Tuesday, December 20, 2011

40 Songs, 40 Days (2011 Edition), Day Thirty One: Without You by Hey Monday

When your lead singer's previous band was named after her
middle name....well, you know who wears the pants in
this one, right?
Hey, look!  I managed to break thirty this year!  There might be hope left after all....

...and we're back to the Holiday Novelty Song--well, kinda. Unlike our last dip into this pool, which tried to make its way onto the perennial Holidays Playlist by doing a paen to an end-of-the-year festival that isn't Christmas, this one tries to crack that list by giving us a song that makes Christmas incidental.

And make no bones about it--in the last handful of years, there's a lot of these Christmas-Songs-That-Aren't, usually presented by these pop rock bands that sprung up in the wake of the Disney-sponsored Tweener-pop revolution. These are songs that are for all extents just plain ol' songs addressing the usual pop music themes--I Miss My Significant Other; I Love My Significant Other; I Wish To Have Physical Intercourse With My Significant Other; I Am Going To Use Metaphor To Describe An Incident of Physical Intercourse With My Significant Other--and sprinkles in references to mistletoe and Christmas decorations and caroling to convince us that yes, this is a Christmas song. Now granted, this mode of attack has produced successes in the past--an argument can be made that the Last Great Perennial Holiday Single was 'Last Christmas,' which is the prototype for all these songs, The Killers have made a cottage industry out of doing these strange and dark Christmas singles that seem more about mayhem than the holidays, and one of my favorites songs from the emocore band Something Corporate is 'Forget December.' But sometimes you get, well, 'Without You.'

There are too many jokes I could make about this photo,
and all of them would be inappropriately rude...
Hey Monday, the Florida band that has given us 'Without You' has only been around since 2008, have only been recording since last year and boy, do they want to be Paramore badly. Just like Paramore, Hey Monday builds its image around its lead singer and guitarist, Cassadee Pope. And Pope is striving so hard to be a clone of Hayley Williams, it's not even funny....except that her attempts to fashion her image thusly has resulted in her coming off more Ashley Simpson (remember how she liked to proclaim that she was a 'rock chick' during that brief period when pop culture treated her singing aspirations seriously?) than Williams, or Avril Lavinge, or any of a dozen pop-rockettes that have come down the pike. If anything, Pope is a lumpen Plasticine statuette of a pop punk diva, something kids draw in their art classes when asked to draw a rock band.

As for the band itself....in spite of their posturings (which includes the self-conscious 'radical' misspellings of the band members' names, and the weird fetishization of Pope's tattoos by their fans), Hey Monday comes off as the sort of band that's featured on a Disney Channel sitcom because, you know, Paramore rocks too hard.

'Without You' is from an entire EP of Christmas songs called, imaginatively, The Christmas EP. And the fascinating thing? There are four songs. One is a cover of 'O Holy Night.' Of the three originals, only one ('Mixtape For Christmas') bothers to mention Christmas or anything Christmas-y in the title. And those originals use Christmas not as an inspiration, but as a backdrop. Take the references to snow and mistletoe out of 'Without You,' and you still have a pop song that's perfectly workable. And there's something sad about that. I may be a pretty cynical bastard when it comes to Christmas, but at least I know that when I sit down to watch something yule-ish, I want it to actually have a whiff of the Season to it. Listening to this, all I can think of is that Pope wants to be Hayley Williams, and she wants to have her generation's version of 'Last Christmas' under her belt. And she fails on both counts.

Every year I see more and more of these kind of songs. And it saddens me because I see it as a further indication that in most people's mind Christmas has drifted so far away from the things it was supposed to represent and more about the trappings. And I can't see this trend stopping in the future.

Here's the song....

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