HO HO WHO: Bryan Adams, Canadian rock star known to people above age 25 for hits like “Summer of ’69” (which he freely admits is not about the year 1969, when he was a mere 9 years old) and “Run to You,” plus power ballads “Heaven” and “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You.” For people below age 25, his masterpiece is the soundtrack to the DreamWorks horse movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, which carries much of the emotional heft in a mostly dialogue-free film (which is very good, thank you).
JOE GOT MARY IN A FAMILY WAY: “Joe and Mary,” off Adams’ new EP Christmas, is a throwback rock-and-roll song that casts Jesus’ parents as two crazy kids who had to skip town after an unplanned pregnancy in the ’50s. It’s slightly sacrilegious, but hey, it’s fun! Jingle bells accentuate the drum kit as Mary and Joe pull into a rinky-dink motel in Bethlehem (Pennsylvania, I suppose?), Chuck Berry blasting from the radio of their beat-up Buick.
NO ROOM IN THE [MOTEL 6]: This song is not melodramatic like Adams’ biggest Christmas hit, “Christmas Time,” nor a misguided genre crossover like “Reggae Christmas.” It’s jingly and encourages the tapping of feet and shaking of hips. We don’t get much of his signature rasp in the vocals, but not every song has to have Adams on the verge of voice-cracking tears to be good. It’s exactly what a new Christmas song should be, and doesn’t fall into any of the traps others so often stumble into—it’s not weirdly horny, it doesn’t go over-the-top in adoring the baby Jesus, and it’s not strangely depressing.
CHEER FACTOR: 9/10. “Joe and Mary” picks up the torch of the aforementioned Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run,” Bobby Helms’ “Jingle Bell Rock,” and even Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” It’s a worthy addition to any playlist that includes the former three.
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