You could almost see a contest being created around the Herculean task. The title of the contest could relate to old, smelly sneakers or something.
Yet, in 2009 Neil Diamond would have won the coveted holey shoe without any trouble at all with his “A Cherry Cherry Christmas.” (You see how I did that? Because we are talking about the holidays and I said “holey” instead of holy?… Oh, nevermind.)
How did I escape this atrocity to the holidays for the last few years?
It might be my first proof of Christmas angels. (And not the little ones who are all alone with no toys to play with except a shoebox… Wow, I hate that children’s book; most depressing vision of the afterlife ever.) See, I love the holiday season and one of my little embarrassing quirks is each year I give the local radio stations a chance to prove to me that there is still the possibility of good Christmas music being made. Usually, they don’t succeed…
Actually, sadly, I can’t think of the last time they have convinced me that anyone should consider making a holiday CD at all again!
It’s enough to turn a holiday nut like me into Scrooge, as one pop artist after another makes a song filled with synthesizers pretending to be strings, bad swing, out-of-tune choirs of children, and worse… sentiment so thick and fake you can drown in it. As I pointed out recently to a friend, you can tell that the songs are recorded in the summer. No one in the studio is ever feeling it, the performances are just that bland.
Bing Crosby where are you when we need you? It’s time to perfect the cloning technology in my opinion and see what we can do about Nat King Cole.
Anyway, yesterday while driving to get some lunch I finally heard Neil Diamond’s little holiday curse. Yes, they were playing this like it was a classic! Move over Vince Guaraldi, a new classic is in town! Sigh… What was the DJ thinking? It is the equivalent of a musical car wreck, you don’t want to look (or listen) but you can’t turn away. (And for those desperate to understand what I am talking about, you can watch the “rock” video for it on youtube here. Those poor children in it!)
Deep breath… Now not all holiday songs are innocent of issues, many leave me with questions like…
- Is the nativity scene really the best time for a drum solo? Really, “Little Drummer Boy,” really?
- Is the mighty king in “Do You Hear What I Hear?” King Herod? Seriously, if he is, it adds an interesting dark element to the song. Did the little lamb start him on his diabolical quest without meaning too?
- Shouldn’t the other reindeer have gotten scolded for being mean at some point in “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer?”
- Why is Paul McCartney so worried about looking down in “Wonderful Christmastime?” (What was in the drinks at that party?)
- And who listens to Tran-Siberian Orchestra? It isn’t exactly the kind of music you put on while making sugar cookies, is it? How many children unwrap presents with that going on? (Okay, I know these bullets were supposed to be just about songs, but I wonder this every year. They actually tour with a full show!)
So why is “A Cherry, Cherry Christmas” so bad? Where do I even begin…
Well, first the lyrics are so… boring and bad. It’s almost like he gave himself a challenge. Rock and rolly? Holly holy? Now I can see holy holly? But the other way around it doesn’t make sense.
And his imagery? Snow doesn’t fall, it drops. DROPS! What kind of snow storms has he seen? There is nothing romantic in the imagery of dropping. I mean, get out a thesaurus; they are free on the internet. Drops???
Now how about this mind-numbing tongue-twister. I would love for someone to explain this to me:
“In a world of make-believe I’m a believer, and I believe in things not always understood, but the things you feel make believing real.”
I repeat… What?
Did I mention he references his own songs? Not just references, he says the whole world sings along. Now, I know his stuff is pretty popular, but let’s hold off the self-praise a little bit, okay there, Mr. Diamond?
The thing I walked away from this song with the most was the sad image of what a holiday at Neil Diamond’s house must be like. I imagine he has had a few too many trips to the punch bowl, might be pinching the wrong people, and then suddenly he is at the piano forcing his guests to sing “Sweet Caroline” one more time. Oh, it was fun the first time, but after four it is tiring. People want to sneak to the door, but he notices; and you don’t want to get him angry do you? He’s Neil Diamond!
Sometimes when I hear a bad song (not just holiday), I always wonder what was the band thinking? I mean, they are in the studio with this guy probably all day (and maybe in the video). Why didn’t a single one of them have the guts to interrupt? Wave their hand and say, “Hey, how about taking another run at those lyrics, big guy?” How much was he paying them? I don’t know about you, but if I was a studio musician at that session I would have needed a series of showers afterwards to wash the stink of this song off me. There I would be, scrubbing away, mumbling again and again. “No, I don’t know what you mean. No, I don’t know what you mean. No, I don’t. I don’t!”
The funny thing is it really isn’t difficult to write a good Christmas song. I’m not joking. See most of the classic have similarities and if you tap into them, you are halfway there. Focus on imagery that represent the holiday for people- white Christmases, silver bells, children waiting for Santa, etc. Don’t be sentimental! The image will do it for you. And please, please!, don’t try to tell us a story. Anyway, if you start with that basis you are halfway there to writing the next “A Christmas Song,” “Christmastime is Here,” “White Christmas,” etc.… Oh, and you have to care about it, you can’t just list things.
The worst sin I think of the song starts right with the title. It is a cynical title that makes no sense.
You can’t have a “cherry, cherry” anything. Cherries really have little to do with the holiday season, save in drinks, chocolate (but that is really more Valentine’s Day, right?), and the fact they are red. Oh, and did you notice, he never explains what a “cherry, cherry’ means. But in the spirit of Neil Diamond’s warped view of the holiday season let me wish you the very merriest banana, banana Christmas.
And a strawberry, strawberry New Year!
If you liked reading this post, why not check out one of my books? I’ve had three novels published in the last few years, A Jane Austen Daydream, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here. Thanks for reading!