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All I Want For Christmas Is For You To Stop Fucking With Perfection

“All I Want For Christmas Is You” is, without question, the greatest articulation of the (secular) spirit of Christmas ever recorded.  The lyrics center on the singer’s love for another, a love so strong that the presence of her beloved is more important to her celebration of Christmas than presents, Santa or any of the other miscellany associated with December 25th.  The video, shot in the style of a grainy home movie (before home movies were shot in HD on iPhones, edited in iMovie, uploaded to YouTube and shared on Facebook), is filled with images of home and hearth, amplifying the message that Christmas is about the one(s) you love (which may include Jesus of Nazareth, although this is no longer considered essential to the Holiday).  It’s also filled with images of Mariah Carey, although this is typical of Mariah Carey videos of the time, although her midriff and cleavage are notably absent here. The net effect of this is humanizing: we are confronted with Carey the person, who misses her beloved, rather than Carey the prepackaged sex symbol.

And the composition and production value of the track are off the chart, placing this song firmly in the pantheon of Great Pop Songs (see also: Beach Boys, Michael Jackson).

Christmas ’94 was the first year we had the track.  My Dad gave Merry Christmas to my Mom that year and the album would feature prominently on the Bobo Family Stereo System from roughly November 1st to January 30th in each following calendar year.  At first, my brother and I would rebel whenever it was played, since at the time we only listened to Green Day or Nirvana or whatever else was cool in elementary school, but eventually taste won out.  These days it’s a Christmas tradition of our own to blast “All I Want For Christmas Is You” at dance parties or at karaoke, eliciting from those around us the sort of glee that’s typically reserved for kids receiving the perfect gift.  Hell, we don’t even need to play it around Christmas.  You can play the song at a party any time of year and it will be legitimately enjoyed.  Play any other popular Christmas song off-calendar and see what sort of reaction you get.

My (and, I assume, my generation’s) love for the song is due in large part to its intrinsic musical qualities, but that love is also a product of cultural context.  It’s a product of our 90′s nostalgia, which waxes every year and has by this point eclipsed our affected nostalgia for the 80s (which, of course, we don’t really remember).  It’s a product of remembering the Christmases of our youth, when we woke our parents up at the crack of dawn to open presents we had specifically requested but whose unwrapping nevertheless led to fits of mania.

And yes, for me at least, it’s probably a product of that scene in Love Actually.

Which provides a nice (if, given my last admission, uncomfortable) segue into the rant you all know is coming.  Love Actually is a mediocre movie, packaging every Christmas cliche imaginable into 136 minutes of saccharine pap that all but the most cynical of viewers can’t help but like.  While the desire to make money motivated the commercial release of Merry Christmas, the quality of the product helps us to forgive its blatantly commercial purpose.  It’s hard to forgive Love Actually on the same grounds.

But it’s downright impossible to forgive the evil forces behind Justin Bieber and the video that follows this sentence.

For those who are unaware, Mariah Carey recently put her red suit back on (although it seems to have shrunk over the years) to team up with teen phenom Justin Bieber in a duet cover of the 1994 classic.  Being a 25 (almost 26!) year-old male, I am for a number of reasons immune to Bieber fever, which has in recent years swept the nation (or at least its 10-18 year old female component), however my distaste for this remake cannot be explained by my demographic information alone.

For starters, it sounds terrible.  From Bieber and Carey’s ludicrous vocal run competition to the questionable mastering and mixing, nothing about the production comes close to the original.  As for the new vocal entrant, I hope Bieber has saved his Never Say Never royalties, because it sounds like the boy has finally hit puberty.  Without the ability to hit those high C’s, he’d better hope he can make the DiCaprio leap to adulthood.

Secondly, the video charmless.  There’s no doubt that Carey looks good for her 41 years, but compare her attire and demeanor here to the original video.  She’s old enough to be Bieber’s mother, but she’s dressed like a (north) pole dancer (sorry).  In a video almost assuredly intended to be consumed by teenage girls, Mariah Carey has her hands on the wall, shaking her ass at the camera like one of those girls in a “Find chicks near you” banner ad that dominates the facebook pages of single men everywhere.  When she’s not assuming the take-me-from-behind position, she’s leaning back against that same wall, flaunting her breasts like a pair of Christmas hams (“Just like honey”-spiraled).  I’m familiar with the whole if-you’ve-got-it-flaunt-it ethos that pervades a good deal of women’s sartorial thinking, but this is a fucking Christmas song!  Reduced to a crushed-velvet sex object, the humanity (oh, the humanity!) that made the 94 video so endearing is completely absent from her 2011 performance.

The home video conceit is likewise abandoned, replaced instead by the images of commerce that have come to be the chief characteristic of Christmas (yes, I know Christmas has been about “that ca-a-ash” since long before I was born.  Shut up).  The majority of the video takes place in a department store, where the Biebs and his palz are loading Nintendo DS boxes into shopping carts and mugging for the camera (it’s unclear if Carey is shopping too or if she just likes posing suggestively in public places).

The two stars toss presents to the adoring fans who swarm their sleigh.  Years later, Pop Up Video (I’m assuming someone brings it back) will explain that these boxes contain instructions on how to buy tickets to Bieber’s “Christmas Say Christmas” tour, which will commence in January.

Whereas the purpose of the original song and video was to convey the singer’s feelings about Christmas and the one she loved, the purpose here and, indeed, the purpose behind remaking almost any popular and beloved song is obvious: $$$$.  I haven’t looked it up (because I’m lazy), but this single has undoubtedly made some people a lot of $$$$.  It doesn’t change the fact that the 94 original is a bona fide jam, but, given my propensity for armchair over-analysis, how can I continue to play the original at late night karaoke dance parties without being reminded of this sacrilege? Couldn’t Bieber’s handlers have found songwriters who could write an original Christmas song for him?

It pains me that “All I Want For Christmas Is You” will be experienced by future generations in this way.  My heart aches for the legions of Biebermaniacs who, in their youthful ignorance, will argue that they prefer Biebz’z version.  I weep for yours truly, who, instead of filling my blog with the heartfelt joy these pages are known for, has dedicated 1000+ words to something so bitterly repugnant.

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