So when Christmas time rolls around you’d think I would be excited. There are so many great Christmas songs! Unfortunately three songs here seem to have a monopoly on English class singing. One of them is "All I Want for Christmas is You" by Mariah Carey, and I don’t mind that one so much. It isn’t a bad song and has a cute message. It isn’t exactly what I would call a classic or traditional Christmas song, but it has a good beat and it’s fun to sing. The other two however I really don’t like. Let’s break them down and see why, shall we?
Happy Xmas (War is Over)
By John Lennon and Yoko Ono
I HATE this song. This is not a song I want to hear at Christmas time. I’m not going to go through every line, just the ones that really bother me and make me hate this song. Also, I refuse to type out Xmas like it says in the lyrics because that’s not how you say Christmas.
The song doesn’t waste any time in sinking into a melancholy.
And so this is ChristmasWell… not much I guess. I mean my life is a rather small one and I haven’t really done anything to alter the face of the world this year. I’m sure I did a few things for people, but is that enough? Have a wasted this past year and am I doomed to waste the next one as well? Wow, I’m really feeling in the Christmas spirit now.
And what have you done?
And so this is ChristmasNo you don’t. Your tone suggests that you’re being incredibly sarcastic and implying that I better have had fun with my wasted life because it didn’t do any good. This is not a wish of goodwill, it’s a taunt.
I hope you had fun
And so this is ChristmasWell that started out okay. I thought we were going for the message that this is Christmas for everyone and that it doesn’t matter if your strong or weak or rich or poor, it’s still Christmas. But then we throw out that next line, which seems to be implying that the world is wrong for having weak and strong ones and poor and rich ones. How does that work? Should we all be rich and strong? I mean, that’s a nice thought, but it can’t work that way. Should we all be of average strength and moderate income?
For weak and for strong
For the rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
But next comes the biggest reason I hate singing this song here in Japan.
And so happy ChristmasHe did not just say that! Black and white are terms that we use to indentify ourselves by race, this is true, but yellow and red are RACIAL SLURS! When my teacher was going over the lyrics of this song with the kids I just had to stand there uncomfortably while he informed them that red people were Native Americans and yellow people were Asians. One of my students looked down at her skin and said rather distraughtly, “I’m not yellow.” Awk-ward!
For black and for white
For the yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight
And so this is ChristmasI’ve written a self righteous Christmas song!
And what have you done?
The final nail in the coffin for me is the background vocals toward the end.
War is over!OH! That’s the problem! We just haven’t wanted it hard enough. Hear that all you people who have loved ones fighting for our country? You haven’t wanted the war to be over badly enough. You must not really want your loved ones to come home or you would want it enough that it would be over now. It’s not like there are any complicated political matters involved here, it’s just a matter of YOU wanting it enough and you have failed. This seriously reminds me of that speech from the Superman 4 movie where he says that he’s sure we’ll have peace once we want it badly enough. I get that this song was a protest to the Vietnam War, but saying war is over if we want it to be is incredibly shallow and shows a lack of understanding of the bigger picture.
If you want it
War is over!
Why do we still sing this song?!?! It’s not only that I hate the song’s message, I just don’t think it’s much of a song. There just isn’t a lot there. There isn’t anything wrong with being simple, but I don’t even like the beat all that much.
I honestly didn’t dislike this song at first. It wasn’t until multiple listenings that I really started to notice some problems in the lyrics. The chorus sets the stage and on its own sends a pretty good message.
Last Christmas I gave you my heartSounds pretty good right? He’s moved on from his broken heart and gives a pretty subtle burn to his old love by saying that this time he’ll give his heart to someone special which SHE is not. Ouch. It also fits the Christmas theme of gift giving in a cute way with the giving of your heart. If the rest of this song supported the chorus I don’t think I’d have any problem with it. A song about heartbreak isn’t ideal for a Christmas song, but if it’s hopeful and about finding love this year I can give it a pass.
But the very next day you gave it away
This year to save me from tears
I’ll give it to someone special
The song moves into the first verse and we get to a party where he sees the girl again and can’t help but be drawn to her. I can give him a pass for this, she was clearly attractive to him the first time, so there is bound to be a little lingering emotion there. But then the song starts to get confused.
Now I know what a fool I’ve beenWait, what? That first part suggests that he got over her, that he moved on. Or at least realized that giving her his heart in the first place was doomed to fail because she sucks. But the next line turns it around and makes me think that he’s still in love with her. After a year of sulking over her betrayal of his affections he’s still willing to be fooled by a simple kiss? What is wrong with this guy? Surely no one is that good of a kisser. I mean, I understand having lingering feelings after being rejected, but that doesn’t mean you forget all the pain someone caused you with a single kiss.
But if you kissed me now I know you’d fool me again
The next verse doesn’t really add much, just goes on about how badly she broke his heart while he avoids her at the party.
I’m hiding from youOkay, we seem to be back on track here. He's realized again that this girl is a cold hearted person who couldn’t really love him and is avoiding her. This puts us back in the right direction.
And your soul of ice
A face of a lover with a fire in his heartUh, what? This part just confuses me. A man undercover as what? Were you undercover as someone who loved her? But if you were undercover then that would mean you didn’t really love her in the first place but were just pretending. Or are you saying that you seem like a total wuss, but underneath all that you’re really a tough man who then got torn apart by this girl? That doesn’t really work either...
A man undercover but you tore me apart
Now I’ve found a real loveYou know what this song has been missing? References to this new love he has. The chorus doesn’t even spell out that he has a new love; just that he’s going to find someone special to give his heart to. This is the first mention we’ve had of this girl existing. I’ve got an idea, instead of focusing on how miserable the old girl makes you, why not look at how happy this new girl has apparently made you? Why hasn’t she come up before in this whole song? Why aren’t you at the party with her? And wait, last verse you said you could be fooled again if the old flame kissed you. Now you’re all assertive that she’s never going to fool you again? All right, that was fast but okay.
You’ll never fool me again
Then the kicker in the last few lines.
Maybe next year I’ll give it to someoneWHAT?! Now I’m really confused. Not a moment ago he was talking about his “real love.” Did he break up with her during the last chorus? Is he getting together with the old girl again for no reason stated? Is he just so overwhelmed by the memories of the past that he isn’t going to give anyone his heart this year or is he explicitly going to give it to someone who he doesn’t feel is special? He sounded so confident a moment ago, what happened?
I’ll give it to someone special
This song is kind of a mess. It flip flops back and forth without seeming to really understand where it’s going. The chorus suggests movement and growth but the verses just keep pulling it down and contradicting it. The only real message I can pull out of this song is that the singer is a mess. If the song was supposed to make me confused I guess it succeeded.
That isn’t to say that I hate everything about this song. The melody is catchy and fun (who doesn’t love whispering the echo of “special”?) and the music has enough variation to keep me interested. As long as I don’t think about it very hard I can enjoy this song a bit, but once you think about the lyrics it’s not as much fun to sing.
I probably wouldn’t hate these songs if we sang other songs besides these on a regular basis. But after three years of these songs being just about the only ones my JTEs want to sing in class (and I’ve worked with four different teachers in this time), and the fact that they are played in all the stores and commercials during this time, they have just worn me down. If I had it all to do over again I would really have invested in some good classic Christmas carols and suggested them early and often. But as things stand I’ll probably never be able to hear these two songs again without grinding my teeth a little in frustration.