Saturday, December 23, 2017

My Top 12 Songs of Christmas

Christmas music is beloved by many and is a library of festive songs. So, with two days left until Christmas, I'm ranking my top 12 favorites.

(Note: after due consideration, I have decided not to include any numbers from The Nutcracker on the list. These songs are purely instrumental, and are heard often during the month of December, but aren't really Christmas songs.)

(I have also decided not to include Christmas songs of my own composition, such as "Someone to Bring Me Home", which I wrote for my 2017 holiday screenplay of the same title.)

(I have also decided not to include songs that aren't about Christmas but that I associate with Christmas for various reasons, such as "Together We Can Change The World", which I first heard at a school performance at Christmastime, or "Everlasting Light", which was used in a 2017 Macy's commercial.)

So here's the list, and sorry if I made you wait.

12. "We Three Kings" (????)
This ballad of the Magi is such an old song that no one really knows when it was written. It actually has about seven verses, but even so, I haven't tracked them all down. I have also heard the Spanish version of the song, which is confusing, but the minor-key tune, my favorite element of the song, remains.

11. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1949)
The song for me is just as good as the special, but like the special, there are other songs that rank above it. I relate to the character of Rudolph, only most of the ridicule I have taken in life comes from within. I could really write a whole post about how much mockery and scorn I have gotten from my own self.

10. "Mele Kalikimaka" (1952)
Written before Hawaii even became a state, this song is popularly known as simply "that Hawaiian Christmas song" is simple and catchy. And it manages to use more than just twelve letters. (The Hawaiian language's alphabet has only 12 letters: A E H I K L M N O P U W.)

9. "Here Comes Santa Claus" (1972)
The repetitive verses of this song make it a perennial favorite, but it's the triumphant performance at the end of its original source, the 1972 Rankin-Bass/ABC television classic The Year Without a Santa Claus that really makes it feel...emotional. In the special, Santa is offered a day off by the world, but is much too generous to accept the offer. His generosity is actually somewhat moving in the end.

8. "All I Want for Christmas is You" (2003)
Although this song is popularly attributed to Mariah Carey, her recording is in fact a cover - it was written for the 2003 romantic comedy Love Actually and performed by Olivia Olson there. Carey popularized the song and it is now an animated Amazon Prime original movie about a young Mariah Carey (The Haunted Hathaways' Breanna Yde).

7. "Believe" (2002)
Josh Groban originally recorded this song for the 2002 movie The Polar Express, and it launched his career, although he still sticks mostly to Broadway. The iconic first four notes of the song are suspiciously similar to a musical piece from Elf, and I don't like to think about the same song showing up in the same movie genre within three years, so that's why it's not higher on the list.

6. "Where Are You, Christmas" (2005)
Faith Hill recorded this in 2005. She had done a lot of work for and with Warner Bros., and three Warner Bros. Christmas movies - the live-action Grinch remake with Jim Carrey in 2000, The Polar Express in 2002, and Elf in 2004 - were sold the song for use in their movie, but none of the producers on any of those movies thought it fit with their film. So she just recorded it solo in 2005.

5. "Somewhere In My Memory" (1989)
This is good with words and as an instrumental - John Williams wrote it for Home Alone. It can be played in any way that shows what Kevin is feeling at any point during the movie - it's a very adaptable song that doesn't really have a mood. The scene in the movie gives the tune its mood.

4. "When Christmas Comes to Town" (2002)
Famously sung by an unnamed girl and a lonely boy on the back of a train headed to the North Pole, this is the REAL best holiday duet (sorry, Baby It's Cold Outside) because the kids have excellent vocals on the original recording from Polar Express and the tune is even a bit hallucinating. Megan Moore and Matthew Hall, the original singers, have recorded an instant classic song, but both, strangely, faded into obscurity soon after the release of the movie.

3. "Last Christmas" (1984)
George Michael and Wham! sealed their places as a holiday staple group with this 1984 single, on which Michael played all the instruments (rather well, in fact). An interesting fact about this song that I like to tell people is that immediately after Michael finished filming the music video, he went to help record...

2. "Do They Know It's Christmas"/Band Aid (1984)
Despite dated ethnocentric lyrics - yes, let's all thank God that we're not poor and hungry but these other people are - this song communicates a powerful message, and though the effect is muddled, I still think this song is the ideal way to remind people to think of those less fortunate than them at Christmas. The release of this even predates the more well known "We Are the World", and thus pioneered the idea of getting a bunch of musicians to record a song together.

1. "My Grown Up Christmas List" (1990)
I think I picked this one #1 because it's the Christmas song I relate to the most, being a teenager. Whenever I hear it, I am reminded of Christmas Eve 2014 - the first year I had trouble thinking of Christmas gifts to ask for because I observed I wanted abstract things and/or things that weren't for myself for the first time that year. Though Natalie Cole was the original artist, Kelly Clarkson made the most famous recording of this song. Its one flaw is a bit of a cluttered tune that's hard to remember.

Spotify Playlist of these songs

Finally, a note on Christmas songs I have written - a hoard more are coming in as I resurrect my 2011 original Christmas movie story treatment that you've never seen, "Miracle on Tryon Street" (with a new title, of course - the original title could mislead audiences into thinking it was a parody or whole-plot reference), with original songs. Expect the finished screenplay, which may even surpass the normal hour-long length of most of my scripts, around January 10.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Most Influential Person of 2017

SHE ARRIVED ON A STRANGELY warm March evening in New York earlier this year. She was loaded off her truck and fixed opposite a thirty-year-old statue of a charging bull. She was the brainchild of advertising agency McCann and State Street Global Advisors. She was five feet tall, and she had the same proactive attitude as every other girl in New York. She had hair blowing in the wind, she wore a T-shirt and a skirt, she wore sneakers. She was just like every other girl in New York.

Except she could not move.

The "Fearless Girl", a statue aimed at promoting the power of women in leadership, sculpted by Kristen Visbal, was unveiled the following morning, and the news media poured down on her. She got crowned with anti-Trump pink hats. She was the #1 trending topic on all social media. Many people knew and heard her message. She was initially only meant to stay for a week. But a week became a month, and a month became a year. Nira Desai even started a petition to make her permanent.

New York's innocent, imaginative children welcomed the new girl on Wall Street, and started the trend of the "right" way to get your picture made with her - linking arms with the statue, whose hands were permanently bound to her hips.

(Above: kids mimic the "Fearless Girl"'s gesture in March 2017.)

Fearless Girl became the symbol of the resistance to the anti-female sentiment President Donald Trump was promoting. She became the most popular girl in New York. Everyone knew her, everyone stopped to talk, but she didn't talk back.

Though some of the children of New York still say she could talk back, but she didn't want to.

"Kids and their imaginations", thought many New Yorkers, until one day, May 6, as the bell rang at the New York Stock Exchange just down the street, a crowd gathered again where the statue stood, a crowd whose likes had not been seen since the statue was erected. People of all ages and all occupations crept in for a look.

But there was nothing to see. Fearless Girl had vanished.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio soon heard about the goings-on and arrived in his limo to check up on things. Murmurs of "Where's Fearless Girl?" persisted as he drove up. De Blasio left his car and approached the crowd. "Does anyone know anything about this?" De Blasio inquired to the gathered masses, upon seeing with his own eyes the absence of the statue.

"I do," said a 13-year-old girl, with radiant fire-colored hair, quickly running down Broadway and into the crowd. Mayor de Blasio called the girl to his side. "Please tell me what you did with the statue," he insisted.

"I'm sorry, you must be mistaken," said the girl. "I am the statue."

Most adults present laughed. Yet most children, especially the smallest ones, listened to the girl, who identified herself as Shea Mentzer, tell her story, as did a curious Mayor de Blasio. According to Mentzer, she had stood for nearly two months on Wall Street opposite the charging bull, calling out to young girls on the street. "Why?" asked an inquisitive young child. "I needed to empower a young girl and win my humanity," Mentzer explained. Mentzer related that about two weeks ago, she'd called out to yet another young girl, but unintentionally attracted the attention of a 13-year-old boy.

Mentzer told that this 13-year-old boy had listened to her desires and her explanation that she needed to be an inspiration for a young girl's confidence, and if she did, she would become a human girl. "Ari (the boy) pried me up and he took me to his apartment on 4th and Avenue of the Americas," Mentzer explained, "and he took me to school the next day, being sure to keep me out of sight. That's when Ari met his teammate on the school quiz bowl team, a little girl named Dakota Severn."

Mentzer continued her story, saying that she and the boy realized Severn, who described herself as "timid, weak, and unmotivated", was the girl she needed to empower in order to gain her humanity. "I spent a few days in Ari's apartment, listening in on Ari and Dakota studying, but one night Ari told me he didn't see the confidence in Dakota that I needed for my humanity. He put me back on Wall Street the next morning."

"Tears," Mentzer said, "ran down my bronze body all day. But that night, I was still crying a little when I felt this strange tingling sensation. My bronze began to chip and tear, and triumphantly, I put my best foot forward, and it moved. I don't know how I knew where the TV studio they were doing the quiz bowl at was, but I just bolted where my feet took me. As I stepped inside, I heard Dakota giving a rousing speech. She was vowing that she wouldn't let her confidence plummet during the trying teenage years. Then the audience got angry and started to yell at her. I opened the door to the studio, and urged everyone to listen to Dakota. She answered the last question correctly, like the unstoppable girl that she is, and won her team the quiz bowl. Soon, she and Ari found me a young couple to be my mom and dad."

Here Mentzer concluded her story, and she turned to the mayor, saying, "It's true. I am the Fearless Girl."

The general consensus among the adults of New York City is that the disappearance of the Fearless Girl will never be explained, but to the children of the city, Shea Mentzer spoke the truth. Every child in New York now recognizes her as their former statue. And it's not just the kids. Many women, especially feminists, revere Mentzer, saying that the world is brighter with their feminist symbol as a truly human, and truly fearless, girl.

Mentzer's closest friends, the aforementioned Ari Bellum and Dakota Severn, are supportive, and, being first hand witnesses to the Fearless Girl's unbelievable evolution into a human girl, confirm her story and persuade doubters to believe her.

And with this said, I am proud to present the Most Influential Person of 2017 to the girl who, it is said, was no more than a slab of metal in January, but is a happy 13 year old in December. Congratulations to Shea Mentzer - your influence this year, and the tale among those who support you, is truly beyond belief. Shea Mentzer, you were the most influential person of 2017, from idea, to feminist symbol, to fire-haired 13 year old.

And what does Mentzer say to this honor, looking into 2018?

"Whatever comes, I'm not afraid," she says when asked.

The most influential person of 2017

Note: This image is actually Shea McHugh, an actress who I'm sure would be honored to be "enacting" Shea Mentzer on my blog.

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