I love Christmas music. I start listening to it earlier than most people would find appropriate and/or healthy. And even though I’m not in the car nearly as much now that I’m working remotely, at this time of year, my car radio is still always set to the local station that plays Christmas music all day, every day through December 25th.
As such, I have a lot of thoughts about songs of the season, and since I have this website, I’m going to write some of them here. So, strap yourselves in because this is about to get really dumb.
The first song I want to discuss is The Jackson 5’s version of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. I have so many things to say about this one:
- The most important thing about this song is the backup Jacksons singing, “Tickle, tickle, Santa Claus.” It will never not be hilarious and it’s what makes this the definitive version of this song. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, skip to about the 1:00 mark of the song here:
- Okay, this has to do with the premise of the song itself, and not just the Jacksons’ version of it. The song only works in its intended “wink wink, nudge nudge” way if the listener knows that Mommy isn’t actually kissing Santa Claus, right? Otherwise, it’s about a kid stumbling across his mother cheating on his father, and that cannot be the basis of a cutesy Christmas song.
So, my question is: how do kids who still believe in Santa interpret this song when it comes on the radio?
- If Mommy isn’t tickling the real Santa, but is instead just getting festively frisky with her husband, then that means that Daddy is in full Santa garb when the kid catches him under the mistletoe with her. Does anyone actually do this? Does anyone go to the effort to dress up as Father Christmas on the off-chance that his nosey kid will sneak out of his room and catch him making out with Mommy? Or does Mommy have a certain fetish that requires Daddy to be in the complete Santa outfit?
Again, the premise of this song either relies on unrealistic scenarios and/or should not be considered a fun Christmas song.
- Going back to the Jackson 5 version of the song, Michael plainly says that he will tell his father what he saw. There’s even a line in the song about “what a laugh it would have been / if Daddy had only seen / Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night.”
Given what I remember from The Jacksons: An American Dream when I watched it 28 years ago on ABC, I don’t think anyone would be laughing if Michael told Joe Jackson what he saw. Either it was Joe kissing Katherine Jackson, and Joe would likely beat Michael for sneaking out of bed and/or not using that time on rehearsing, or it wasn’t Joe that was kissing her that night, and things will not be looking good for Mommy.
Either way, the more you delve into this song, the more horrific it becomes.
- But then, at around the 2:00 minute mark of the song, Michael’s brothers again sing their iconic “Tickle, tickle, Santa Claus” line and it’s back to being hilarious.
Now, we’re moving on to Chicago’s version of Let It Snow! I really only have one thing to say about this one and again, it’s about an interesting choice made by backup singers. For some unfathomable reason, an entire line of the chorus is just replaced with “oh”s and “oo”s.
In a normal version of the song, it goes:
When we finally kiss good night / How I’ll hate going out in the storm / But if you really hold me tight / All the way home I’ll be warm
But for some reason, the backup singers just drop the line “How I’ll hate going out in the storm” and just “oo” it up. Listen here at the 0:50 mark:
First of all, “storm” and “warm” rhyme; “ooh” and “warm” do not. Congratulations, you just made the song worse.
Second, why remove that line in particular? Are the members of Chicago climate change deniers and they don’t even want to acknowledge the existence of storms? Or did they forget that particular line, make some noises as a placeholder, and then never go back to record the correct words?
I can’t make sense of it, and this song is therefore terrible.
Next up is a song that I thankfully don’t hear on the radio. Back in 2005, I worked at Circuit City around the holidays. In the computer section, we played a CD on a loop and it contained what I maintain is the worst Christmas song ever. The album was Now, That’s What I Call Christmas 2 and the song is Destiny’s Child’s Opera of the Bells.
Maybe it’s because I heard it so many times while working that year, but I decided then and there that it was the worst Christmas song in existence, and it hasn’t been unseated since.
(I’m not embedding the song here, but you can seek it out if you want to subject yourself to it.)
But that’s enough negativity. By far, my favorite Christmas song is O Holy Night.
I’ve heard many versions of it, but I think my favorite comes from the Christmas episode of Aaron Sorkin’s least successful television show (at least in terms of total episodes): Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I actually liked the show, but this particular episode is my favorite because of the version of the song, played by New Orleans jazz musicians displaced after Hurricane Katrina.
Here’s a version of it without dialogue from the show:
I think it’s perfect.
My runner-up favorite version of the song is probably Al Green’s.
If any of you have a favorite version of this song, I’d love to know what it is.
Anyway, I don’t really know what prompted me to write all of this up, but I did, and I just hope that the seven people who actually read this will forever sing “Tickle, tickle, Santa Claus” everytime they hear I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Jackson 5 version or not.