We haven’t even cooked the Thanksgiving turkey yet, but no matter: Lots of people have moved on to Christmas. Trees are up, tiny lights are twinkling and Santa Claus is already shilling stuff on television. Who is Plugged In to squelch all this Christmas spirit? So let’s kick this edition of Culture Clips off with the most inescapable part of the Christmas season: Mariah Carey.
Carey’s holiday classic “All I Want for Christmas is You” is officially older than some of you: She released the song way back in the pre-iPhone days of 1994. But the ditty is still going strong—so strong, in fact, that the Guinness World Records organization recently announced that Carey’s song owns three world records: One for highest-charting holiday song on Billboard by a solo artist; another for claiming the most-streamed track on Spotify in a 24-hour period by a woman (for more than 10.8 million such streams on Dec. 24, 2018); and most weeks in the United Kingdom’s singles top 10 list for a Christmas song (20 weeks).
And it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. The song decked the halls of all comers in a March Madness-style bracket sponsored by the San Diego Union Tribune—besting “Silent Night” in the final.
“The song is already beloved for how fun it is, but I think the internet has lifted it to cult status in a way that no other Christmas song could ever touch, past or present,” said Abby Hamblin of The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Carey’s not the only female singing/songwriting phenom to rack up the honors this week. Taylor Swift took home Artist of the Decade from the American Music Awards a couple of days ago, but that was just a warmup. She gathered up four other awards during the ceremony, giving her a grand total of 28 AMA statuettes and making her the most decorated honoree in AMA history. (The old record-holder, Michael Jackson, won a mere 24 AMAs.) With Swift these days, though, her many, many accolades tend to take a backseat to her feud with Scooter Braun, the head of her former record label. Several outlets suggested that Swift sent some subtly serious shade Scooter’s way during the AMA’s. (Of course, she’s not the only music star who’s clashed with record labels, as The Daily Beast notes.)
Meanwhile, Frozen II stars Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell both received honors of their own—stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Bell said she was honored to work with Menzel. “When I heard Idina sing for the first time, I felt a newness that I’d never felt before,” she told a chuckling Menzel during the ceremony. “Like a baby who had just experienced rain for the first time.” She’s not the only one, apparently: The New York Times did a profile on some families whose lives have been utterly kidnapped by the Frozen phenomena and, of course, Menzel’s rendition of “Let It Go.” (But late-night host James Corden, during a recent “crosswalk musical” depiction of Frozen, tried to keep Menzel from singing at all.)
By the way, Frozen II’s not the only film inspiring some moviegoers. In A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Fred Rogers (played by Tom Hanks) inspired lots of tears when he encouraged us to think about the people who helped shape us during a moving moment of silence (Entertainment Weekly tells us how the scene came about), and the Christian Post reminds us that the real Mister Rogers thought of his show as a “ministry.” Joker has apparently already inspired a sequel, and it may inspire director Todd Phillips to open up a Swiss bank account, thanks to the curious way he got paid. And the upcoming movie Knives Out inspired Slate to wonder … is it really possible for someone to get physically sick by lying?
But back to our main topic. Perhaps all these female musical stars owe something to Dolly Parton, the iconic 73-year-old country music star who’s having yet another moment in pop culture (thanks to a new podcast and a Netflix series). It only makes sense, according to The New York Times: She’s both one of the most examined and paradoxically mysterious artists of any generation—a perfect fit for today’s social media age. Writes Lindsay Zoladz:
A generation that’s grown up with Snapchat-filtered selfies and pop feminism seems to have an innate understanding that artifice doesn’t negate authenticity, or that a penchant for towering wigs and acrylic nails doesn’t prevent someone from being a songwriting genius. (Maybe they even help: Parton claims to have first tapped out the beat of “9 to 5” while idly clicking her fingernails.) Perhaps that’s why her rhinestone DNA is visible in young artists as varied as Kacey Musgraves and Cardi B — to say nothing of Parton’s own goddaughter Miley Cyrus, who inspired a whole new generation of Parton fans who first came to know her as wacky Aunt Dolly from “Hannah Montana.” Parton sang a duet with Kesha on her 2017 album “Rainbow” — a 1980 Parton hit that Kesha’s mother happened to co-write. At this year’s Grammys, when Parton was honored with the MusiCares person of the year award for her philanthropy, she performed a rousing medley of her hits alongside a who’s who billing of her millennial heirs, like Katy Perry, Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves.
But fame, as we all know, can be a difficult burden. The NY Times also notes that South Korea is doing some serious soul searching surrounding one of its most popular exports, K-pop. The music may be upbeat and its artists may project an innocent, optimistic vibe, but two of the genre’s most popular singers recently committed suicide. And many suggest that the scandal-ridden industry surrounding K-pop may be at least partly to blame.
Suicide is impacting youth stateside, too, with rates among teens and young adults skyrocketing across the country. It’s now the leading cause of death for preteens in Ohio, according to officials. And many parents express frustration in trying to discern the difference between what signals depression in their adolescent kids and what constitutes normal, if trying, behavior in them.
But let’s not end on such a sad note. It is Christmastime, after all. So let me point you to a possible new job. According to Fox News, three London roommates are on the lookout for a “lifestyle happiness manager.” It’ll pay $19 an hour, and the roomies are looking for someone who “will continue to think of ways for us to improve our quality of life and make us and the people around us happy.” They like avocado toast and smoked salmon, but they don’t like alarm clocks, so you’ll have to wake them each individually.
The advertisement doesn’t specify how the Londoners feel about Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You,” but I’d suggest to any applicants to play it 24/7 for them. It’ll surely keep them in the Christmas spirit all the year long.