Sunday, December 2, 2012

Holiday Horrors: Nuttin' For Christmas

Sugarland: Nuttin' For Christmas


The crass commercialism of the holidays has always seemed to me the ugliest part of the season - so much so that I spent Thanksgiving and the subsequent week putting up a pair of feature posts at my own blog promoting the authentic side of giving, and offering a few suggestions on how to support struggling artists and small labels through Kickstarter donations, concert subscriptions, and other artist-friendly options, thus bringing the local to the Internet age.

But although the feedback of blog comments and friend-filled Facebook feeds can too-easily leave the impression that the world believes what we do, outside in the arena of Santas and shopping my own efforts always seem tiny and hollow compared to the loud and over-annunciated voices of the popular. Black Friday remains one of the top shopping days of the year, Walmart remains stuffed to the gills with shoppers: everywhere, the soundtrack sings of purchasing, and oh what fun it is to buy; of getting, and oh what joy it is to demand of others, and open the booty they have provided.

Sadly, the "gimmie" song is both a harbinger and hallowed component of the mall-rat culture. For every White Christmas, there is a Christmas Don't Be Late; for every cover of Joni Mitchell's River or The Pretenders' 2000 Miles, there is a Here Comes Santa Claus, a Santa Baby, a Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. A simple search for the words "want", "for Christmas", and "lyrics" reveals a holy host of songs about stuff, from Hippopotami to Beatles. And so on, etcetera, in his name, amen.

From a sociological perspective, the song I have chosen for this week's theme is centrally located within the type: though its title sounds like it might be antithetical, its narrative eminently reinforces the message of Be Good, Get Stuff which so permeates the holiday canon. First written in the fifties, when the substance-seeker tropes of the new middle class may have been loudest and crassest of all in our sordid history of buying as Americans, and with no less than five top popcharting versions by five different artists in 1955 alone, it has more recently been recorded by such unlikely repeaters as punk band Reliant K, hard radiorockers Smashmouth, and acoustic pop-lite group The Plain White Ts, adding to a collection of older versions from Eartha Kitt, The Fontane Sisters, popular satirist Stan Freberg, and others of the usual mass genres.

The version here, recorded and released in 2009 by Countrypop duo-and-then-some Sugarland, is twangy and silly, but hardly redemptive. Worse, it suffers from the same overly corny, too-cute sentiment which is so deeply embedded in the song's lyrics and melody, I suspect it cannot be shaken free. Better, still, would be the gift of a full-blown universal moratorium on ever recording or playing it ever again, save in cases of extreme irony - so if you happen to be omnipotent, and wondering what to get me this year, feel free to put the total eradication of this song from the earth on the top of the list.

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