Friday, 23 December 2011

Bob Geldof Thinks Kenyans Need Calendars?

Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ (DTKIC) is simultaneously the best and worst Christmas song of all time: let me explain why.

The original version of DTKIC was written by Bob Geldof (at the height of his arrogant self righteous phase) and the lead singer of Ultra Vox, Midge Ure. The song was written in a day and it shows. It includes cringe worthy lines a plenty. My favourite lines include: Here the Christmas bells that are ringing are the clanging chimes of Doom. Well, tonight thank God it's them instead of you. Really it is pretentious twaddle. The original version included a cast of 1980s superstars who single handledly created the hole in the Ozone Layer with the amount of hairspray they used in the dressing room. The song is saved by the producing genius of Trevor Horn whose sole reason for being on this earth was to create the stunning outro. It may not feed the world, but it certainly fills my ears with pleasure.

In 2009 the Canadian Punk Band, Fucked Up (Yes, that is their name) recorded DTKIC with a cast of indie guests including rapper GZA, Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü, Tegan and Sara, Yo La Tengo, Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene, comedian David Cross, Andrew W.K. and Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio. The highlight of this recording (besides Tegan and Sara of course) is the hilarious decision to change the lyrics from ‘Thank god its them instead of you' to ‘Thank God its them instead of JEWS’. Genius I tell you.

Naturally, Glee broadcast a cover of DTKIC last week. Of course this version took all the sappiest Geldofian traits and mixed it with a dash of extra sugar and a touch of laughing gas. Check the video out to see what I mean.

The most important thing here is that DTKIC is not a happy song. It is a song about starving children and poverty. You don’t sing ‘The greatest gift they will get this year is life.’ smiling like the Von Trapp kids. Importantly, one has to ask what the hell was Ryan Murphy thinking and/or smoking when he said ‘Hey this is A GREAT IDEA!’. You don’t sing DTKIC to a bunch a homeless people at a soup kitchen. As Todd VanDerWerff explains:
Predictability goes with the territory in these things, and if you can tug at the heartstrings when the characters realize how lucky they are, fine. That works. Instead, after an hour that already had me bug-eyed, barely able to breathe, on the edge of hyperventilating (I’m not even kidding), the kids sang “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” to a bunch of homeless children. (Since they live in the United States, I’m going to say, “Yes. They probably do.”) Mercedes sang, “Tonight, thank God it’s them, instead of you”—an awful, awful line—to a bunch of hungry, homeless children. Yes, helping the less fortunate during the holidays is ultimately all about making yourself feel better, but you don’t have to sing about it.
So what do we learn from DTKIC?
1. Bob Geldolf writes crappy songs, and thinks Kenya has a shortage of calendars.
2. Naming a band ‘Fucked Up’ may sound cool in theory but it is pretty daft in practice
3. Glee need to do a Trevor Horn tribute episode soon, but they never will.

Oh well I’m off to listen to the 1984 B Side Feed the World 3:28 of musical mastery, that only includes that very Horny outro. And I might go get something to eat, I feel hungry now.

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