Welcome to the 1%J 2014 1%J ADVENT PLAYLIST, in which we attempt to reconcile the simultaneously occurring but often contradictory spirits of Advent season and the “holidays.”
James Brown released several Christmas albums over the course of his career, including three from 1966-1970. I’m sure they’re all great because James Brown is the Godfather, so I really have no idea why James Brown doesn’t get more Christmas specific air-time. Maybe it has to do with his sordid past, but other figures don’t seem to have this problem. Out of all of Brown’s Christmas hits, including “Santa Claus, go straight to the ghetto,” “Merry Christmas, Baby,” and a slew of other super-sexy-awesome Christmas songs, “Let’s Make Christmas Mean Something This Year” is one of my favorites.
“Hi everybody, this is James Brown / This is a very, very unusual way to come to you.” Yes, yes it is James Brown. At first, it is really off-putting to hear James Brown’s voice over some predictably corny string and horn section. A group of (I can only assume extremely attractive) women repeat the same wonderfully sincere refrain – “let’s make this Christmas mean something this year.” Brown is half singing, half rambling, and everything he is sing-rambling about is also wonderfully sincere – “I say it’s happy because birds are tweeting. Sun is shining, the wind is blowing the breeze. The leaves are flying, everybody feels nice. Just say, oh God, thanks for all the wonderful things. You even see a little snow sometimes!” Beautiful.
Not content to merely ride the backing band, Brown starts his screaming-yelping-yelling thing that sounds like it’s about to break your ear-drums and/or all of the glass objects/surfaces around you and Christmas suddenly becomes awesome in a way it never was before. Lets face it, traditional Christmas figures are all pretty – lame. Fat Santa. Little Baby Jesus. Okay, maybe the three wise men can ball, but either way it’s a good thing James Brown came around and started screaming. Christmas definitely meant something that year.