This was an extremely close eight-way tie with The Beach Boys’ Little Saint Nick, John Lennon’s Happy Christmas, Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmas Time, Joe Beal & Jim Boothe’s Jingle Bell Rock, Johnny Marks’ Rockin Around the Christmas Tree, the Jackson Fives’ version of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause, and Wham’s Last Christmas (notably, the creepy way they sing: “someone speeeeecccccial…”).
What bothers me about Grown-Up Christmas List is just how Un-Grown-Up the song really is. Early in the song the lyrics mention “I wrote to you with childhood fantasies,” referring to when the singer was a child writing to Santa. The song goes on to describe what are supposed to be “grown-up” Christmas wishes, which turn out to be monumentally trite, idealistic, and even more fantastic than what you would imagine a child wishing.
I was happy to see one of my favorite writers, Mark Steyn, sharing the sentiment:
I was at the mall two days before Christmas, and it was strangely quiet. So quiet that, sadly, I was able to hear every word of Kelly Clarkson bellowing over the sound system “My Grown-Up Christmas List.” Don’t get me wrong — I love seasonal songs. “Winter Wonderland” — I dig it. “Rudolph” — man, he’s cool, albeit not as literally as Frosty. But “Grown-Up Christmas List” is one of those overwrought ballads of melismatic bombast made for the American Idol crowd. It’s all about how the singer now eschews asking Santa for materialist goodies — beribboned trinkets and gaudy novelties — in favor of selfless grown-up stuff like world peace.
Which is an odd sentiment to hear at a shopping mall.
…To return to Kelly Clarkson — and Barbra Streisand and Michael Buble and Amy Grant — the striking thing about their “Grown-Up Christmas List” is how childish it is. The concerned vocalist tells Santa that what she wants for Christmas is:
“No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start…”
Whether wars start depends on the intended target’s ability to deter. As to “lives torn apart,” that, too, is a matter of being on the receiving end. If you’re in an African dictatorship, your life can be torn apart. If you’re in a society that values individual liberty, you’ll at least get a shot at tearing your own life apart — you’ll make bad choices, marry a ne’er-do-well, blow your savings, lose your job — but these are ultimately within your power to correct. The passivity of the lyric — the “lives” that get “torn apart” is very revealing. A state in which lives aren’t torn apart will be, by definition, totalitarian: As in The Stepford Wives or The Invasion Of the Body Snatchers, we’ll all be wandering around in glassy-eyed conformity. “Lives” will no longer be “torn apart” because they’re no longer lives, but simply the husks of a centrally controlled tyranny. To live is messy but liberating: Free societies enable the citizenry to fulfill their potential — to innovate, to create, to accumulate — while recognizing that some of their number will fail. But to attempt to insulate free peoples from moral hazard is debilitating and ultimately fatal. To Martin Wolf’s list of a Europe “too inert, too complacent, too weak,” we might add “too old”: Healthy societies recharge their batteries by the aged and wealthy lending their savings to the young and eager. But Germany is a population of prosperous seniors with no grandchildren to lend to. Japan is a society of great invention with insufficient youth to provide a domestic market. That’s why if you’re Sony or Ikea or any other great global brand, you want access to America for your product. That’s why economic recovery will be driven by the U.S., and not by Euro-Japanese entities long marinated in Obamanomics.
One final thought on “My Grown-Up Christmas List.” The first two lines always give me a chuckle:
“Do you remember me?
I sat upon your knee…”
When was the last time you saw a child sit upon a Santa’s knee? Rod Liddle in the British Spectator reports that at a top London department store Santa sits at one end of the bench while a large “X” directs the moppet to a place down the other end, well out of arm’s reach. For even Santa Claus is just another pedophile in waiting. Naughty or nice? Who really knows? Best not to take any chances. That’s another way societies seize up — by obsessing on phantom threats rather than real ones.
Are free peoples now merely vulnerable infants in need of protection from the pedophile Santa of global capitalism? This is the issue that will determine the future: Euro-style state-directed protectionist sclerosis vs. individual liberty in all its messiness. I know what I want on my “Grown-Up Christmas List.”
Don’t count me a Grinch though. There are hours of great Christmas music that I absolutely love, despite the list above: