Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Big Media Vandalism Christmas Special 2013

by Odienator

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Big Media Vandalism Christmas Special. Every year, on Christmas Eve, I spin Christmas tunes while I wrap my presents. It's a tradition here at the Fortress of OdieTude. My wrapping skills remain as good as they were when I was six years old, so I need something to distract me. Big thanks to all the artists who recorded the songs in this edition, as well as the editions from 2012 and 2011.

Check those links out if you don't see your favorites here.

As far as holiday wishes go, I'll leave you with what I've said two years running: 

Surrey down to our Stone Soul Christmas Picnic and sample our Christmas playlist. Merry Christmas to the Christians, Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish audience (even if it was last month), and Happy Kwanzaa to the folks who are Blacker than I'll ever be.

1. 'Zat You, Santa Claus, by Louis Armstrong

Knock on Louis Armstrong's door unannounced on Christmas Eve, and you're likely to get busted upside yo' head with a trumpet. Unless, of course, you're Jolly Old Saint Nicholas (of the Nicholas Brothers). Even so, Satchmo doesn't trust you enough to open the door and let you in. "Would you mind slipping it under the door?" sings Armstrong of the present he's been patiently awaiting. Santa should just drop a coal-filled horn down the chimney.

2. Silver Bells, Stevie Wonder

In 2011, I posted Stevie's best Christmas song. This is a heartwarming, sweet cover of the song Bob Hope sang in The Lemon Drop Kid. Stevie gives it more soul and some impeccable phrasing (listen to his delivery on "this is Santa's big scene"). One of the most visual Christmas songs ever written, it romanticizes a city block during the Christmas season. Anyone who has ever tried to walk through Herald Square in December knows that Stevie and Bob Hope were both full of shit. It's hell out there during the holidays!

3. Children's Christmas Song, by Miss Ross and The Supremes

Let's stay on the subject of Christmas bells. I hadn't thought about this song in decades because, honestly, it scares me. But it was a fairly large hit back in 1965, and it is catchy enough to have you singing it before it ends. As a kid, I imagined Miss Ross dressed as a nun with a VERY large ruler conducting the kids who provide the cute, off-key background chorus of this song. Listen to the names of the kids she addresses--they'll be familiar to Motown fans. Two things I noticed about this song: 1.) You don't hear any of the other Supremes on this record, and 2.) Damn, Diana sounds Whiter than Perry Como.

4. Sleigh Ride, by Johnny Mathis

The quintessential version of this song was recorded by Mathis in 1958. His silky vocals are enough to melt the snow under the sleigh that carries you and your beloved through the "lovely weather." Back when I was a hopeless romantic, I took Mathis' advice and went for the titular event. I froze my ass off. Only the Salsoul Orchestra's version comes close to this one.

5. Up On The House Top, by The Jackson Five

Released the same year I was, Up on the Housetop features Michael singing a personalized version of the classic written by Benjamin Hanby 106 years prior. Each of the brothers Jackson gets a mention, with Michael asking Santa to bring a guitar for Tito, a 3-foot tall basketball hoop for Jackie, socks for Marlon and condoms for Jermaine (OK, it's mistletoe but still...) For the rest of us, Mike asks Santa to bring "love and peace for everyone." I'm still waiting for that, Santa.

6. O Holy Night, by Mahalia Jackson

OK, I need to be serious here a moment. Mahalia Jackson was (and is) the greatest gospel singer to ever walk the Earth. Readers of Big Media Vandalism know the special place in my heart she holds, even after I stopped going to church. This version of O Holy Night is incredible. It sends chills up your spine and tears to your eyes, even if you don't believe. It's so great and reverential that I must say "Sorry, Ms. Jackson," because I'm returning to sin in two entries.

7. Soul Holidays, by Sounds of Blackness

Staying on the gospel tip, Sounds of Blackness sing about "the day that Jesus Christ was born," wrapping the message in a bouncy, danceable, joyous four-minute ode to spending the holidays with one's family. This music video gets me right in my nappy soul. Try to sit still while this plays. I put it on this list solely for the moment the lead singer yells out "I know you betta have my present!"

8. Santa's Rap, by The Treacherous Three

After two unsuccessful tries, Beat Street's ode to Christmas FINALLY makes this list! The Treacherous Three masterfully execute a back-and-forth argument between two hoodrats and the apathetic, alcoholic Santa who pays them a visit. Funny, too profane for Beat Street's PG rating, and a tad too real for comfort at times, Santa's Rap does eventually have a happy ending. These kids get an awesome beat-boxer named Doug E. Fresh for Christmas. It beats the hell out of coal in one's stocking.

9.  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, by Lufer Vandross

Truth be told, I was looking for a Luther Vandross version of "I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas." Unfortunately, he didn't cover that. Instead, here he is on Judy Garland's Christmas classic from Meet me in St. Louis. As always, Lufer makes the song his own, complete with seductive vocal and a sexy sax solo smack dab in the middle. Not for nothing is Mr. Vandross' Greatest Hits collection called The Best of Luther, The Best of Love.

10. Baby It's Cold Outside, by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan

So, so, SO many great versions of this song, from Ray Charles and Betty Jordan to Lou Rawls and Diane Reeves to the original by Esther Williams and Mr. Corinthian Leather himself, Ricardo Montalban. (If you're prefer an X-rated take on Frank Loesser's brilliant Oscar winning duet, have I got a version for you.) I chose Ella and one of two guys named Louis with whom she recorded this song because, well, it's Ella Fitzgerald, people!!!

I've never understood why Baby, It's Cold Outside is a Christmas song. But I understand even less this new bullshit notion that it's a date rape song. Really, people? "Say, what's in this drink?" is apparently the line that supports this "thesis." I always thought she was inquiring about the alcohol, not if she were being roofied. (She wouldn't KNOW she was getting roofied.) Also, it doesn't seem like the female singer is in fear for her life. Otherwise the song would have gone like this:

Lady: I really can't stay
Guy: But, baby it's cold outside.
(Sound of guy getting kicked in the balls)

I acknowledge that the guy in the song clearly wants some ass, and is trying to sweet talk his way into it. He doesn't succeed, because the woman says no. The end. At no time is the female in grave danger in this song. She's just as flirty as he is. "Well maybe just a cigarette more," she sings at one point. 

Hell, watch Neptune's Daughter and see how unthreatening the number is.

If trying to talk a woman into bed is a crime, all you straight men and bisexuals turn yourselves in. You too, lesbians! Santa's going to be visiting all our asses in jail this Christmas. Hope he brings a cake with a file in it.

Happy Holidays, Everybody!

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