Thursday, December 23, 2010

Get In The Spirit! (Just not IN The Spirits….)

Do you ever get the feeling, that, like certain mechanical devices (VCRs, Fax machines, typewriters, rotary phones, the Abacus, Paula Abdul), there are some traditions that have long ago been rendered obsolete, yet can still be found hanging around? They evoke a kind of horror when you come across them, perhaps even embarrassment that you once thought they were cool. Still, they prove hard to throw away (could they be necessary in case of an apocalyptic event? How am I ever going to play that video of my wedding? Where do I insert a floppy disc?).

Similarly, I love that YouTube can make readily available episodes and clips from epically kitsch television shows of my childhood, the ones in which technology had not yet caught up with the unavoidable truth that TV is a visual medium, and that the viewers at home can actually see the bad hair and makeup. But I love that they are on YouTube and not on my actual Tube: I don’t want to have to pay to see crap. I want to enjoy it for free.

This brings me to the CMA Christmas Special aired last night on ABC. I will not pretend that this will be a review of the show, because I only made it through three songs before having to turn it off. Here’s why.

Jennifer Nettles. Now, I love this gal: I think she is one of the most reliably gifted singers we have. This has become so obvious to so many in the last few years since Sugarland hit it big, that she has become a go-to girl for all sorts of things that don’t involve singing. Her speaking has become infused with her stage persona to such an extent that everything she says appears scripted and polished with a big dose of country phony. That’s the stuff that allows girls in 5-inch heels and designer duds to pretend they just came off the farm. There is a fine line between performance and showmanship, and it runs through the Las Vegas Strip. The opening number, “Winter Wonderland,” reeked of Branson, Missouri so bad I could spell the formaldehyde. It was like the song had been put through an app that turns everything into a wildly exaggerated parody of itself. Then she told an anecdote to camera that had no point whatsoever about the one year Santa came to the Nettles’ house early. Whatev.

I thought, well, this is to be expected. But now that’s out of the way, we’ll get to see good singers deliver some fine seasonal songs. I was wrong.

LeAnn Rimes looked great! for a former child star recently embroiled in a nasty divorce publicity fiasco. Really, she looks great! And she sings great! But what the fuck was with the gang of jazz-hands sailors who “enhanced” her set with much leaping and swirling? Is she being marketed to queens now? Seriously? At least when Cher did it she gave us a gratuitous shot of her bare ass. 

Feeling slightly nauseous by this time, I waited through the commercial break because I was curious to see how Rascal Flatts were handled by this treatment. I needn’t have worried: those boys hammed it up all by themselves without any help. It’s what they do. But please, someone: Joe Don needs a hair product intervention. The first step in overcoming addiction is admitting you have a problem. Joe Don: put the hair spray down. Now

Rascal Flatts are best when they sing acapella, which thankfully they did for their second song. Sure, Gary Le Vox has a great voice, but you know, whenever he finds himself in iffy waters, range-wise, he throws to his trademark warble and that gets him out of trouble.

By this point I had had enough. I was clearly a fool for thinking that anything with “Christmas” in the title produced by a major network could be anything but sheer schmaltz (and by that I do mean rendered chicken fat.).

So instead of any of that rubbish, I shall leave you with some genuinely great seasonal (non auto)tunes and bid y’all a Very Merry Christmas. 

Sugarland "Gold and Green"

Carrie Underwood "Do You Hear What I Hear"

Martina McBride "O Holy Night"

Jeffrey Foucault "Ghost Repeater"

Mike Oldfield "In Dulci Jubilo"

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