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Students learn more about HB9 and SB6.
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Murray State’s Alliance organization, the College Democrats and other students gathered today to rally against the progressing state legislation...

Boxes are located in Waterfield Library, the Curris Center, residential colleges and the Alumni Center.
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Ania Boutin, Chief Videographer • February 29, 2024

The Read the Dream Book Drive aims to bring books featuring diverse authors and characters to students in Clarksville and Mayfield. Murray...

Students learn more about HB9 and SB6.
Rally addresses DEI concerns, Jackson's statement
Gray Hawkins and Madison Miller February 29, 2024

Murray State’s Alliance organization, the College Democrats and other students gathered today to rally against the progressing state legislation...

Boxes are located in Waterfield Library, the Curris Center, residential colleges and the Alumni Center.
Murray State RCA leads book drive across campus
Ania Boutin, Chief Videographer • February 29, 2024

The Read the Dream Book Drive aims to bring books featuring diverse authors and characters to students in Clarksville and Mayfield. Murray...

All I want for Christmas is some new songs

Its+the+most+repetitive+time+of+the+year.+
It’s the most repetitive time of the year.

As the holiday season approaches, so does the inevitable glut of saccharine, overplayed Christmas songs hijacking the airwaves. I’m no Scrooge, and I’m not immune to the charms of hearing Frank Sinatra sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” for the umpteenth time, but the holiday season can be a harrowing time for anyone who enjoys originality in songwriting. Therefore, I’ve assembled a list of some of the worst offenders, as well as worthwhile replacements for them in your personal holiday playlist.

Offender: “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey

One must give this song credit for its quick climb to the ranks of the Christmas standard, but that very success has helped make it an assault on the ears. The chart-topper is seemingly inescapable. It’s hard to find fault with Carey’s vocal performance, but the jingle-bell-driven pop instrumentation and vapid lyrics have become increasingly grating with every additional exposure.

Replacement: “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl

A song as popular as “All I Want For Christmas Is You” needs a worthy adversary, and “Fairytale” more than fits the bill. It may very well be the ultimate alternative Christmas song. Though “All I Want” is not specifically about New York City, it is certainly associated with it, so a contrasting take on a New York Christmas from an Irish-English band felt like an appropriate replacement. 

While it may not be universally known like the former song, it is far from obscure, with over 400 million streams on Spotify alone. It is extremely popular in Ireland and the United Kingdom, so I can’t speak to the effects of its repetition there, but it is certainly not the kind of song that berates you through grocery store speakers in the United States. It is antithetical to every aspect of traditional American Christmas songs. Its vocals and lyrics are grimy, the characters are flawed and the emotion is genuine and heartbreaking rather than manufactured and sweet.

The recent passing of The Pogues’ lead singer Shane MacGowan, who co-wrote the song, adds another level of melancholy to it this year as well. For fans of Travis or Jason Kelce, they released a reworking of the song titled “Fairytale of Philadelphia” this year to fit their relationship as brothers. MacGowan’s last public statement was complimenting it on X (Twitter).

Offender: “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by The Jackson 5

Sure, this song is probably about a child watching his mother kiss his father who is dressed like Santa rather than the mythical figure himself, but one still imagines an unpleasant conversation in the narrator’s future. Or worse, a few years of the child remaining silent while believing that his mother was unfaithful with one of the most beloved figures in pop culture. It feels heretical to call Michael Jackson’s vocals annoying at any age, but they are here, and the cheesy lyrics do nothing to redeem the song.

Replacement: “Merry Christmas from the Family” by Robert Earl Keen

Robert Earl Keen offers up a much better take on Christmastime family dysfunction. This alt-country classic hilariously portrays a Texas family’s Christmas with honesty and realism, which is lacking in most holiday songs. Obnoxious relatives, a lot of drinking and trips to the store for everything from an extension cord to Marlboro Lights replace the usual holiday cliches captured in Christmas songs. 

While the song is far from sentimental, one can’t help but feel at home with its characters. It resembles the actual holiday experiences of most families much closer than the popular Christmas repertoire. It celebrates the joy found in that imperfection rather than creating an artificial idea of what Christmas should be.

Offender: “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” by Alvin and the Chipmunks

Like most people my age, I have a (likely misguided) nostalgia for the 2007 “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movie, though it includes an abridged revival of this song that may be even worse than the 1959 original. That nostalgia doesn’t begin to garner enough goodwill to keep my ears from bleeding every time I hear this monstrosity. What appeal this song has that allowed it to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the only Christmas song to do so until 2019, is lost on me. 

Replacement: “Christmas at Ground Zero” and “The Night Santa Went Crazy” by Weird Al Yankovic

Since the holidays are often a family affair, I wanted to include one replacement on the list that was kid-friendly. Who better to do that than Weird Al Yankovic, the silly song parody man who sings about food and being a nerd and makes a point of keeping his songs clean? Well, there’s no cursing in the songs, but I’ll leave their child-friendliness to your discretion. I have to wonder what it is about Christmas that brings out the dark side of Yankovic. 

“Ground Zero” is not a parody of a specific song, but rather of the types of songs on the 1963 compilation album “A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector.” The story goes that Yankovic’s record label demanded that he make a Christmas song, so he complied and wrote one about Christmas during a nuclear holocaust. The incredibly grim scenario, delivered as a traditional Christmas song, is a darkly funny and oddly poignant piece of music. 

Want something a little more outrageous? “The Night Santa Went Crazy” is about Santa getting drunk, bombing his workshop, murdering most of his reindeer and being captured by the FBI and sent to federal prison. Yes, this is still the same Weird Al who wrote “Eat It.” It may lack the emotional depth of my previous recommendations, but the absurdity and surprisingly graphic nature of the song gives it a unique appeal. If you’re looking to mix a bit of dark humor into your Christmas playlist, you can’t go wrong with either of these songs.

I’ll refrain from trashing any more holiday hits, but I would like to suggest a few more unconventional songs for the season. “River” by Joni Mitchell, “Christmas in Prison” by John Prine, “Santa” by Lightnin’ Hopkins, “Christmas in Paradise” by Mary Gauthier and “Holiday” by James McMurtry are all worthy additions to any offbeat Christmas playlist.

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Ben Overby, Staff Writer

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