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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Earworm Weekly: "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" By Darlene Love

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2015 at 1:21 PM

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The Christmas season brings with it earworms galore, from classic carols, like “Winter Wonderland” and “Do You Hear What I Hear?” to mid-20th-century standards, like “Christmas in Hollis,” “Christmas Wrapping,” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” All of them are catchy enough that you either love the entire genre or wear earplugs when in public for the length of December.

I'm not ashamed to admit I'm in the former category. My family has a special connection with Christmas. One of my relatives modeled for artist Haddon Sundblom's paintings of the Coca-Cola Santa in the 1930s, so when I grew up, Christmas was a big deal in my house. I'll happily play Christmas music in the car, at work, while baking cookies, wrapping presents, and decorating the tree. Sometimes it's hard to choose, but one of the Christmas songs I love best is “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” originally recorded in 1963 but made truly memorable thanks to singer Darlene Love's annual performances of the song on the David Letterman show from 1986 to the show's final season in 2014.
Darlene Love's story is more widely known these days thanks to her appearance in the award-winning 2013 music documentary 20 Feet from Stardom about the lives and careers of rock-and-roll back-up singers. Love worked with Phil Spector as a member of the Blossoms, but she also sang lead on singles released under the name The Crystals, another Spector-backed girl group. “He's A Rebel” (another one of my persistent earworms), was the first and most famous, rushed out by Spector in 1962 while The Crystals were touring. In contrast, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” was credited to Love alone from the outset and became her signature song. Her no-holds-barred vocal delivery is framed by Spector's famous Wall of Sound production – layers of backing harmonies, masses of percussion, groups of guitars, horns, and strings, all topped off, in this case, by a clanging church bell.

It's easy to assume that “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is sung by a jilted woman to her wayward lover. But hold on — the song isn’t called “Baby Please Come Back,” but rather, “Baby Please Come Home.” This song could easily be sung by someone separated from their lover due to a multitude of reasons (traveling salesman, perhaps?). Because the singer is alone, none of the signs of the season — snow, carols, lights on the tree — move her because she doesn’t have her baby by her side. I imagine that this song is particularly poignant for military families, those whose partners have to work on the holidays, or any other situation in which people in love, romantically or otherwise, find themselves geographically separated in the final weeks of December.

For me, my birth family is in Michigan, and I can rarely afford to see them over the holiday season. This year, I am also working retail on Christmas Eve. Because of this, I can imagine both my parents and my children singing the backing harmonies of this song. The vision feels both happy and sad because I am not with them, but I know that I am loved. It's a hard sentiment to capture, that simultaneous feeling of love and loss, but Darlene Love has nailed it, year after year.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Get Ready For Christmas With R. Kelly's Holiday Slap, "Christmas Party"

Posted By on Thu, Dec 10, 2015 at 1:10 PM

CREDIT: RCA
  • Credit: RCA

If you've heard R. Kelly's summer slap "Backyard Party," then you'll recognize the tune in "Christmas Party" (and know that it's basically the same song but with different lyrics). Whatever, though, we're still bumping it over here at the Weekly office because a) it's a nice deviation from the standard holiday classics, and b) like all of R. Kelly's songs, it's damn catchy. Not only that, it's also funny (which you could also say about practically every R. Kelly song). Apparently on Christmas R. Kelly likes to reminisce "on old times / While drinking and playing Dominoes," and he even makes a comment about how "all the people here are so good looking."

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

5 Christmas Songs For Deviants

Posted By on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 8:47 AM

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If you're the type of person who cringes every time you hear the gentle waft of Michael Buble's Christmas; the kind of human who wants to put your face through a stained glass window every time you catch a couple of bars of Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas is You", well, we sympathize. And we know that, while everyone else feels festive to the sounds of Sinatra and Martin doing traditional favorites, the only effect it has on you is the desire to listen to Slayer really, really loudly. As such, we thought you might enjoy something a little bit different as the big day approaches. By which we mean, the special combination of Christmas and abject filth. That's right — what you're about to hear are five musical renditions that are both festive and NSFW. Enjoy the wrongness! 

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Five Gifts For Hip-Hop Heads

Posted By on Fri, Dec 19, 2014 at 12:36 PM

Holiday shopping can be a crap-shoot, and coming up with a unique idea is sometimes the hardest thing to do. With that in mind, here's a short list of items for the hip-hop fan in your life. (You might even wind up wanting to pick some of these up for yourself.)

1. J-Dilla Doll from Rappcats
This 7.5” pvc figure is a must-have for Dilla fans. This Lil’ Dilla is toting his MPC, has a silver donut chain and his beard is as perfectly manicured as ever. The idea was conceived by Sintex out of Detroit (where else?!) and produced by Seoul-based P2PL. Cop it for $60 at Rappcats

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chappy Chanukah! Celebrate Like a Gangsta With a Dr. Dreidel

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 8:05 AM

HANNAH ROTHSTEIN
  • Hannah Rothstein
Tonight's the first night of Chanukah, and — because what better way to play off jokes about Jews and money than to invoke the name of the richest human in hip-hop while gambling for pennies during your annual festivies? — this here is the Dr. Dreidel

The so-obvious-we're-surprised-it-took-someone-this-long-to-create-it work of art is the brainchild of San Francisco artist Hannah Rothstein, carved by Chris McCoy of the (also SF-based) "maker" community you3Dit. As per Rothstein's website:

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Three New Christmas Songs That Don't Suck

Posted By on Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 2:00 PM

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As my colleague Joe Eskenazi explored in his entertaining column this week, a lot of Christmas music falls under the category of, well, torturous. ("Must Be Santa" gets my vote for most mind-numbingly infurating, if you were curious, though Bob Dylan's 2009 version that appeared to be sponsored by Ambien added an interesting layer to the tune.)

Still, Christmas songs are lucrative, which is why many labels push artists to pen and release a holiday-themed single right around now. Many of these tracks are embarrassing, even (especially?) when they're released by bands you love. 

However! There is a way around this, and for lack of a better term we shall call it embracing the cheese. "This is a Christmas song, which by definition is cheesy," your song must announce. "But that doesn't mean we've sold our souls. Yet."

Here are three new songs from local or local-ish artists that show how it's done. 

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Patriotic In Their Own Ways: Songs By Bay Area Veterans

Posted By on Tue, Nov 11, 2014 at 11:30 AM

Country Joe McDonald at Woodstock.
  • Country Joe McDonald at Woodstock.
Do a search for "Veteran's Day playlist" and you're sure to find lots of Toby Keith, some Billy Ray Cyrus, a little Loretta Lynn if you're lucky, and at least four or five different versions of "God Bless the U.S.A."

Well, here in the Bay Area we do things a little differently. Thus, here are some different tunes, all written and sung by some of our favorite local musicians who also happen to have served in the Armed Forces. Thanks for the service, gents, and for the songs that those experiences inspired you to create. 

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Monday, December 3, 2012

S.F.'s Karmacoda Turns "Baby It's Cold Outside" into a Trip-Hop Mood Setter

Posted By on Mon, Dec 3, 2012 at 2:55 PM

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Call us grouches all you want, but "Baby It's Cold Outside" has always been one of our least-favorite holiday songs. Until today, that is, when we heard the downtempo/trip-hop version just released by long-running S.F. outfit Karmacoda. Somehow they've squelched the winking leer of the original in favor of a vibe that's still sexy but a lot less creepy. Of course, the song remains a duet, sung by vocalist Heather Pierce and producer Brett Crockett, and the tension between the two voices is still at the core of this new version. Their words and melodies finally come together in the, er, climax, which tells you everything you need to know about where the narrative goes.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I Got Five On It: Weighing Out San Francisco's Stoniest 4/20 Parties

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2012 at 4:20 AM

Wiz Khalifa - CALIBREE PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Calibree Photography
  • Wiz Khalifa

Rest assured, attending any of these S.F. parties held on the marijuana smoker's unofficial holiday of April 20 should result in a world-class contact high -- not to mention beats worthy of holding a limited attention span. There are no seeds or stems in the bunch. But in order to wager on which green parties will be the ultimate in extreme stonerism -- in other words, the 420-est of these leading 420 parties -- we're weighing out nuggets from each. Join us for run-down of best options for getting hella blazed in S.F. this Friday:

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Mardi Gras in S.F.: Free Concert, a Fat Tuesday Parade, and the Mardi Gras Ball at Mezzanine

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2012 at 11:11 AM

Zigaboo Modeliste. - COURTESY OF JOSEPH MODELISTE
  • Courtesy of Joseph Modeliste
  • Zigaboo Modeliste.

Next Tuesday, Feb. 21, is Fat Tuesday -- the true Mardi Gras, if you're feeling très Français -- and San Francisco will be marking the big day with events to get people up and on their feet. Most will show not only a traditional nod to the music of New Orleans, but also how it has deeply influenced local musicians who've incorporated the city's unique sound and character into their own sonic gumbo.

Fat Tuesday in the Fillmore has a free concert with Bobbie Webb & Smooth Blues Band in Fillmore Plaza from 5-7 p.m., the kick-off to an evening that finds the Jaz Sawyer Mardi Gras Party at Yoshi's and a smattering of bands to accompany the food and drink specials at restaurants in the Fillmore Corridor, such as Sheba Piano Lounge (Adrian Costa Blues Band), and Gussies Chicken and Waffles (Know Jazz).

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    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"