"My idol, Irving Berlin, wrote “White Christmas,” which is the best-selling song of all time—likely to remain so. So, when I think, “What shall I do today?” I inevitably think, “What would Irving do?” And sometimes, it’s “Write a Christmas song.”"
Stephin Merritt is consistently labeled, no-doubt to his consistent chagrin, as a singer/songwriter, but it's important to remember that the emphasis of his modus operandi is on the latter part of that label. On recording Odetta, Stephin said that he felt as if she had taken his song ("Waltzing Me All the Way Home" from The 6ths' Hyacinths & Thistles) and "catapulted it into the stratosphere" like he had never seen before. And, while we all no-doubt love Mr. Merritt's voice, this comment paired with the above quote makes for a rather poignant collection of thoughts.
Amongst the most stratosphere-catapulted songs in Mr. Merritt's songbook is "Like a Snowman," written for the fabulous Kiki and Herb's Broadway show. Much like the first half of The Wayward Bus is about Phil Spector songs, I've always felt like "Like a Snowman" was written more about "White Christmas" than Christmas itself. But, that performance? It feels almost detached from Mr. Merritt's sensibilities in some ways, and is wholly a Kiki and Herb song. It takes place in their world, and they blow it out of the water in their own ways. Though the songwriting is wholly that of Mr. Merritt's (and feels as such throughout), the song is funneled through and ultimately made whole by Kiki and Herb.
Absolutely one of the greatest aspects of Mr. Merritt's work is its eccentricity, and this comment is not made solely in regards to genre experimentation. Mr. Merritt's songs are at once artistic statements and catchy pop songs, and can be viewed from as many angles as there are listeners. "Like a Snowman," of course, is no exception in that it is an absolutely lovely Christmas song, but it's also a heartbreaking story of love once had. Kenny Mellman singing "I'll give you everything, my love" never fails to send a shiver down my spine. Justin Bond inhabits entirely the character of the song and one can feel years of unreal forlorn, bittersweet, aching love oozing from that croon, particularly on that extended "snooooowman" at the tail end of the song.
Mr. Merritt did write another Christmas song for Kiki and Herb, which was discussed briefly in the comments of the previous post. It is entitled "You Should See It in the Snow." To sum up, I know little about the song, other than that it was written about 9/11 and performed at their Broadway show. I expressed interest in e-mailing Kenny Mellman about the song, but then I realized that in order to do such a thing, one would need Mr. Mellman's e-mail address. So, instead, if any of you all know anything about the song, I'd love to hear it.
Anyhow, I've uploaded "Like a Snowman." I'm only leaving this up for a couple of days because, really, I encourage everyone to buy the CD upon which it was released. It benefits AIDS research and I doubt there are many greater causes to benefit in the world today; not to mention you're remunerated with at least one absolutely beautiful song.