Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Song Dissection: The Worst Christmas Song of All Time is Put on Trial
We’re still early enough in December that Christmas music hasn’t fully taken a stranglehold over my car’s radio. While I’ve been listening to it, it hasn’t become an unhealthy obsession quite yet. Check back with me next week as it will usually happen somewhere around the month’s midway point.
I’m not one of these people who start listening to Christmas tunes while they’re carving Jack-o-Lanterns. When it comes to seasonal commodities, I have a few simple rules I like to follow: 1) No pumpkin beer before October. 2) Seasonally festive Reese’s Cups ALWAYS take precedent over standard issue cups. 3) Christmas music is not permitted until after Santa arrives at the Thanksgiving Day parade.
Those are the big ones.
Anyway, so since I’m still in the beginning stages of Christmas music fever, I’m happy to report that I’ve only, ONLY heard NewSong’s “Christmas Shoes” one time on the radio. When it came on, as per government mandate, I immediately changed the station, shoulder-rolled out of my still-moving vehicle and forcibly took refuge in the nearest basement I could find for about four and a half minutes. Stay alert, stay alive.
Sure, that brush with the schmaltzy was horrifying, but it could have been worse. There’s one song that I haven’t heard yet this holiday season, a holiday staple which, despite pleas for sanity from the World Health Organization, radio stations continue to put in heavy rotation this time of year. Dan Fogelberg’s “Same
Auld Lang Syne.”
Now, I know. I’m taking a great risk even typing that title into my Word doc. Sure the urban legend says you need to type it or speak it thrice in order for Dan Fogelberg to appear guitar in hand, but urban legends can be wrong and I don’t want to push my luck. From here on out, we’ll stick to vague descriptions instead of actually naming the song or artist, but you’ll know who I’m talking about.
If you’re not familiar with this vile, murderous musical travesty, (God has smiled upon thee) I’m going to break it down for you here, on this very blog. Keep in mind, even though I’m only reading the lyrics to the song while doing this, I’m still subjecting myself to trauma akin to what astronauts endure during a long space flight. There will be gravitational swings and forces which I can’t begin to comprehend, let alone prepare myself for. I’m stalling now. Let us begin and hope it goes quick. 

Ok so first verse. It’s Christmas Eve and the song’s narrator is hanging out in the grocery store when he spots a familiar female face. He does what every man should do when they see someone they think they know: He sneaks up behind her and grabs her arm.
Now, the woman doesn’t recognize the narrator and somehow she resists the urge to pick up the heaviest thing in her cart and start beating this random likely rapist senseless with it. Instead she sort of eyes the character up until it dawns on her: Oh that guy. Great. Maybe these sorts of fun tricks were what got our narrator dumped in the first place. It’s never made clear. She puts on a big “It’s good to see you (not really) smile and hugs the narrator, dropping everything out of her purse in the process, probably because her nerves are still rattled because some dick grabbed her from behind in the supermarket.
The next verse is where this all gets very sinister. The narrator explains that they took “HER” groceries to the checkout stand. Her groceries. Not theirs. He didn’t have any. So what the hell was this maniac doing there? Just lurking about a small town grocery store on Christmas Eve grabbing women’s sleeves until he happened to find one he used to see socially? I think this is how Leatherface got started.
Somehow, this guy convinces the woman to go to a bar and have a drink with him, except it’s Christmas Eve so none are open. After what I can only assume were many attempts by the narrator to get her to “Come back to my place for a drink, it’s totally safe now,” they agree to go to a beer store and buy a six pack. Smart girl. Stay in public places. Don’t advise letting him in your car though. That was a misstep.  
Breezing along through the sappy and person-shifting chorus (start off in first, end in third), where they toast to innocence ( a rich concept considering what we're learning about these two)  we get to the next few verses. The woman announces that she’d “married her an architect” because it’s supposed to be a folksy song and apparently the song’s writer was worried that architect and all the “book-learnin” that went with it might alienate too much of his target market so he bought them back in with a little country twang.
This architect keeps her warm, safe and dry, but guess what? She doesn’t really like him all that much, she sure as hell doesn’t love him. Instead, she just uses him. Great. Now the female hero of the song is also a villain. Who’s the real hero here? The poor architect? The grocery store clerk who had to deal with these two in his or her line? No clue.
Instead of calling her out on her shitty behavior, our narrator sees his in and immediately starts hitting on her. “Damn, girl, the years have been good to you” is only the appropriate response to “I hate my husband/life” on one planet and it’s whatever one the narrator left to come make a life on Earth.
The woman notes that she saw our narrator in the record stores and that he must be doing well. Couple of things. That doesn’t mean he’s a successful musician – as the song is probably trying to imply – knowing what we do about him and grocery stores, he just may be a dude who likes to skulk in area records stores all day and night. Secondly, this woman just admitted she’s flat-out using her current husband, who by all accounts is a great guy. If the narrator is a successful musician, it seems likely he would want to keep that success as far away from the woman as possible. But what do I know?
Anyway, the song wraps up when the beer runs out. The narrator says their tongues were tied, which is shocking considering this woman just told a random dude she used to bang and then happened to bump into in a grocery store how much she hates her life. Seems like you’d have to let her talk for at least a few weeks before she got tired of it. She kisses the narrator because she just downed half a six pack in what can at best be an hour and her best judgment has completely abandoned her. Then she chucks him out of her car and DRIVES AWAY! Nothing says the Christmas season like seriously buzzed driving. Also, props to our narrator for just letting her go. No offer to get her a cab or nothing. Nope.
The narrator, who has no car of his own – as few successful musicians do, really – plans to walk himself back home. Of course, home in this case likely means the nearest record or grocery store so he can run this dumb con of his again and maybe convince the target to come home with him that time. And just at that very moment … the snow … turned in … to rain … because god was crying. 

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