Christmas carol showdown | Buy Local | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Christmas carol showdown

Our annual editors’ roundtable hashes out the good, the bad and the embarrassing tracks from the season’s traditional soundtrack.

"I'll Be Home For Christmas"

SJ: Have you ever roasted a turkey? You need to fucking know. I want to know if you're gonna be here because I have shit to do. I have to make up a bed, I have to set an extra place, the grocery stores are a fucking madhouse, it's like, so you're not coming? Thanks a lot.

SJ: Is the person at war maybe?

TT: This is a Hollywoodized version of a, only in my dreams and then ding-dong he shows up

[Editor's note: Yes. This was written in 1943 with soldiers overseas in mind. But, we digress.]

SJ: The busy man's like, "sorry hun" and it's like fuck you. It either matters or it doesn't. If you're at war that's one thing I suppose.

JB: I do respect he could get to the point quicker. It's like a 10-minute voicemail.

SJ: He's also like, "please have snow"—what do you care what I have?

TT: I like a good wistful ballad

AS: This song is supposed to make people cry

SJ:  But it’s not about that person. He’s talking to someone else the whole time and is like, tell me how great Christmas is going to be. And it’s like we’re all disappointed here.


"Santa Baby," Madonna

TT: Think about how funny it is that Madonna—Material Girl—is singing the most capitalist Christmas song. I think it's very self-aware.

AS: Musically this song is boring.

SJ: I hate that this woman is a baby. A sexy baby.

JB: I just think there are just better versions of this song.

TT: No. Madonna is like I have no intention of committing to you but I’m going to get all of this shit out of you.

AS: You see it as a power move?

TT: As a novelty song I see it as having a lot of mileage. This is legitimately fun in a way she’s not known for being fun. I really think its a tour de force in Madonna’s career.

AS: Oh wow.


AS: What about Michael Bublé's "Santa Buddy"—we can't not. It's like, "Santa, my man!


"Good King Wenceslas"

SJ: "Good-king-Wen-ces-las-looked-down-on-the-feast-of-Ste-phen"—it's such a good line.

TT: It's like a Jim Steinman song.

AS: Is there a chorus?

SJ: No.

AS: I don’t hate this.

TT: I guess I’m not much of a Christmas traditionalist.

SJ: I don’t like traditional Christmas anything. I just think it’s a funny thing to say. The phrasing.

TT: I hate it. It's just churchy.

JB: It is a Christmas carol.

SJ: It's a Christmas carol but someone's going to die.

JB: It has a very Christmas morning melody.

TT: Did someone die on Christmas?

JB: Yeah, Jesus.

AS: He was born!

JB: Oh, what am I thinking about?

SJ: It's so far removed from anything I understand in my life. And people never know how to spell it, it's like Worcestershire sauce.


"Do They Know It's Christmas?" Band Aid

AS: I think this is pretty universally hated.

TT: I just love that Phil Collins beat.

SJ: So the 1984 version?

TT: You think that Africa part is tone deaf...

AS: It’s fucking weird

JB: "Where no rain or rivers flow?"

AS: There’s something about hearing it that reminds me about commercial radio and shopping at the mall that’s nostalgic.

SJ: I'm sure the money did something for someone, but we know now white saviour crap is super offensive. I can only imagine how insufferable everyone was.

AS: It's just horrible, "the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears?"

SJ: Like fuck off.

["Tonight thank god it’s them, insteadddd of youuuu..."]

JB: It’s a great part—

TT: You just love it cause it’s Bono.

JB: Could we play the 2004 version? That one has Dido, Thom Yorke, Chris Martin…Bono.

TT: Bono came back to do his part?

JB: Bono did it on all three.

AS: The song itself is fine, but there couldn't be more direct othering. It's literally US and THEM.

JB: Yeah it's bad, but it's fun for the spectacle.


"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"

SJ: I like the grim ones that are so far removed from my life. I like the "repent, Satan"—it’s amusing to me. It’s like, "Have fun but watch out."  They’re very scared.

JB: It’s a severe song

AS: At least it has a chorus.

SJ: I just like how it’s so serious. This is their big day and it’s not fully happy. I like that because it’s interesting to me as a concept.

AS: You like the subject matter but do you like the song?

SJ: As something plodding, it’s not annoying to me.


"Joy To The World"

AS: You know what I do like? “When-hea-ven-and-na-ture-sing."

SJ “He-E-A-A-A-A-ven...”

JB: When it turns to like seven syllables to get one word out?

SJ: I love that! We’re gonna listen to the Pentatonix version.

JB: Some of the churchy songs are really great to sing—the runner-up for my fave would be "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" which reminds me of midnight masses with my mom. It has all these lines like, "peace on earth" and "god and sinner reconciled" and, yes, it's unabashedly Christian, but it has nice messages. And "Joy To The World" is like, "Get ready, your fucking saviour is here. You jerks." I don't like it.

SJ: It's fun to sing these ones where someone was just writing a hymn and they went off. They probably didn't have that other many recourses.

AS: This is a hard one for the average singer to sound good.

SJ: That’s what I like about it, just mess it up.


"Oh Holy Night"

TT: Which version?

AS: Any. Traditional. A woman singing at the mall. I don't care.

JB: That's one you can really belt out.

AS: That's why I like it, I love a belter. It's like "The Shallow" of Christmas songs.

SJ: Isn't "Joy To The World" too though?

TT: No, this is lower. It’s easier to sing.

JB: "Joy To The World" is someone showing off they can sing and this is like, someone who can't sing suddenly drawing you in.

AS: Subject-wise it's kind of the same as "Joy To The World" but it gets a pass because it's so—musically better. "Joy" is jaunty.

TT: This is soaring.

AS: It’s become sexier over the years I guess. Key changes. I get goosebumps from this song a lot, no matter who’s singing it.


"It's Christmas So We'll Stop," Frightened Rabbit

JB: I find the holidays very dark, and they can be really lonely for people.

TT: This reveals a lot about you. You don't like this music in your regular life.

JB: It's like "We're built to give at least once each year," and "we can be best friends with the people we hate" and at Christmas we can just be better versions of ourselves for one day.

SJ: That's nice.

JB: What I like about Christmas is that we put up colourful decorations and shine lights out and we just try and connect with people.

AS: I love that about you, but this is making me really sad.


"Carol of the Bells"

TT: Compositionally this one wins.

SJ: When you hear songs like this you think, what were these people doing? They had nothing else to do but work on these parts and they just blew peoples' minds at the midnight mass. It was fucking midnight! It's cool.

TT: It makes me think they should have more choir directors writing indie-pop songs.


"Jingle Bell Rock," Bobby Helms

JB: Hate it. It's the "Wagon Wheel" of Christmas songs.


"Santa Claus is Coming to Town," Bruce Springsteen

AS: I just like hearing him “ho” at the end.

TT: He’s like, “We’re having a fun one today, E Street!”


"Mary's Boy Child," Boney M

AS: Isn't this just "Hark The Herald"?

SJ: It's funny to refer to a boy as your boy child.

AS: Hashtag boy mom.

TT: It's like a gender reveal—

SJ: They definitely played it at Mary's gender reveal. 

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