New Year’s Countdown, Sunday

T Minus 3

Sure, it’s after Christmas, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t be the “It’s not Just Christmas” theme. I’ve covered Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and Diwali. Hell, even Festivus Now here’s a song that combines all of them, all of the Christmas carols, and provides a reminder of the annual madness we’ve all just survived.

I give you the group Straight No Chaser, which in some ways echoes another group seen here several times, Out of the Blue Oxford, performing both Santa Baby and All I Want for Christmas Is You. Both started as college a cappella groups, but the British version stayed with the university as an organization with an ever-evolving cast while the American version struck out on their own. As they describe their evolution, they went “from an undergraduate singing group at Indiana University to a beloved Atlantic Records act with a devoted international fanbase.”

Their first release was the holiday album Holiday Spirits from 2008. This song was the lead track from their 2009 holiday release Christmas Cheers.

Check out the previous post or the next, or start from the beginning.

Countdown to Christmas

This originally began as an intended series of Facebook posts starting the day after Thanksgiving, but I forgot one thing. Facebook hates YouTube, so posting a video from there tends to get buried by their algorithm. But… my blog posts don’t, so I’m taking the indirect route back to Facebook, and all my readers get to share in the fun. In this post, I’ll re-cap the first five days, and then we’ll be up to date.

Day 1

As promised, now begins the countdown to Christmas with a series of holiday themed videos. Friday’s theme is “All I Want for Christmas,” aka “Mariah Carey’s Retirement Plan.” I’ll be sharing different takes on her instant Christmas classic. Hey, if you’re going to write a song to cash in on the holiday, at least make it a good one, okay?

This video became an instant favorite of mine when I first stumbled across it. It combines the song with some amazing choreography and a little gender-bending.Choreographed by and Starring Alex Karigan and Zac Hammer, members of Amy Marshall Dance Company. Beyond that and the name they use, The Yahs Initiative, I don’t know much more about the performers or video, other than that most of their videos are Christmas themed, and they haven’t posted anything in three years. Enjoy!

Day 2

Saturday’s Countdown to Christmas theme is famous duets, and I’m kicking it off with a modern classic that has become controversial recently because, when you really listen to the lyrics, it does come off as very date-rapey. Even the lyrics hint at this, with the male vocalist identified as “Wolf,” and the female vocalist identified as “Mouse.”

In this rendition, Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt flip the roles as she plays wolf to his mouse. Do you think this reinforces or negates the perception of the song as being about attempted date rape?

Day 3

Sunday’s theme for Countdown to Christmas is going to be “It’s Not Just Christmas,” a reminder that there are other holidays this time of year. Here’s a song by Bob Grow celebrating that most famous of made-up TV alternative holidays.

Day 4

On Mondays, the theme is going to be Spanish Christmas carols; los lunes tendremos los villancicos navideños españoles. Today, we’ll start with a simple one that most English speakers know and which gets played a lot this year — José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad.” One interesting thing to note is that this simple title reminds us how Spanish construction and word choice frequently follows British, rather than American, usage. “Feliz navidad” literally means “Happy Christmas,” which is what they say in the UK. To be closer to the American “Merry Christmas,” the phrase would probably be “Navidad alegre,” although I don’t think anyone ever says that.

Day 5

For Tuesdays, I’ll be bringing you more tranditional Christmas carols not necessarily performed in traditional ways. Our first goes back to 1988 and the holiday special episode of “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” While that show always pretended to be for kids, it really was aimed squarely at adults but flew under the radar of most folk who weren’t in the know, and there was a certain gay sensibility about it. In that context, then, this appearance by Grace Jones was groundbreaking. She was a gender-bending performer and not necessarily family friendly, but there she was, performing the number absolutely straight. Not to mention that her costume and the musical arrangement are both spectacular.

Check out the next post in the series!