The (Christmas) Case Against a Kanye West-Bob Dylan Collaboration
After Kanye sent a tweet into the void saying he wanted to "get together" with Bob Dylan, we must accept that only one thing can save us from any potential collaboration. That thing is 'Christmas In The Heart.'
Here's something horrifying from last night that you've probably seen already:
Dwelling on Kanye West tweets is bad for the brain. Picture an ill-lit makeshift studio somewhere in Cowboy Country, the smell of Bob-brand whiskey lingering in the sweaty air, Dylan thumbing through an old Rimbaud paperback while humming a grizzled version of Frank Sinatra's "The Impatient Years," Kanye in his MAGA hat drifting off for one of his studio naps. It's terrifying, and I shouldn't have to explain why. It should be enough for me to simply scream obscenities at my computer, spill lukewarm coffee on my keyboard, and momentarily recoil in horror at this thought before moving onto some other distraction.
Let's pretend, however, that this is a court of law. You, a decent and mostly law-abiding citizen, have been tasked with making sure that a Dylan-West collaboration never materializes. You play "Black Skinhead" and "Spirit on the Water" to the jury to convince them that this is all just a God-awful idea. They nod pensively. The prosecution has its shit together, they seem to be thinking. This is going to plan. Justice will be upheld. You confidently return to your chair.
But now here's the lawyer for the defense, approaching the juror's box, wearing a smug look on his face and a criminally expensive suit on his body. "Ladies and gentlemen... my client, Mr. West, may have unorthodox techniques," he says. "But may I remind you that 'Four Five Seconds,' an unlikely collaboration between my client and a late-career icon, went to number four on the Billboard Charts?" Every juror's eyes light up in as they remember the song and its success; hoards of r/Kanye devotees cheer rapturously from the balcony. You have been blindsided. You stand up, but your legs are weak now. You try to scream "objection," but all that passes your lips is a weak, childish murmur: "Objuuuuh..."
What you need is an airtight argument.
Good news: Today is December 13, Hump Day for The Noisey Advent Calendar, and I've had both Kanye's "Christmas in Harlem" and Bob Dylan's Christmas In The Heart on rotation in my apartment for two of weeks now. Some people might be swayed by that shit-eating defense lawyer's cheap ploy, but I promise you that no reasonable jury could hear both of these artists singing about Christmas and come to the conclusion that they should be allowed to work in tandem. Here's the case that you can present.
Christmas In The Heart functions as a wink to the audience, a little levity for Dylan between 2009's gruffly traditional Together Through Life and 2012's doleful, death-obsessed Tempest. How much you enjoy the record depends on how willing you are to be in on the joke. The record is comprised entirely of standards and carols, everything from "Winter Wonderland" to "Hark The Herald Angels Sing." Dylan didn't expect anyone to stick this on, gather around the fire with their family, and unconsciously hum along—he wanted people to hear him scuttle through "Here Comes Santa Claus" and annunciate through a Latin verse on "O Come All Ye Faithful." It's meticulously arranged and produced by Dylan himself (under his oft-used and here appropriately festive pseudonym Jack Frost), and, in a raspy "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," there's at least one cut that might be worthy of Dylan's late-career majesty. But it's followed by a polka rendition of "Must Be Santa." He's having fun.
On the surface, that's something that Kanye might warm to. His jokes have worn horribly thin in recent months, but he's always been looking for a punchline (or a meme) to spark a song into life. His holiday cut, "Christmas in Harlem," is choc with mini-jokes, good spirits, and quick-hit wordplay. Maybe there's enough there to make Dylan, whisky in hand, look up from that dusty paperback and flash half a smile; maybe this wouldn't be a nightmare.
But there's something amiss here. Christmas In The Heart and "Christmas In Harlem" came from two completely different ideas. The former is a wry but still ultra-traditional collection of songs. "Christmas in Harlem," on the other hand, is brand new. It sounds Christmassy more by accident than by design; there's little precedent for it in the holiday canon.
"Fine," one Redditor screams from the back as the judge furiously wraps the gavel on her desk. "How do you know that Kanye can't sound good playing through some more familiar Christmas songs?" He is abruptly removed from the room, leaving behind a neon-yellow hoodie that once cost $900.
Here's where you call a surprise witness to the stand. Demi Adejuyigbe, host of the Punch Up The Jam podcast and a writer on The Good Place, bursts through the doors. All he has on him is a boombox and a home-burned CD. The Sharpied letters on the front read “'Tis The Yeezy Season.” He has brought with him his Kanye Christmas mashup tape from 2016. You ask him to kindly press play.
The jury hears "All I Want For Westmas Is Ye" and "Wonderful Westmastime" and they laugh at first, because every song here is funny. But by the time the album gets to "Rockin Around The Black Skinhead," they have been reduced to rubble, a collection of everyday people suddenly having to contemplate what might happen if Ye was unleashed on "Hark The Herald Angels Sing." One juror weeps, knowing that Kanye would once again confuse Romans with Spartans and have nobody around to sort it out.
You will emerge victorious. Dylan will never have to look up from Rimbaud; Kanye will never have to tweet out an apology after napping in Dylan's presence. You won't just have saved Christmas. You'll have saved the world.
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