My Favourite Weird, Wacky and (sometimes) Wonderful, Obscure Christmas Tunes

Welcome to the Island of Misfit Carols

So, the holidays are here, and you’ve no doubt heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” a kajillion times.  You’ve probably also heard Boney M’s entire Christmas catalogue dozens of times over.  The great thing is, there are lots of other holiday tunes out there – some are awful, some are awesome, and some are awesomely awful… But chances are you won’t be hearing these jingles in the malls anytime soon.  Presented in no particular order, I give to you some of these misfit carols.

Heidi Klum – Wonderland

What’s the German word for “steaming pile of reindeer crap?”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love me my Heidi Klum.  She’s a fabulous host on Project Runway, she always looks fabulous, and she’s just plain awesome.  But, as this song proves, she probably shouldn’t step into a recording booth again anytime soon.  Auf Wiedersehen, Wonderland.

Janice Dickinson – Twelve Days of Christmas

Speaking of models-turned-reality-show-judges-that-probably-should-step-away-from-the-microphone, “World’s First Supermodel” Janice Dickinson gives us 12 days of ridiculousness. I love Janice, but this is all just a little too… Janice Dickinson.

Burton Cummings – 8 Days of Christmas

I’m from Winnipeg, where we have a community centre, theatre and, probably, public toilet named after Burton Cummings.  There’s no doubt he shaped rock and roll with the Guess Who – but this ditty, composed in 1970, and performed here in 2010, won’t be getting him into any halls of fame.  In case you were wondering about Burton’s drug use back in the day…  Well…

“FIVE POUNDS OF HASH!”

(And boy, does he get excited about that).

A true Winnipeg hero. Or whatever.

Colin & Justin – Mary’s Boy Child

Having worked many years in retail, Boney M’s Christmas album gives me hives at the best of time, but this charity single from Colin & Justin takes an annoying Christmas song and makes it unbearable.  I love these guys, but this song is just wrong.  It’s just. So. White.

Olivia Newton-John – Christmas Time Down Under

Full disclosure: I am a HUGE Olivia Newton-John fan… But this ditty (from 1965) is just bizarre.  Yeah, we get that things are different in Australia, and that Christmas is in the middle of summer, but this is just odd.  Also, it appears that Australian teens are forced to work in Christmassy labour camps, like The Christmas Pudding Detention Centre here.

Donny & Marie – Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree

Christmas specials in the 70s were pretty fabulous.  Here, Donny & Marie take a song with the word “rockin'” in the title, and turn it into something disco-riffic.  Also, D&M were totally down with the “ugly Christmas sweater” trend 30-some years before it was a thing.

There are so many more Christmas oddities, but hey, I gotta save something for next year, right?

To end off this collection of holiday weirdness, I have to post a TV Christmas special that very few people have seen.  A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a bizarre holiday special aired that was low-budget and bizarre – so much so, it has become pop culture legend.

No, not that holiday special!  This one…

Rupaul’s Christmas Ball

Before Drag Race, RuPaul was a B-to-C-list celebrity with a small cult following and a few hit dance songs.  Then, in 1993, the UK’s Channel 4 gave Ru a Christmas special… And boy, is it special. The Onion’s AV club has a great article about the history of this piece of ridiculousness.  To paraphrase SNL’s Stefon, this special has everything:

  • A-list guest stars: Elton John, Nirvana
  • B-list guest stars: Eartha Kitt, Boy George
  • …and LaToya Jackson.
  • Oral Sex References (courtesy of Taylor Dayne)
  • Laugh-in Style jokes courtesy of New York Club Kids

And so, so, so much more.  It looks like it was produced on a cable-access budget, but it’s just so gosh darn giddy you can’t help but watch it in all its WTF’ness.

And, actually, Ru’s “Little Drummer Boy” is pretty damn good. It’s just surrounded by more wackiness than you generally see anywhere outside of a bad acid trip.

As I snuggle up with my kitties and a glass of eggnog by the tree, I cap off this list with a song that is a little more well-known, but still pretty wacky…

Barbra Streisand – Jingle Bells?

Babs’ take on this classic is manic, ridiculous and, for my money, just plain awesome.  From the frenetic pace of the song to the “ji-ji-ji-ji-ji-ji-jingle bells, ji-ji-ji-ji-ji-ji-jangle bells” and, my favourite part – “Upsot?!” – this song is a Christmas classic for me.

What did I miss?  Let me know your favourite Christmas oddities!

Wishing you and yours all the best for this holiday season – and here’s to a fabulous 2018!

My Top Songs of 2017, featuring MUNA, Dua Lipa and Tove Lo

Tove Lo, Muna and Dua Lipa are NOT characters from the new Star Wars Movie. They made my favorite songs to listen to in 2017.

As 2017 draws to a close, it’s time to look back at some of the things that made my year awesome – including my favourite music.

Some highlights – Carly Rae Jepsen brightened our summer with Cut To The Feeling, Kesha roared back, and Demi Lovato (with Jax Jones) continued to slay. Oh, and Katy Perry took a great, dark diss track and made ones of the worst videos of all time.

But three songs totally rocked my world this year – and the three artists behind these songs have some things in common – they didn’t get nearly enough airplay or attention in North America, and their names sound like they could be characters in Star Wars.  They all have a neo-disco vibe, too… But that’s just kind of my jam.

So, without further ado, here are the three songs that I’ve had on constant repeat for 2017. Full disclosure: Some of these songs were released before 2017, but hey, this is my list and I can do what I want.

3. Muna – I Know A Place

So, the song was released in 2016, but the video came out in 2017… So it totally counts.

In case you haven’t heard of Muna, they’re a trio from LA… But they have a very European sound to me. Like, I could tell you they’re from Ireland and you’d totally believe me.

At any rate, this song gives me hope for humanity.  Lots of pretty awful stuff happened in 2017 – from Las Vegas to Manchester and beyond.  And if I wanted a moment to dream of a better world, this song helped me get there.  It’s all about recognizing the humanity in each other, and creating peace through understanding.  We’re a long way from this idealism, I know.  But this song has a message of hope and peace.

It also reminds me of a time in my life that I cherish – my mid-twenties – when going out dancing with friends would make the world disappear for a few hours, and unconditional friendship love flowed all around.

“If you want to go out dancing, I know a place…”

One of my friends from that time in my life passed away suddenly this year and, although I doubt she knew of this song, the message of love reminds me of her.  This one is for Moni.

2. Dua Lipa – Blow Your Mind (Mwah)

In the latter half of 2017, Dua Lipa broke out in North America with “New Rules” , and it’s a damn good pop song. But for my money, “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” is the single that, well, blew my mind.

Dua Lipa is from England by way of Kosovo. And her music is Hotter Than Hell, if you ask me.

It’s the sixth (!) single from her self-titled album, and it has a driving beat that I can’t get enough of. The chorus rocks my socks, and the build-up to it is the stuff that pop perfection is made of.  Bonus points for using the f-word in a way that is organic, yet punctuates the lyric perfectly.

If my life had a soundtrack, this song would be featured heavily. It is the definition of “strut-worthy.”  It’s the kind of attitude and self-confidence we wish we could all possess.

Dua Lipa deserves to be a major worldwide star. Let’s hope that 2018 treats her well.

1. Tove Lo – Disco Tits

Warning: This video is not quite suitable for all audiences.  There’s some language some may find offensive, and some PG-13 scenes.

My favourite song of the year comes to us courtesy of Tove Lo. Ms Lo is from Sweden, home of other artists I love, including ABBA, Robyn, and (to follow the “rule of three”) Roxette.

Many people will know Tove Lo from her hit single “Talking Body”  and that time she did a super sexy duet with Nick Jonas.

But then on September 1, she released “Disco Tits” on Spotify – and then it disappeared. A lot of Twitter users (OK, me) freaked out.

Luckily, it was back online in a week, and I went back to obsessing over the somewhat random lyrics and the amazing production.  It’s not a deep song, but I loved it.

Tove Lo has said the song is “losing yourself with your new found love” – the whole “love is a drug” thing.  But holy crap, the songs just drew me in and I couldn’t get enough of it.

And then the video came out.

Unlike Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish,” the video for “Disco Tits” actually improves on the song.  To channel SNL’s Stefon, this video has everything:

  • A muppet puppet with his own talk show
  • Self-referential mocking of Tove Lo’s unique name (and the fact that Americans don’t get it)
  • A dramatic, non-musical break (Although who orders barbecue sauce with fries?!)
  • Simulated Muppet puppet foreplay, sex and dancing
  • a “blooper” at the end

I mean, LOOK AT THIS.  THIS IS AWESOME.

discotitsvideo-1507216864-compressed

The video is ridiculous, and just adds to the awesomeness of the song.  Sure, it’s not Shakespeare.. But it makes me happy.  And isn’t that one of the things music is meant to do?

Thanks, Tove Lo!

 

 

Diana Ross’ Fannypack Made It Onto TV!

After an epic AMAs performance, the ultimate Diva turns the fanny pack into the ultimate accessory.

So, if you’ve been following my blog (or my social media feeds,) you’ll know that I’m kind of obsessed with Diana Ross and her fanny pack (which she lost at Marshalls.)   ICYMI, she tweeted about it, spawning a social media flurry.

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 2.46.12 PM

Tonight, Diana appeared on the American Music Awards to accept a well-deserved lifetime achievement award.  And not only did she accept the award, she TURNED IT OUT with a medley of some of her greatest hits.

For the finale of her performance, she invited all of her family onstage, including her grandson who tried so hard to upstage her.  I give him credit, but c’mon kid… Your grandma is Diana Ross.  There is no upstaging the diva, no matter how many times you’ve watched her perform with Michael Jackson.

Anyway, her whole family was onstage with her, including the fabulous Tracee Ellis Ross, who did a great job hosting – and rocked many of her mom’s iconic outfits.

As if an epic Diana Ross live performance wasn’t enough, someone brought HER FANNY PACK ONSTAGE.  I don’t yell at my TV very often, but I was SCREAMING with delight when this happened.  Diana’s performance brought tears to my eyes and made me fundamentally happy.  When the fannypack appeared, I lost it. LOST. IT.

Screen Shot 2017-11-19 at 10.12.37 PM
The world’s most famous fannypack – and one of my favourite pop culture moments ever.  I literally cannot, you guys.

My friend also found this interview from Jimmy Kimmel live, in which Tracee Ellis Ross provides background to the story and tells the world that, fashion be damned, Diana Ross always loves a good fannypack – but only one – and will use it until it wears out.

What mysteries are in this fanny pack?  We can only guess.

As much fun as this whole fannypack saga is, I sincerely hope this jumpstarts a new appreciation for Diana Ross’ contribution to music and pop culture.  Diana Ross has always been one of my favourite divas, and tonight on the AMAs shows why – she’s a consummate performer and ultimate Diva… And also a caring mother and grandmother.

Queen.

Diana Ross’ Twitter is My New Favourite Thing

Call her Miss Ross – if you find her missing fanny pack.

The great thing about Twitter is that it gives famous people a chance to show their fans a glimpse into their everyday lives, and express their personal thoughts and feelings.  I mean, yeah, Donald Trump’s Twitter is terrible… But Cher’s Twitter is pretty awesome – it’s kind of like if your 71 year-old grandmother was on Twitter… If your Grandmother was a super-progressive, politically active living legend.

Speaking of living legends I love, Diana Ross is also on Twitter.  She isn’t nearly as prolific as Cher, but a recent post from Ms Ross has made me love her even more.

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 2.46.12 PM

Let this sink in:

A) Diana Ross wears a fanny pack!

B) Diana Ross shops at Marshalls!

THIS IS AMAZING.  Picture it, if you can: Diana Ross thumbing through racks of off-price sweaters. She sees a cute little cashmere number from Ann Taylor.  Oh, but it’s a V-neck.  She was looking for a crew neck.  Hey, there’s an adorable blouse on that clearance rack!  Oh, it’s Ivanka Trump. Diana Ross moves it to the back of the clearance rack, next to the clear-knee mom jeans.

Diana Ross takes a red sequinned gown that she found in the “gowns only Diana Ross could get away with” section, and goes to the Marshalls fitting room.

DR041015VLV-225x300
“I got THIS one at Nordstrom Rack!”

Oh, the red gown doesn’t fit.  Diana Ross leaves Marshalls, wondering if the TJ Maxx down the street got a new shipment in today. Diana Ross, oddly enough, doesn’t shop at Ross Dress for Less. That’s a little too “on the nose.”

She gets home, and is craving a Scotch mint.  She always keeps a few in her fanny pack because, you know, she’s 73 year old lady.  But her fanny pack is nowhere to be found!!  Diana Ross is inconsolable – it was a free gift with purchase from when she did that workout video in 1981, and it was the last one she had!

But then some kind soul finds it and returns it to her.  Could you imagine being the person that found that?  You see a well-worn fanny pack in Marshalls, you open it up, and you see DIANA ROSS’ DRIVER’S LICENSE staring back at you!

And Ms Ross was grateful to get her beloved fanny pack back!  Like, two-tweet grateful!

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 3.00.55 PM

I mean, if I lost my wallet, I’d be pretty ticked off.  Could you imagine Diana Ross on the phone?

“Hi, this is Diana Ross.  I need to cancel my Discover Card.  I lost my fanny pack at Marshalls….  Yes, THAT Diana Ross….  Yes, a fanny pack…. Last time I used it?  The Saks Off 5th at the Beverly Center.  I found  a wonderful feather boa at a price less than you’d find at department stores.”

It would be a pain.

So, to conclude – Diana Ross, the ultimate diva is also Diana Ross, frugal shopper, fanny pack wearer and grateful human being.

QUEEN!

rs_634x1024-150910105202-634.Diana-Ross-TIFF_JR-91015
“This outfit can hide, like, 15 fanny packs!”

Let Us Now Sing the Praises of Deee-Lite

How do you say, “Deee-Timeless?”

In 1991, when I was a young lad of 15 (and a half), I was still taking the bus to school.  I lived in the country, and it was the only way I could get to school until I received my precious driver’s license the next year.  I did have something that made my bus ride bearable, though – a Discman… Or – more specifically – a Toshiba portable CD player, and a dozen of my favourite CDs.

SAMSUNG
You know it’s fancy because it has a base that you could plug it into at home. It didn’t charge the batteries or anything – but hey, it kept the discs from skipping.

And while I had some of 1990’s biggest names (Amy Grant, C+C Music Factory, Black Box), I also had Deee-Lite’s World Clique as part of my selections.

I first heard Deee-Lite (as many kids of the 90s did) at a MuchMusic Video Dance Party – the song, of course, was “Groove Is In The Heart.”  Let’s take a look, shall we?

Now, for a 15 year-old from Brandon, Manitoba, this video was mind-blowing. They looked like they were from the 60s, but also from the future! Those colours!  The cultural diversity! Those shoes (Fluevogs, it turns out)!

After seeing this visual treat, I bought the World Clique CD for $356,651 – or whatever obscene price CDs were in 1990.  (They were expensive, kids.  Ask your parents. We would even RENT them like videotapes.)

Fast-forward to today – the CD is still in my collection, and my iPod has a substantial amount of Deee-Lite on it.  And you know what?  It holds up.  Here’s the thing about Deee-Lite: while they helped define 1990s pop culture, there’s really no other (mainstream) act like quite like them.

I did a quick Google search for the term “Bands Like Deee-Lite” – you know what I got? A bunch of dance-pop acts.  Admittedly, good stuff – a post about the genius of Cathy Dennis is percolating – but I’m sorry, Black Box, C+C Music Factory, and even Ms. Dennis are none of the following:

  • Deee-Liscious
  • Deee-Lovely
  • Deee-Lectible
  • Deee-Vine
  • Deee-Gorgeous
  • Deee-Groovy
  • Deee-Lite.

They were also socially conscious (or, woke, as the kids say) before it was cool.

deee-lite-groove-is-in-the-heart-video-fashion-1
Lady Miss Kier’s annotation, not mine.

I’m sure commenters may prove me wrong, but for my money, there has been no other mainstream’ish act quite like Deee-Lite. While they may have influenced performers and musicians like Tove Lo sonically, and influenced fashion trends (I remember being so excited for my bell-bottoms from Le Chateau), I can honestly say that Deee-Lite were (and still are) one-of-a-kind.

They brought a unique mix of disco, funk, psychedelia, trance and just plain fun to pop music – Bootsy Collins, for heaven’s sake – to the world in a time of drum machines (Hey, Technotronic!) and grunge.  And I bet if you play “Groove Is In The Heart” in any crowded room, a substantial portion of the people in that room will groove, sing along, or bust out some dance moves you never knew they had in them.

 

giphy (3).gif
This is from “Runaway”, the lead single off their amazing album “Infinity Within.”  Recommended.

Although Deee-Lite is no longer together, Lady Miss Kier is performing, DJing, and still being ridiculously fabulous.

homepage-20160520-01
Deee-GORGEOUS!

DJ Towa Tei is still DJing and creating music in his native Japan, with a decidedly Deee-Lite Influence:

…and DJ Dmitri? Ummm… He’s on Facebook.

And although they may not be making new music, their brief time together as a group (1988-1996) created art that influenced many and inspired me (and inspires me to this day).

I highly encourage you to fall down a Deee-Lite Youtube hole. Along with “Groove Is In the Heart,” you’ll find some wonderful quirky, inherently danceable neo-disco grooves.

Thanks, Deee-Lite.

giphy (4).gif

Can We Just Talk About Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish?”

I’m not mad. Just disappointed.

.

First off, I want to say that  I’m a big fan of positivity.  There are many things I love, and this blog will likely cover many of them in excruciating detail.  However, there’s been something on my chest that has been bugging me for months, and I need to unload.

Back in May, Katy Perry performed on SNL.  Along with her single of the moment, “Bon Appetit,” she performed “Swish Swish” – and holy crap, you guys… It was amazing.

In full Beetlejuice drag, Katy turned it out.  The song’s dark tone, paired with the fiercest dance line this side of Soul Train, was the kind of thing that screamed “Song of the Summer!!” – well, for, let’s say 10% of the population, at least.  It was just counter-culture enough for mainstream America, and it was strangely both dark and fun at the same time.

And I was excited.  Oh boy, was I excited!  There was some epic fanning in that video! It wasn’t “silly, quirky Katy Perry” – it was semi-savage Katy Perry, taking aim at an unnamed target (whose name rhymes starts with T and rhymes with Taylor Swift.) I anxiously awaited the video.

Then along came the lyric video, and I have to admit, I was still pretty chuffed.  It stars  Gretchen, who is apparently big in Brazil and is – I’m not even kidding here – referred to as the “Queen of Butt.” Again – fun and a bit subversive, but with a nod to the fact that this song will fill circuit party dancefloors around the world.

And then the “official” video came.

Ugh.

I’m not going to even embed it here – you don’t have the 6 and a half minutes to waste, because, let’s be honest… This video is a hot mess, and tries WAY too hard.

We all know (and love) Katy Perry’s silly, whimsical persona.  And on every album, she picks a single to give the cheesy, extended video treatment.  Sometimes it works  (Debbie Gibson!  Darren Criss! REBECCA EFFING BLACK!), sometimes it just kind of fits the song, and sometimes.. Well… You get a steaming pile of video crap.

Now listen, I’m still #TeamKaty, and I still love LISTENING to this song. But this video is just plain awful.  There are many people in this video whom I admire and appreciate – and they just embarrass themselves:

Molly Shannon!

giphy (3).gif

Terry Crews!

giphy (4).gif

…and Terry Crews’ reaction was pretty much the same as mine when I saw the video.

I don’t even get who the target audience is for this video. It has stupid special effects that 10 year-olds would think are HILARIOUS, featuring people that don’t register in their world. I mean, for heaven’s sake, it’s a live-action cartoon.

giphy (5).gif

And that’s not even the WORST of it. I mean, LOOK AT THIS! I did some video editing in college using SuperVHS tape and an ancient computer, and I’m pretty sure I could’ve done better than this.

giphy (6).gif

Listen, I GET that Katy Perry likes to be silly and quirky and “adorkable.” But this song was NOT the place to do it. This video could have been so much more – heck, if she didn’t want to fire a direct shot to the unsinkable Taylor Swift battleship, at least she could’ve fought her “old” persona or something. That’s alway entertaining – right, Mimi?

giphy (7).gif

“Swish Swish” takes a great song and turns it silly. I’m not mad, Kathryn. Just disappointed.

Look what you made me do, Katy. Look what you made me do.