch us as you sing, Paul?

The choir of children sing their song

Ding dong, ding dong

Ding dong, ding ooo

Ooo ooo toot toot toot toot toot toot

We’re simply having a wonderful Christmastime

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time…

Look, I’m impressed that McCartney plays every instrument in the mix; he probably had a great time pulling it together in his studio, but this is the sort of song ninth grade kids make up on a sleepover.  The only difference is that this one is trotted out on an hourly basis from October until Boxing Day.

Dazed, pummelled, I found myself wondering what other highly competent contemporary pop stars might have come up with if moved to write a holiday hit in their own style.

Paul Simon?

Hello Christmas, my old friend

You’ve come to jeer at me again.

Because the holly softly creeping

strangled me when I was sleeping

And the tunes that were planted in my brain

Still remain

Within the sounds of Christmas

 

James Brown?

Woah!

I been good!   (dah duh dah duh da duh dumm!)

 I knew that I could, now (dah duh dah duh dah duh dum!)

I been good (dah duh dah duh dah duh dum!)

I knew that I could now (dah duh dah duh dah duh dum!)

So good (bop!) 

So good (bop!)

Santa come through!

Whoah!

I started to juggle Britney Spears’ lyrics and discovered that simply replacing “baby” with “Santa” made it all work reasonably well as a statement of continuing belief in the jolliest of elves, who, I am led to believe, is looking for love this season.

Oh, Santa, Santa

How was I supposed to know

That something wasn’t right?

Oh, Santa, Santa

I shouldn’t have let you go

And now you’re out of sight, yeah

Show me how you want it to be

Tell me, Santa

‘Cause I need to know now, oh, because

My loneliness is killing me (and I)

Must confess I still believe (still believe)

When I’m not with you I lose my mind

Hit me Santa, one more time.  (ok, that may be out of bounds.)

None of these have the penetrating power of the McCartney dirge, but I had for a moment erased the cascading ding dong, ding ooo.  My family has long begged me to give holiday music a rest; I’m not even allowed to start listening until the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Sixteen days until Christmas.  Simply having …

 

 

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