“White Christmas.” “Jingle Bells.” “Silent Night.” The holiday season has a knack for inspiring songs that become instant and enduring classics. However, they can’t all be gems. Low Times contributor Matthew Callan takes a look at a Christmas song, that in a perfect world, should slide right down the pop culture memory hole.
There’s no shortage of odd holiday tunes out there; baby Jesus fan fiction (“The Little Drummer Boy”), chronicles of traumatic childhood memories (“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”), descriptions of food fetishism (“It’s a Marshmallow World”) and other oddities that don’t sound strange to us now only because repetition has rendered them “classics.” Even when placed against songs like these, the title track to Neil Diamond’s 2009 Yuletide collection “Cherry Cherry Christmas” is in a truly deranged category all of its own.
For starters, nearly every verse in “Cherry Cherry Christmas” name checks or quotes a Neil Diamond song. It reads like clumsy, adoring, self-referential fan fiction composed by a slightly precocious 12 year old. In fact, the lyrics are credited to Diamond himself, perhaps the only artist who would not only conceive of such a shameless vanity project, but possess the unmitigated gall to execute it and think he could get away with it. It is the mom-rock holiday song equivalent of Synecdoche, New York.
Had “The Jewish Elvis” performed this song with a single note of levity or cynical detachment, it could have come off as a brilliant postmodern gesture. However, self-awareness is not Neil Diamond’s forte. This is, after all, the man who was able to sing “Porcupine Pie” with a straight face.
Clearly, Neil has something special planned from the moment the song starts. The opening salvos assault the ear with gingerbread sentimentality, complete with swelling strings, jingling bells and other treacly, overwrought orchestral arrangements. The listener might expect a very traditional, Bing Crosby-esque Yuletide spectacular. What they actually get is this:
Wish you a very merry, Cherry Cherry Christmas
And a Holly Holy holiday too
Yes, the first two lines of this song–aside from being ridiculous–contain two references to classic Neil Diamond songs sung by Neil Diamond himself with complete, impenetrable seriousness. And we’re only 13 seconds in.
“Cherry Cherry Christmas” continues in this vein for three-and-a-half insane minutes, as the joy of the holiday season is inextricably linked with such Neil Diamond compositions as “Song Sung Blue,” “I’m a Believer,” and “Sweet Caroline” (both quoted and mentioned outright). In case anyone was worried that the opener was a bit too dignified, each verse ends with this gem: You’ll have a very merry, Cherry Cherry, Holly Holy, rock n’ roll-y Christmas this year.
Some people celebrate Christmas for religious reasons while others see it as a time to share gifts with friends and family. But they’re all wrong — the real reason for the season is to celebrate the wonder and miracle that is Neil Diamond, the only person who can gather the whole world together to sing about Neil Diamond. And who knows? Maybe this will get repeated so often and beaten into our collective consciousness in the decades to come, it’ll sound just as old-timey to our grandchildren’s ears as tales of bioluminescent reindeer.