So, in yesterdays’s post, I bitched about my problems with Christmas and mentioned that there was one Christmas song that I really like. I neglected to mention that over the past few years, I’ve found a few other season-related songs that I enjoy for different reasons. Some I like because they are funny, and some I like because they are heartfelt. That’s a perfect summary of my personality, come to think of it. A friend of mine once said that I was an optimist. At the time, I was clinging to my belief that I was a tough, cynical chick who was a realist. I wasn’t any fucking soft, gooey optimist damn it. I was a fucking realist! Then he added, “You’re an optimist because you’re always disappointed when people don’t do the right thing.” I wanted to protest–believe me I did. But after I thought about it, I had to reluctantly agree with him. That’s also probably the basis of my cynicism–the unmet expectations.
Why am I telling you this seemingly pointless anecdote? Because it ties in nicely with my musical preferences. Well, besides the fact that I have terrible taste in music. I like funny, sarcastic music, but I also like sentimental songs. Some would even say saccharine. I was an 80s metal power ballad lover, damn it, and I’m not ashamed of it one whit.** That’s just a teaser to see if you can figure out what’s the one Christmas song I actually like.
One of my taiji classmates cracked at how she’s sure I’m going to go out caroling for Christmas. She said it again in another class, and it devolved into all of us going caroling and just singing whatever we want, starting and stopping whenever we want in true Taiji fashion. It tickled my funny bone hard because the idea of me going around spreading good cheer to my fellow (wo)man is ridiculous to the point of hilarity. I joked about me singing the one Christmas carol I like over and over again, and we all had a good chuckle over it.
Anyway, I’m going to start with the other season-appropriate songs that I enjoy, leading my way up to the One True Christmas Song. The first song is Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah Song. He has done several updates to the song, but here’s the original. He’s a shitty actor who makes shitty movies, but he can sing a ditty or two. I really wish he had stuck with that rather than go on to make Jack and Jill. Full disclosure: I’ve only seen The Wedding Singer, which I actually like. It’s not a great movie, but it’s humorous and has all my favorite pop songs from the 80s. Plus, Billy Idol! And Drew Barrymore! What’s not to love?
Other than that, though, none of his movies has ever appealed to me. I saw some of Happy Gilmore, which was OK, but not enough for me to finish watching. I still like Hanukkah Song, though, so it’s on this list.
Another funny song on the list is also a Hanukkah song. Who knew Jews could be so funny? And Latino in this case. I’m sure I found this while writing a similar post years ago, and I still enjoy it. It’s Hip Hop Hoodios with Ocho Kandelikas. It’s funny, yes (more the video than the song), but also kinda catchy. I also like it because I like to see the blending of cultures that may not immediately seem to go together. Plus, hot Latinas grooving. Um, yeah. Moving on.
Going down a side road. This next song isn’t holiday-related, but I want to include it because it is a mixture of two cultures we don’t often see get paired and because it’s damn funny. Also, it’s my blog, so I can do whatever the fuck I like. This is Funny or Die’s Black and Jewish (Black and Yellow Parody) rapped by actresses Kali Hawk and Katerina Graham. It’s fucking hilarious, and I laughed so hard I cried the first time I saw it. Embedding has been disabled, so here’s the link. They do mention Hanukkah in the song, so it’s tangentially related! “My nose and ass! They’re both big. I’m popping bottles. L’Chaim, bitch!”
Moving on to a song that is a blend of funny and sentimental. It’s done by funny man, Tim Minchin, who’s done such howlers as Confessions in Three Movements, Dark Side, and so many more. He’s brilliant, and he can actually sing. Most of his songs are funny, but scathing social commentaries, but this one is a little different. There are funny parts to it, and there’s definitely social commentary because he’s an atheist, but it’s also quite touching. It’s called White Wine in the Sun and why he’s looking forward to Christmas with his newborn daughter. I’m not ashamed to say it made me cry the first several times I heard it. Part of the reason it resonates is because Minchin is pretty cynical himself, but he’s able to tap into something tender here. I dig it.
Next on my season-appropriate songs I like list is by an artist I really like who is not that well known outside of her rabid fan base. She’s Vienna Teng, and she’s Taiwanese American as I am. she’s also phenomenally talented, and I want to be like her when I grow up. My Medea used to be one of my theme songs, and I really like Antebellum (this is the new version) as well. She has several other songs that are favorites of mine, but I’m not going to list them all right now. She often performs with Alex Wong, who is really talented as well. I’ve been fortunate enough to see them twice in performance, and they’re amazing live. Vienna wrote this song, never intending the title to stick, but her very religious producer liked it and insisted it stay. It’s called Atheist Christmas Carol, and I think really captures the spirit of the holiday. By the way, in case you haven’t realized it by now, the title was just a way to pull you in; I have no idea how many songs I’ll actually be highlighting, but everyone loves lists. I’m Buzzifying my blog, baby! Anyway, the song is lovely, and it make me feel hopeful when I hear it–which is unusual for me.
OK. It’s time for the big reveal. My one and only Christmas song is O Holy Night. I sang it once in church (yes, for Christmas), and it’s a demanding song. I struggled with the top notes, but I felt so powerful as I sang it. It’s divine to me, said with no irony, and I don’t even care that it’s a religious song. It touches my soul, and I can hear it a million times in a row*** without getting tired of it. In searching YouTube for my favorite versions of the song, I immediately stumbled across one I’d never heard. It’s by Jennifer Hudson, whose voice is sublime. I’ve heard another version by her, but this one is even better. It literally sent chills up and down my spine.
That was so good, I had to listen to it three times. Now, I’ll share some of my favorite versions with you. First up, Apocalytica doing a cello version. I used to play the cello, and it’s still my favorite string instrument. These guys usually do covers of metal songs as well as original songs they wrote, such as Not Strong Enough**** which there are two version of for some reason (I prefer the Doug Robb version because it’s more emo whereas Brent Smith is more angry, but they’re both really good), but their version of O Holy Night is pretty straightforward.
Next up is a version by Weezer. It’s mostly a straightforward adaption, but it has some grunge rock vibe to it, which is probably why I like it. I’m not a huge Weezer fan, though I do like some of their songs, but their O Holy Night just hits my sweet spot. It’s a bit whiny and drones a little, but somehow, it just works.
I came across this next version while fucking around on the YooTubez. It’s a dance version (I’m pretty sure the vocals are by the Glee cast, and they do a great job), and the dancing is pretty on point (but not en pointe). I’m not crazy about the costumes, but that’s a rant for another day. Here are performers of the West Coast School of Arts in the Showstoppers Nationals.
Back to focusing on the vocals. Next up is Charice Pempengco, a Filipina singer with incredible pipes. She’s been on Ellen (she was 15 at the time), Oprah (singing a song she wrote in this particular video, In This Song), and Glee (singing a terrific version of All By Myself), just to name-check a few, and was mostly known for her YouTube videos before then. This is one of my absolute favorite versions of O Holy Night, and not just because she’s an Asian chick. Her voice is incredible, and she sings so effortlessly. Really, check out her videos because she’s so fucking good. Sing on, sister!
So I went down the Charice rabbit hole and found two videos of her singing with Filipina singer/goddess, Lea Salonga. For those who don’t know, Lea Salonga is an extremely talented Broadway actress who is especially renown for her performance as Eponine from Les Mis on Broadway. She has said that On My Own is the song that made her, and from the video below, you can certainly see why. I also love her versions of You Must Love Me and Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina from Evita, but she really is the definitive Eponine. By the way, Marius was a fool to pass up Eponine for Cosette, but that’s another post for another day. Yes, I know this has nothing to do with the holiday season, but I can’t pass up on the chance to post a Lea Salonga video, especially if I’m talking about music!
I’ve gone deeply down the rabbit hole, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of my love for O Holy Night. I’m going to wrap this up here, but I’ll pick it up again tomorrow, giving you all the O Holy Night you can handle (and probably much, much more). For now, I’ll leave you with another fave that is a pretty faithful adaption by David Archuleta. I don’t know much about him except he was on American Idol and is a Mormon, but his version is amazing. Until tomorrow, enjoy!
**OK, maybe one little whit, but that’s it.
***And I have, believe you me.
****Yes, it’s a power ballad So sue me!