Championship karaoke

By By Mark Mitchell

By Mark Mitchell

I like Christmas well enough. I really do. However, when you’re waiting at a TRAX station and some dude in an alpaca pullover is spitting out a soaring pan-flute arrangement of “Christmas Magic” and emoting so hard the veins are sticking out of his neck, it’s hard to be in the mood for anything other than knocking people over.

How, you may wonder, did I even recognize “Christmas Magic,” as popularized by Lindsay Lohan’s little sister, burgeoning songstress Ali Lohan, when it was in such a heinously bastardized form arranged for the Peruvian pan flute?

I will tell you.

Living in the world right now, unless you are building pipe bombs in a shack in the woods full-time, you are going to be aware of a certain sedimentary layer of information. If you never watch television or listen to the radio, if you attempt in your every waking hour to avoid the Top 40 song list at all costs, you will still end up knowing every God-awful lyric of a certain batch of bad pop music by heart because you will be utterly unable to avoid it.

Even if you cling to like a drowning man to a plank for your holiday shopping needs, eventually you’ll have to go shopping somewhere where the girl with hubcap-sized earrings who chews with her mouth open is listening to the radio. You will call your oral surgeon and be put on hold. You will live near a stop sign and snatches of heavy wailing will crawl from bass-heavy car speakers through your window with all the musk and ferocity of a heat-maddened rapist.

In any case, you WILL end up hearing and inadvertently memorizing a lot of terrible Christmas songs because several zillion people love the living hell out of them. These invisible nations of people so love the Top 40 that they will not only wade through barking retail carpet and auto body ads to listen to the endless rotation of them on the top Big Radio Stations that are piped like the Word of God into their workplaces, but they will then, after their workday is over, go out and buy the same CDs for the full $14.99 price tag. They will then play them voluntarily when they get home in the evening in those relaxing moments that don’t involve television.

Yes, it is indeed the Christmas season–that special time of year when the marginally famous feel special enough to release a special song just for the holidays with the hopes that maybe, just maybe, they, too, will become special holiday classics.

The most shameless of this year’s Christmas-time horrors is Billy Idol’s rockin’ Christmas album, Happy Holidays.

The lead single from this outing is a bland recording of the blandest Christmas carol ever conceived, “White Christmas.” And it comes complete with a music video.

What’s great about Billy Idol is that he always makes that same sneering face no matter what he’s doing, whether it’s awkwardly shaking a present in front of a Christmas tree or looking through a snow-covered window, jazz-hands all askew. You sort of have to admire that kind of consistency.

The video has so many dissolves (23 in its 2:28 running time) that watching it is like repeatedly falling down into a valley filled with Christmas trees and shiny ornaments.

If I had seen it without knowing who was singing or had any other preface, I immediately would have thought it was purposefully ironic and self-reflectively funny. My first impression was that it was obviously dripping with irony, emphasized by the constantly repeating shots (did they just shoot half a video and replay it?). I had to convince myself that it was supposed to be “real.”

It’s a lot like Bill Nighy’s aging rocker in “Love, Actually,” except without the blunt honesty about remaking a crappy song in a crappy way for purely monetary reasons.

But oh, Billy. We’d expect this from the likes of Rod Stewart. But once you’ve added 95,000 sixteenth notes to your cheesy rendition of “Silent Night,” there’s no turning back. For shame, Billy, for shame.