What: Harvey Danger’s disaffected Christmas song “Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas (Sometimes).”
Why: In this entry, I failed to include a single song from the current millennium. (The latest was from 1993. Santa needs to bring me a short-term memory.) I’ll rectify that by talking up a stellar carol by Seattle’s beloved sons, Harvey Danger. “Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas (Sometimes)” is a Seattle-soaked tune, name-checking local institutions Bartell Drugs and Half-Price Books. It’s narrated by a glum ticket-taker at an independent movie house (in the video, Seattle’s Grand Illusion). Everyone he sees has nothing better to do than attend a second-run movie on Christmas. There’s no happy ending here; working on Christmas really does suck. But the song itself is magical, because when you hear it, you are almost certainly not working on Christmas. And that’s why it’s the happiest song of the season.
Impact: In the wreckage of grunge, Seattle music needed a savior. Harvey Danger got anointed by college radio in the late ’90s, charting toe-tapping delights like “Flagpole Sitta”, “Private Helicopter”, and “Sad Sweetheart of the Rodeo”. It being college radio, their national success barely survived an undergraduate tour, and the band flickered out in 2001. But in 2004, Harvey Danger released this Christmas song on an EP of the same name, catching a large new crowd of fans for the release of their best album, Little by Little…, which they gave away for free. Despite this album’s success, it didn’t lead to longevity for the band’s second coming, and they folded the tent for good earlier this year.
Personal Connection: If it’s possible to watch a rock band grow up, then that is what I’ve done with Harvey Danger. When I met guitarist Jeff Lin, he was a magazine editor who left Wizards of the Coast to become a spiky-haired rock star. During the hiatus, Jeff decided to become a spiky-haired muck-a-muck at my company’s most frequent client, Microsoft. I’m sure being a rock star has its perks, but sometimes, you have to work.
Other Contenders: “Chiron Beta Prime”, Jonathan Coulton’s cheery holiday missive from a robot-run prison planet; Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg’s Christmas present for the ages, the Saturday Night Live song “Dick in a Box”; TIm Minchin’s Santa-mental masterpiece, “White Wine in the Sun”; Bill Nighy’s everything-that’s-wrong-with-Christmas Christmas song from the movie Love, Actually, “Christmas Is All Around”.