23 December 2011

Music Video Friday: The Twelve Days Of Christmas

As a special Christmas gift to you, I am offering you this post without links. If you don't understand a reference, you'll have to look it up yourself. I promise to give you just enough information to drive you crazy. Consider this post your Official Time Killer at work today. No need to thank me.

Today's music is one of the most ubiquitous and notorious Christmas songs ever introduced to humanity. It is beloved by children because of the game-type aspect (How many days can I remember this year?) and loathed by adults because it is so repetitive and, quite frankly, boring (Oh. Em. GEE! This song has been going on for FOUR HOURS!!!).

And because I love you all so much, I'm presenting you with not one but TWO different versions!

What makes these both extra special, and what ties them together, is that they both feature a solo artist singing with a group. I think that formula helps to break up the monotony of the song. The caliber of talent doesn't hurt much, either.

The first rendition is from Bing Crosby and The Andrew Sisters. It was recorded in 1951 and is, in my most honest and humble opinion, the best recording of this song EVAH! First, Bing Crosby is to Christmas music as William Shakespeare is to tragic comedies. Don't try to argue that; it is a universal truth like the Law Of Gravity or the Rule Of One. Second, the vocal mastery of the Andrew Sisters is in full force. Just listen to the way they effortlessly switch from solos to singing in unison to tight three-part harmony. I defy you to find any vocal artists who can do this with such comfort and ease (and, yes, that includes The Manhattan Transfer, Take 6, and Rockapella ... not even close). Third, the arrangement here makes each verse unique so that, even though it's the same friggin' melody for three-and-a-half minutes, it's fresh every time.

The second rendition comes from two of my favorite performers, The Muppets and John Denver. It was recorded in 1979 as part of a Christmas television special, which you can still purchase today if you look around online. Why is this recording so special? Oh, c'mon now. It's John Denver, one of the purest vocalists I've ever known in my lifetime who, coincidentally, never took himself too seriously. And it's The Muppets, for Pete's sake! What these lovable characters lack in vocal talent, they more than make up for in hysterical entertainment.

I'm certain that there are other versions out there that would stack fairly well against either of these: this song has been recorded too many times for there not to be. I challenge you to post your favorite in the comments section.

'Tis the season to be giving and all.

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