Christmas. It’s the season to be jolly, a time for giving and receiving, a holiday full of fruit cakes, cards and cheesy family pictures. And it’s become a season of too much music. There. I said it. Radio stations really need to stop playing Christmas music so frickin’ early. Sure, we all love Christmas songs, but you can only hear “Last Christmas,” “Where are you Christmas,” “White Christmas,” and “Mele Kalikimaka” so many times before you’ve turned into Scrooge. Hearing “Mele Kalikimaka” once is hellish enough. So for those of you who, like me, need a breath of fresh air in what’s become a stale pine tree air freshener scented Christmas music season: grab some eggnog and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and keep reading for my alternative Christmas playlist.
What do eight tiny reindeer and four turtles have in common? Nothing really. So why was the straight to video Ninja Turtles “We Wish You a Turtles Christmas” ever produced? I’ve got no clue. I’m probably the biggest TMNT fan ever, and even I’ll admit this is terrible. Still, it’s only 25 minutes and you’ll probably laugh a lot, albeit at the ridiculousness of a live action TMNT Christmas musical including songs such as the Wrap Rap, Up on the Housetop parody Up From the Sewer and the sentimental Gotta Get a Gift, where the turtles brainstorm gifts for Splinter. Honestly the musical is pretty awful. That being said it is entertaining, and definitely falls into the so funny it’s hilarious category, ranking up there with “Big Trouble in Little China,” “The Evil Dead,” and “Plan 9 From Outerspace.” You could probably find a copy pretty cheap on eBay or Amazon, though I’m not sure why anyone would want to own this clusterfuck of an entry in the Ninja Turtles canon. You’re better off Bittorrenting it or pulling it up on Youtube.
Hip Hop and Christmas. You normally wouldn’t think they mix well, but just like those shots of Jack Daniels which supplement my eggnog so as to make it through family holiday gatherings, there are actually some great rap-oriented Christmas tunes. There’s the classic Run DMC jam Christmas in Hollis. Originally it was on the compilation album “A Very Special Christmas.” In true Run DMC fashion, the song is sample laden, including recognizable pieces from Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, and Joy to the World. The track opens with a comical narrative about Santa walking his dog in the park, and the song includes some classic lines such as “It’s Christmas time in Hollis Queens/Mom’s cooking chicken and collard greens/Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese/And Santa put gifts under Christmas trees.” Yeah, they just went on for two lines about food. But what family doesn’t obsess over food when the holidays come around? Definitely queue this track up for the Christmas party.
Keeping in tune with hip hop Christmas melodies from “A Very Special Christmas” CD’s, the one and only Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion if you prefer), released his own holiday anthem. And this includes a very unlikely cast of characters from the rap scene including Mase, P. Diddy, Salt N Peppa, and of course Snoop. While the title is Santa Baby, it’s a pretty loose interpretation of the original.This one’s a little more hardcore than Christmas in Hollis, with lines like “If I wasn’t a boy I wouldn’t have had nuthin’ to play wit” and “On December 25th I knew I wasn’t getting jack/When I saw Santa Claus on the corner buying crack.” Still, it’s a fresh take on a classic song and Snoop’s buttery-smooth vocals crooning “Cookies and milk/Satin and silk/I’m chillin’ in the living room, wrapped in a quilt,” are like sugarplums dancing on your eardrums.
Much to my delight, Cee-Lo Green dropped “Cee-Lo’s Magic Moment” a few weeks back. If your only experience with Cee-Lo’s music is Fuck You, don’t worry, this one album is completely kid-friendly. I wouldn’t even classify this as rap. “Cee-Lo’s Magic Moment” is actually a jazzy, upbeat album which deserves several slots in your holiday playlist. Likely you’ll recognize every song on the disc. The collaboration with Christina Aguilera on Baby it’s Cold Outside is amazing, and their crooning, overlapped back and forth is cool as the crisp wintery air on your windows. All I Need Is Love featuring the Muppets is also fairly amazing, and the kids will definitely love this one. There’s a nice mix of lighthearted tunes like I’ve mentioned and some more serious, somber tracks such as Mary Did you Know? and Silent Night, both ofwhich showcases Cee-Lo’s versatility as a musician.
If you’ve also got a wacky family like I do, you’ll appreciate Robert Earl Keen’s Merry Christmas from the Family. It’s a hillbilly Christmas anthem complete with references to 7-11 runs to pick up Newports and tampons, and a list of holiday cocktails long enough to shame an Ernest Hemingway novella. Add the fact that Robert Earl Keen sounds wasted while singing, not entirely out of the realm of possibilities, and this is sure to get the party started.
Getting back to the hip hop Christmas songs, R.A. the Rugged Man and Mac Lethal just released a holiday song, “Crustified Christmas.” While it is absolutely hilarious, this one can be pretty offensive and is NOT for younger audiences. The zany lyrics are complimented by an instrumental of Sleigh Ride with an insanely catchy bassline thrown underneath. Be sure to give this a listen, but add it to your “naughty” Christmas playlist.
Lastly, although it’s not technically a song, I’d like to include the SNL skit “Dysfunctional Family Christmas.” It’s kind of the theme song for the holidays in my house. “Folks behaving infantile/Family Christmas time.” Could anyone sum it up better than that? The whole things is hilarious and all 2:21 of the skit will have you laughing until the tears roll. Highlights include “Daddy’s nose is red and runny/Daddy’s voice is gruff and funny/And the only words I can understand are ‘god’ and ‘damn’ and ‘Christmas’.” There’s also the classic “Leave me alone, please go away I’m doing fine just get away,” set to the tune of Carol of the Bells and dubbed The Carol of Intimacy. The only downside is that this was only a skit and never made into a full album. Otherwise I’d have totally purchased this disc to set the mood for each family holiday. Be aware that there is a country album of the same title which is not related. I only listened to a few 30-second samples on Amazon, and it was nowhere near as fantastic as its SNL predecessor.
Well, that’s my holiday playlist. If you feel I’ve left out any tracks, feel free to let me know. In the meantime, happy listening and happy holidays. If you’re stuck watching Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” for the umpteenth time, here’s some fun trivia for the whole family: Bing supposedly toked up with his good friend Louis Armstrong back in the day. And considering ol’ Satchmo’s horn-blowing capabilities, he could probably take a massive bong hit. So let the “Bong Crosby and Louis Armbong’s Magical Christmas” jokes flow. Leaves of green and a blanket of white assume a totally different meaning.