December 28, 2007

Best Christmas Songs

After I finished the list of Religious Christmas Carols last week, I knew I needed to do one for regular Christmas songs. But it’s so hard! I eventually got down to 97 and then to 47, and then I hit such a wall! I was able to cheat just a little bit with a top ten list of funny Christmas parody songs, but then the real work began. Finally, I had my twenty. Sadly, that leaves so many worthy ones out, but I think you’ll agree the resulting list is pretty nang. Enjoy.

Honorable Mention: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year; Do They Know It's Christmas?; Feliz Navidad; Let There Be Peace on Earth; Mele Kalikimaka; Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree; Up On the House Top; We Need a Little Christmas; (There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays; Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane); (It Must've Been Ol') Santa Claus; The Christmas Waltz; Toyland; Silver Bells: Jolly Old Saint Nicholas; Blue Christmas: A Holly Jolly Christmas

Before I get to the actual list, I found two awesome songs I never even heard before! If I do the list next year, they probably make it. Have you heard of “Santa Claus is Back in Town”? Here is a video of Elvis singing it. Then I found “Sleep Well, Little Children,” a Christmas lullaby to die for. Here is Karen Carpenter’s version. (It’s about 90 seconds in, and worth it. Trust me.) Tell me you won’t sing that next year to your kids.


The Top Twenty Christmas Songs (non-religious)


#20 It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – I think because of the subject matter, this is always the first song I really look for


#19 I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – No lie: as a 12 year old, I dressed up like a little kid to sing this song for my mother’s Christmas party. But did I get any of the party treats? Nope.


#18 Evening in December – This is a fantastic “romantic” fireplace type of Christmas song that no one seems to know. All the videos I could find sucked, but you can listen to it here.


#17 Frosty the Snowman – You did read my version of it over on Tracy’s site, right? Even more than the crappy animated special, that will be the defining moment of the legend. (By the way: my mother is obsessed with snowman; has over 2700 in the house, but not one of them is Frosty. Weird, huh?)




#16 Jingle Bell Rock – We need more “_____Rock” songs. Think of “Arbor Day Rock,” or “Halloween Rock” or even “Black History Month Rock.” Now THAT would be sweet.


#15 Santa Baby – No lie: last year I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to write lyrics for an ill-fated “Santa Pirate.” I got hung up when everyone said that “So shiver up me timbers tonight.” What’s dirty about that???


#14 Another Old Lang Syne – Not all Christmas songs have to be happy, you know! Sometimes it’s okay to be bittersweet as well.




#13 I’ll Be Home For Christmas – is there a better version of this than Karen Carpenter’s? I say no.


#12 Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – if only because this is the only major song where the “Fates” get to decide what happens. I like that. I think this should come up more often. “The Super Bowl will be Feb. 2, if the Fates allow.” Who’s with me?



#11 Last Christmas – So, sue me. I like Wham, and I like this song! By the way, proof the song rocks: I HATE the Chipmunks, yet they totally rock doing their best Wham impression. (Ashley Tisdale: You got owned!)


#10 Let It Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! – This song also applies to weddings.


#9 Walking in a Winter Wonderland – the best of the Snow-themed songs.



#8 All I Want for Christmas is You – My brother claims the Mariah Carey version is the best, but I like one in Love Actually. However, since Carey is credited with writing the song, we'll let the clip be hers. Techincally, it's her singing. The pix are actually a tribute to Johnny Depp. Never say I give you nothing, ladies!


#7 Sleigh Ride – I like this song particularly because it has so many potential sound effects. One of them is a whip, which makes is Schrodinger’s favorite song (if you know what we mean).


#6 Santa Claus is Coming to Town – I wrote an entire column dissecting this song, but I still love it love it love it.



#5 Christmas Time is Here – Otherwise known as “The Charlie Brown Christmas Song.” You know, that slow jazzy one. I don’t know why I love this one so much, and I admit I probably have it way over-ranked, but it just gets to me, you know? Another one of those more melancholy songs with a hint of sadness.


#4 Jingle Bells – Did you know this was originally a Thanksgiving song? Sing it in your head right now, and you’ll see there’s nary a mention of Christmas. I know! I think Jingle Bells gets extra points for the much loved “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, Robin laid an egg; Batmobile lost a wheel and Joker got away!” I read over that now and cannot figure out why it was so funny, but trust me: this KILLED in third grade.


#3 Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Another beloved song to actually sing, with the extra add-ons like the echoes. (Although: I always grew up singing the other Reindeer games as “like football,” but recently heard my sister sing it as “like Monopoly.” I think we need to settle this debate. In fact, I just set it up over on Monkey Barn if you are to weigh in.) Rudolph also inspired a very vulgar parody (Randolph the Three-Legged Cowboy), and possibly the worst Christmas movie (at least until CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS) came out: OLIVE, THE OTHER REINDEER. I shudder just thinking about it.




#2 The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You) – Perhaps the best Christmas song ever. It’s just so perfect. There are chestnuts roasting on the open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, and so forth. The song is slow and sultry, romantic in that “fireside” kind of way, and just a perfect song to listen to while relaxing in front of the tree with some cocoa.

And the number 1 non-religious Christmas Song….




#1 White Christmas – What can we say? There’s a reason you’re the best-selling song of all time. Irving Berlin wrote it in 1940, staying at a hotel in Arizona. He stayed up all night, and the next day told his secretary, “Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written – hell, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!” Modesty aside, Mr. Berlin is quite possibly right. (You owe it to yourself to read the short history of the song on Wikipedia. Look at all the groups who have recorded it, from Otis Redding to Bette Midler to Stiff Little Fingers to New Kids on the Block. Amazing.) The clip above isn't the best rendition ever (it's from the movie), but I include it for two reasons: You haven't lived until you see that chick's waist. I know! Also, remember that Danny Kaye was the most well known gay actor of the time (at least in Hollywood; it was still a secret to America). See if that doesn't change how you view the clip. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2007

Funny Christmas Songs

I have been trying to make a list of Best Non-Religious Christmas Songs (as a companion to the Best Christmas Carols list of last week). Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to narrow it down. Luckily, I came up with a slight “cheat,” but putting all the funny/parody songs in a quick list of their own.


THE TOP TEN FUNNY CHRISTMAS SONGS




#10 It’s a Marshmallow World – All these years we thought my dad was making it up, but here is Dino and Frank with proof!



#9 All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth – If I had to spend much time with the kid, I think I’d break his other teeth, and possibly sew his mouth shut.




#8 The Night Santa Went Crazy
– God Bless Weird Al. (By the way, if you have trouble imagining Santa as a mass murderer, you might want to skip this one.)



#7 Santa and the Satellite
– Almost too weird to be believed, and not to be missed. Santa is mistaken for a UFO. Hilarity ensues. (If anyone can find it I'd be grateful)


#6 Christmas Time is Here (Chipmunk Song) – I so loathe the previews for the new movie that I sort of don’t want to put this on here, but then I found out they do a version of Wham’s “Last Christmas,” and it’s fantastic! Don’t believe me? Check it out. Now, all is forgiven.


#5 Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer – I never had one of those alcoholic Grandmas.



#4 (I’m Getting) Nuttin’ for Christmas – If only because it’s so freaking hard to sing! (In case you wondered, that’s a burglar singing with him on the third chorus. By the way, sorry for the Kingdom Hearts montage. It’s the only video I could find with the original version.)




#3 Twelve Gifts of Christmas
– I know some folks like the Mackenzie Brothers’ version, but it’s just too hokey. Allan Sherman’s on the other hand, is hilarious. I found this version, and while the sound isn’t awesome, he actually went out of his way to find the 12 gifts. The statue is the funniest one. IFI: when this song was written a “Japanese” transistor radio would be a crappy gift. Now it’s the only kind you’d buy.




#2 I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas – Ever since I saw the “House Hippos” PSA I have thought I could pull this off.

And the number one “Funny” Christmas Song is…..




#1 I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas – If you do nothing else today (and really, you have nothing to do), listen to this one. It’s hilarious. I yearn to say letters of the alphabet wrong too!

December 20, 2007

Christmas Carols

I started with the goal of coming up with a list of the Best Christmas songs. I soon learned this was easier said than done. There are so freaking many of them! So, I decided to break the task down just a bit.

Last night Kaida and began and we started with “Religious Christmas Carols.” Even then, we had 145 to go through. (By the way, in case you want to rank them yourself, we used Wikipedia’s list, the first half where it says “Religious Christmas Carols.”)

It took a couple of hours to go through 145 songs. Many we weren’t sure of, and had to listen to or discuss. Finally, after a good amount of arguing (but not too much), we narrowed it down to thirty-nine songs. This is where the blood bath really began.

For the next hour, we argued mercilessly about which of the songs could conceivably be in a Top Ten List. Feelings were hurt, and more than once “Hyperion, you ignorant slut” was uttered. (If You’re Interested (IFI), I have done many of these lists now, and I have learned the hard way. Don’t try to rank them until you need to. The hard part is in the winnowing. Make your criteria just what you can strike for sure, even if you have to do several rounds. Once you have your list, whatever that number is, the actual ranking usually isn’t that hard to do.)

From thirty-eight songs, we got down to twenty-two, and it became apparent we were never going to get down to 10. Compromising, we cut two more and tried to fashion a Top 20 list. Before actually ranking them, we separated the list into two: songs that would definitely go 11-20, and songs that had to go 1-10. Of course, there were 14 songs that just HAD to go in the Top 10, but eventually we had our strata.

At that point, I bowed out and let Kaida actually decide the rankings. I did this because A) it really is the easiest part, especially if you know your #1; B) After so much fighting, it was time to heal; C) after going through that process, I thought she’d earned the right of final rankings; D) In case you’re mad, you can blame her.

Anyway, after all that, this list is what we came up with. You might have a few quibbles, but it’s pretty solid. One other thing: I wanted to have videos for all 20, but Kaida told me I could only do five. Make sure you watch those five, as I tried to pick funny ones. Enjoy.


THE TOP TWENTY RELIGIOUS CHRISTMAS CAROLS


Honorable Mention: While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks; Mary's Boy Child; Ding Dong Merrily on High; Angels, From the Realms of Glory; O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree); Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow; I Wonder as I Wander; Here We Come A-Wassailing; The Holly and the Ivy; I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day; I Saw Three Ships (Come Sailing In); Good Friends, Rejoice; Go Tell it on the Mountain; Good King Wenceslas; Fum, Fum, Fum!; Christ Is Born in Bethlehem; Il est né, le divin Enfant!; Christmas is Coming


#20 God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen – The one editorial change I made was to take out Go Tell it on the Mountain to put this song in, and only because it shows up in Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, and I have to give props to my boys. (It’s a better song, too. The only reason we missed it is I believe extreme fatigue.)


#19 It Came Upon the Midnight Clear – I think more people should speak poetically like this. I’ll call you upon a three o’clock cloudy. Well, maybe best left to the professionals.


#18 Do You Hear What I Hear? – Never a good conversation to have with a schizophrenic. Good song, though.



#17 Little Drummer Boy – This video has to be the most bizarre music combo of all time. But you know what? IT WORKS!!!! (The chitchat at the beginning is utterly priceless.)


#16 Sweet Little Jesus Boy – The first time I heard this song, I thought the singer just had bad grammar. (The lyrics go, “Sweet Little Jesus Boy, we didn’t know who you was.”) Once I educated myself, this became one of my very favorites. If I was in charge this song makes at least #6. I think it doesn’t get the credit it deserves because so many people can’t sing it.


#15 The First Noël – A B C D E F G H I J K M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z (Get it?)




#14 We Three Kings of Orient Are
– If you do nothing else today, make sure you watch this video. It’s from Claymation Christmas, one of the greatest specials. IFI: not for nothing, but nowhere in the Bible does it say there were three kings. Or that they were kings. Just sayin’.


#13 What Child is This? – Dude, Greensleves (the full song), is one of the best pieces of music ever. If it doesn’t get forever associated with the carol I think it’s as revered as Für Elise.


#12 O Little Town of Bethlehem – Do you know what’s going on in Bethlehem right now? Sad sad sad. Luckily, you have me.


#11 Away in a Manger – How well would this hymn be remembered if it was called “Away in a Trough”? The rest of the year, every time you hear “manger” you’ll think “trough” and have a hard time not laughing.



#10 O Come All Ye Faithful
– There is a Twisted Sister version of this song. It took all my power not to paste that. Instead, you get hot Irish girls, so it ain’t all bad.



#9 Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly
– Great song, but for me, forever associated with CHRISTMAS STORY. You know what? Screw Kaida’s five video rule. I’m putting it up!


#8 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – If you haven’t yet, make sure you read the column where I talk about playing “Hark” in the Church Christmas play in 3rd grade. Inspiring stuff.


#7 We Wish You A Merry Christmas – Along with #9, not very religious, huh? Still, if it’s good enough for Wikipedia, it’s good enough for me. IFI: Kaida had this #3 until a last minute switch. I feel you need to know these things.


#6 O come, O come, Emmanuel – this one is hard to sing, but is one of my very favorites to hear, if it’s done right.


#5 Joy to the World – All morning I’ve tried to come up with a good Jeremiah the bullfrog joke here, but I have struck out. Sniff sniff. This is probably my #2. (IYI: I found this picture under "Joy to the World." I have no idea what it's supposed to mean.)



#4 Carol of the Bells
– this video is also from Claymation Christmas, and under penalty of death IS NOT TO BE MISSED! The look on their faces when they get hit with the mallets is priceless. I think this is a tad over-ranked, but that woman would have put it higher if she could.


#3 Angels We Have Heard on High – I think this has to be the most fun Christmas song to sing, if only because you get to really belt out those “Glo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oria, In Excelcius Deo….”



#2 O Holy Night
– Another one that’s just impossible to sing, but absolutely gorgeous if done right. I tried with all my might to find a beautiful version for you, but when it’s all said and done I couldn’t deprive you of Cartman getting shocked with a cattle prod. (Note: I spent 40 &*%*&% minutes looking for the clip, but I can't find video. However, this is the audio, so just ignore the anime and listen. Hilarious.)

and the number 1 religious Christmas Carol......



#1 Silent Night
– Every Hundred years or so the Germans get something right.

December 5, 2007

Movie Dance Scenes

Somehow, we got on to trying to come up with the best dance scenes in movies. Quickly I ascertained that Musicals and Movies solely about dance would have to be eliminated. There are too many of them, and it's an unfair comparison. (We can do that list later, if there's a clamor.)

My criteria was that the scene was memorable, the music good, the dancing actually good and the scene was important to the movie, and lastly, how iconic it was. My list may surprise you, but just remember: I'm right, you're not.


THE TOP 15 DANCE SCNES FROM NON-MUSICAL MOVIES


#15 Can't Buy Me Love - Nothing beats a young McDreamy in the African Anteater Ritual!!!!


#14 American President - I don't know what's better; the sweeping camera shot or the look on Richard Dreyfus's face.



#13 Gone With the Wind - You know how they made a black version of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and "The Honeymooners." I got their next project for them.



#12 Reservoir Dogs - One of the creepiest scenes ever, and begs the question, if the other guy is tied up, are you dancing with yourself? (see clip here)



#11 Exotica - There is no way to describe these scenes other than to see the movie, which you should (although: it will tear your head open). The film is about a stripper but like all Canadians, there is so much more going on below the surface. (See clip here, set to Leonard Cohen's Everybody Knows)



#10 True Lies - Take your pick. I prefer the Tango with Tia Carrere (seen here), but you might like Jamie-Lee (here)



#9 Sin City - For where it comes in the movie, for the chaps, for the lasso, and for Nancy (see the clip here)



#8 Foot Loose - For me, the movie goes down hill when he survives the bulldozer




#7 Napoleon Dynamite - If only because it comes out of freaking nowhere, man!



#6 Risky Business - Perhaps the highlight of the tighty-whitey era




#5 Pulp Fiction
- I think my favorite part might be how Travolta takes off his shoes and then his socks. It just builds tension in this kooky way.




#4 Dirty Dancing (sigh, the final scene, although I prefer the earlier 2, but I want women to talk to me again) - Nobody puts Baby outside of the Top 5! (Is that a child Dirty Dancing? Try to defend that, bitches!)



#3 From Dusk Till Dawn - I think if you have a daughter, and you name her Fantastico Pandemonium, you might as well give her a giant snake, because that's where she's headed. (And in this case, may I just say Thank the gods!)



#2 Young Frankenstein - Now that's "Puttin' on the Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!"

and the #1 dance scene in a non-musical is......



#1 Saturday Night Fever - Never have so many women simultaneously wanted one man. For that matter, never have so many men simultaneously wanted one man. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you John Travolta!



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