Friday, December 4, 2009
Seasons Greetings, children of the 90s. Welcome to the first of what's sure to be a many, many-part 90s Christmas post series sprinkled intermittently throughout this holiday season. Brace yourselves. It's going to be festive.
While driving to work this morning, the radio was blaring Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas" and I came to the stunning realization that I know all of the words and musical nuances to this song. Now, I don't personally celebrate Christmas, but I do participate in another critical holiday tradition: shopping. Stores know that if they pipe Christmas music into the stores, we'll all get a bit glassy-eyed and nostalgic and our credit-dependent inner gift givers really come out to spend. Let me tell you, based on all the merrily decorated green and red shopping bags littering my apartment, this theory holds pretty true.
There are only so many holiday classics to play, though, and the pop music industry is quick to fill this void with auto-tuned covers and horribly corny new songs. Back in the days when people actually purchased tapes or CDs at their local music emporium, Christmas CDs were a sort of cop-out way for artists to make a quick buck and eke out some allegedly new material for holiday season live performances. These days, it's more likely we'd be roasting chestnuts on an open fire while listening to a pirated mp3 version of our favorite Christmas tune.
In the 90s, though, it a pretty a lucrative enterprise, and many many pop music makers jumped on board the Christmas Album express to bring us this mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the horribly cheesy:
N*SYNC: Home for Christmas
A mishmash of original songs and traditional covers, N*SYNC's 1998 Christmas album gave us a syrupy dose of holiday time bubble gum pop. It was tough to pop this one in the boombox without suffering a serious toothache. They released the single "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays", garnering some moderate radio play. It's since become a standard in many mall stores' Christmas music rotations. I'm pretty sure I had this on a mixtape somewhere. It was catchy, plus the video features Gary Coleman as an elf. What's not to like?
N Sync - Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays (Official Music Video) - For more amazing video clips, click here
Spice Girls' Christmas Wrapping
The Spice Girls were wildly popular in the late 90s, meaning that even two enormously pregnant group members wasn't enough to stand in the way of production of this cover of The Waitresses' 1981 "Christmas Wrapping". Geri Halliwell had since departed the group, and between her absence and Mel B's and Victoria Beckham's respective pregnancies that left only Emma Bunton and Mel C on vocals. Still, it's kind of catchy. In a Spice Girls sort of way.
Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas
Released at the pinnacle of Carey's 90s fame, Merry Christmas quickly became one of the bestselling Christmas albums of the decade. Another compilation of original songs and covers, producers released several singles from the album. By far the most successful was "All I Want For Christmas is You", which even the sometimes-finicky New Yorker admitted was of the only new Christmas songs worthy of breaking into the traditional "holiday canon".
In typical diva fashion, Carey released several videos for her top single. To her credit, though, her song has the staying power that so many others did not. It remains amongst the most popular holiday cell phone ringtones, so don't be surprised it you still hear it playing in purses and pockets everywhere.
Adam Sandler's Chanukah Song
Most stores still shuffle this in their regular assortment of holiday songs as minor consolation to Members of the Tribe. Sandler's song appeared on Saturday Night Live and on his comedy album What the Hell Happened to Me? While subsequent performances have featured updated pop culture references in the lyrics, the original is still pretty funny. It served to remind those of us who don't celebrate Christmas that, hey, we may not get to delight in presents under the trimmed tree but we have many, many compadres in the show biz industry. The song taught young Jewish kids that they can claim Captain Kirk and Mr Spock alongside all three stooges as their brethren, so maybe it's not so bad after all.
Celine Dion: These are Special Times
These are Special Times remains one of the best-selling Christmas releases, selling over 15 million copies internationally. It's sort of an eclectic mix, with some traditional songs and others with...R Kelly? Really? Their duet "I'm Your Angel" charted at number one and remained there for weeks. The single went platinum, proving that pompous Canadians and legally troubled rappers can produce beautiful music together. I mean, it's no "Trapped in the Closet", but it'll do.
Hanson: Snowed in
Who better to count on in the mid 90s to give us some squeaky clean family-friendly fare than the Hanson brothers? They must have been doing something right, as their Christmas Album Snowed In went platinum. It was pop holiday music at its most innocent and least offensive.
New Kids on the Block: Merry, Merry Christmas
New Kids on the Block opened the floodgates to the boy band phenomenon of the 90s, and their 1989 Merry Merry Christmas was a prime example of their cheesy charm. With songs like "Funky, Funky Xmas", how could you lose? That one sounds like a guaranteed hit. My personal favorite is "This One's for the Children", which is corny even by NKotB standards.
New Kids On The Block - This One's For The Children
Free Videos at www.blastro.com
These may not all have been musical masterpieces, but did allow usually surly teenagers to delight in the holiday with the help of their favorite pop singers. The albums all get essentially a free pass on cheesiness because it's the holidays and we're supposed to be generous, kind, and forgiving. Which is a lucky thing, as many of these albums were completely and totally over-the-top cornball. They do have an uncanny way of putting you in the holiday spirit, so go ahead and revel in the only time of year where you can suspend your judgments and just enjoy it.