Christmas Countdown, Saturday #2

Day 9

Continuing our theme of famous duets, here’s one from 1977 — Bing Cosby and David Bowie. This was basically the 70s version of Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, who did a duet in the 2010s, nearly 40 years later.

But the appearance of these two together in the late 70s must have been mind-blowing for the same reasons that Gaga and Bennett were, and to both ends of the demographic. For older people in the 21st century, they grew up with the music of the latter and only knew the former as some crazy lady who wore dresses made of meat and made provocative music videos. To younger people at the same time, she was a hero who embraced diversity and preached acceptance, while he was just some old random. If they had heard of him, maybe they knew it was because he was famous for that song about San Francisco, but more likely it was because one of their grandparents was a fan.

Ironically, when Bowie and Crosby did their duet, the old fans of Bennet now were the young fans of Bowie, and probably would have perceived this in exactly the same way that kids today saw Gaga and Bennet — to them, Bowie was the trailblazing, gender-blending godfather of glam rock. He was androgynous, possibly even openly bisexual, he wore make-up and sometimes skirts and dresses, and was the antithesis of the “Men are men” ethos of people of Crosby’s generation. To the kids back then, Crosby must have been some cheesy throwback to the humor their parents found cool.

So, again, this dynamic: the older generation suddenly seeing this “scary rockstar freak” performing quite respectfully with someone they grew up admiring, and the younger generation seeing their new idol quietly subvert things by pretending to be a normie on national television.

Or, in other words, there’s a lot going on in this one even if it seems like it’s nothing.

Check out the previous post or see the next.

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!