Credit: Julia Terbrock

HO HO WHO: Hootie & the Blowfish, the South Carolina-born kinda country, kinda rock band best remembered for its name and for cheery, mid-’90s earworms like “Hold My Hand” and “Only Wanna Be With You.” Their 1994 release, Cracked Rear View, is the 16th best-selling album of all time in the U.S. (Less cynical Gen X-ers presumably blasted it from the CD players in their Mazda Miatas.) After releasing a series of less-successful follow-up albums, the band went on hiatus in 2008 so lead singer Darius Ruckerplease, do not call him Hootie—could pursue a career in traditional country music, but as of late last year, they’re back, and they’ve brought a new Christmas song with them. 

YOU CAN’T PLAN ON ME: A lot of us won’t be able to see our families this holiday season—thanks a lot, COVID-19—but the ’fish add another blow to their Christmas tune: WAR. “I don’t want toys this year / I just want my daddy here / He’s gone to fight in the war / He’s a sergeant in the Corps,” wails young Abigail Hodges, the vocalist who sings the first verse. In case the combination of holiday and military imagery doesn’t come across in those lines, Rucker doubles down in verse two. “Artificial green and red the blood we’ve seen,” he bellows.

WE USED TO SING: Perhaps sensing that the song was too dark, Rucker and company try to brighten the chorus with a series of sha la la las. Unfortunately, those sha la la las bring to mind 2020 Scrooge of the Year candidate Van Morrison, who destroyed decades of positive feelings when he revealed himself to be a pandemic truther and released a series of anti-lockdown songs. My suggestion? Go all in on the holiday theme and change the shas to fas.

CHEER FACTOR: -7/10. Christmas is already depressing enough this year, what with the travel advisories, prohibition of public gatherings, and canceled seasonal performances. Inserting vague war imagery and imagining Santa dressed in desert camouflage makes things extra dreary. No one even bothered to add jingle bells or other holiday instruments to this arrangement. Thanks for nothing, Hootie & the Blowfish!