“Merry Christmas,” indeed. We love the celebration, but the soundtrack grinds the proverbial gears when one’s ears meet “Jingle Bells” for the 40th time. As an alternative, check out this soundtrack.
At The Big Smoke, we’re a complex lot. We’re imbued with the Christmas spirit, but our toes curl at the sound of the normative festive tunes. You know, the same soundtrack you’ve been earwormed with since the stores turned to Chrimbo in mid-September. Today, the birth of Santa is especially heinous in this regard as those annual songs we’ve heard to death have now been flogged to death anew. But, no matter. For those of you among us who desire a slightly different seasonal auditory experience, may we present our Super Sweet Alternate Christmas Banger Mixtape #1.
Run-DMC – “Christmas in Hollis”
Yeah, it’s that song from the start of Die Hard, but it deserves to be heard on its own merits because it’s an absolute clusterfudge fever-dream of a Christmas miracle. It’s a hip-hop song about a chance meeting with Santa Claus—like that Tim Allen movie, but not terrible.
Now that’s tricky.
Best Bit: It’s Christmas time in Hollis, Queens / Mom’s cooking chicken and collard greens / Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese / And Santa put gifts under Christmas trees
Lyrical bombs all delivered standing next to a rubbish, albeit festive, plastic table.
Paul Kelly – “How to Make Gravy”
Absolute tune. Placed in part to annoy our esteemed publisher [Merry Christmas, Alex], “How to Make Gravy” retells Australia’s poet in-resident’s take on Christmas. Missing out, because you’re in jail. The entirety of the song is over one phone call replete with jangly guitar (one could assume old mate snuck it into the nick), which gives us a clean snapshot about the true meaning of Christmas: it’s not what you have, but what you can miss out on.
Sharing the title is the repeated, heartfelt plea that the protagonist breathes, in fear that the gravy will suffer most of all. All subtext of course, but we never do find out who makes the condiment. Maybe no one? Maybe no one cared about the gravy? Maybe no one cares about him not being there. Masterful work. Also, if you want more, check out Paul Kelly’s TedEx.
The Killers – “Boots”
It starts with Jimmy Stewart wanting to kill himself in It’s a Wonderful Life.
The Killers (who soundtracked the early years of poisoning my liver and clouding my mind) have a strange annual tradition of releasing Christmas songs. For some reason. “Boots” speaks on the other element of Christmas, looking back at the celebrations of years gone by, a moment of clarity reached when its too late to return to the idealized Christmases of your youth.
Wham! – “Last Christmas”
Unroll those eyes. It’s a banger. Featuring sleigh bells and George Michael at his most aesthetically pleasing (phwoar), “Last Christmas” is thin on subtext, re: being romantically turfed on Christmas—and a willingness to be dumped once more …
Makes you remember those Christmases spent with partners that didn’t work out. Like Andrew Ridgeley.
What happened to that guy?
Sufjan Stevens – “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!”
Another artist with another advent calendar with an album at the end of it. Sufjan Stevens, the husky-voiced banjo-plucking hipster dreamboat out kills The Killers with a memory of a Christmas passed, and the hopes that things can be different.
Best Bit: Silent night, holy night / Nothing feels right
Outstanding choon to do something else to.
James Brown – “Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto”
The Godfather of Soul meets the Godfather of Retail, in a cab speeding downtown. Has it all …
James Brown even does what he’s famous for: repeating the same line numerous times while making guttural noises. Outstanding.
Augie Rios – “Dónde Está Santa Claus”
Back in the 1950s when race was a hilarious quirk, the exceedingly young Seńor Rios hit the streets of Noo York to locate the whereabouts of Santa Claus. As far as festive cultural appropriation, it has no peer. Be it the use of broken English, “I go sleep now” to renaming one of the reindeer “Pedro,” to ending a chorus with the bullfighters call of “Olé!” this is an exercise in ickiness … and an absolute banger.
Merry Christmas, all, and from The Big Smoke‘s Editorial team I’d like to say that by reading this sentence you absolve us from any blame, vis-à-vis the criticism you’ll be enduring from those you love most for hitting up these sweet, sweet tunes.