Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Last Christmas, 1997

Just a minute ago I heard a non-Wham! version of "Last Christmas" at the grocery store, and it reminded me of the first time I heard this song:

It was December of 1997, I was in Hofu, Japan. It was my second Christmas away from the United States and away from my family, although I had been away for just a few months over a year. Me and Aaron "Kubiak" Anderson (dude I hope you Google yourself and find this, I love you man!) were at the church before English conversation club, and we found a videotape labeled "Christmas Videos" in one of the closets. Being starved for entertainment, and being in the Christmas spirit as much as one possibly can be in Japan, we totally popped it into the VHS machine. Lo and behold, it was a videotape that contained only one video, the video for "Last Christmas" by Wham! I had never actually heard this song before, but the christmassy vibe that this video brought upon our poor little gaijin souls was simply phenomenal. We just kept watching this video over and over again. Rewinding, watching, rewinding, watching. Turns out "Christmas Videos" was a bit of a misnomer because there was only one video on it. You do have to keep in mind, however, that the person who wrote that's native language doesn't even have plurals, so it's kind of like whatever, ya know.

This video though, this video! What happens in this video is so awesomely strange when you compare it with what the lyrics are talking about. Here we have a bunch of (obviously fake) heterosexual European 80's couples meeting up in the mountains for some good times. They go skiing, they decorate the tree, all that stuff, but our protagonist, Mr. George Michael, and this homegirl with a sweet perm have some serious back issues/sexual tension that they need to deal with, especially since they both with other people. Is she the woman that he gave his heart to last Christmas? Kubiak and I wondered out loud. What does the bedazzled piece of jewelry at 2:40 have to do with anything? Is this a physical symbol of his heart? We see a flashback to what we can only assume is last Christmas, the two of them frolicking in the snow, being sweet. What could have gone wrong? He gave her his heart, but then what does she do? She goes and gives it away, the very next day! Unbelievable. It's kind of no wonder George Michael now gets arrested for soliciting sex from state troopers at rest stops. A diss like that might just make a man turn on women all together.

The video ends, and they both walk away with their new gf/bfs. No real resolution, no closure, just the worst kind of lingering ski lodge weirdness. Just like life, I guess.

I guess I really can't begin to describe the feeling that repeated viewings of this video brought into our missionary hearts. It was the weirdest thing. Who had made this videotape? Why was it in the church closet? Why had we found it? Was this what Christmas miracles look like in Japan?

We later found out that "Last Christmas" is like the most popular Christmas song in Japan. Not "Jingle Bells," not "Silver Bells," not "Santa Clause is Coming to Town. No. "Last Christmas" is king of the Christmas songs in Japan. I think I understand why.

Watch. Discover the true meaning of Japanese Christmas.


Shannon said...

Sorry to butt in but I stumbled across your blog by accident and couldn't NOT comment on an entry about Wham's "Last Christmas"! When I was 15 years old, I wanted the video for that song to be my life -- Christmas in Switzerland with a bunch of good-looking friends.

Somehow it seems so appropriate that this is the most popular Christmas song in Japan. I don't think other acts should be trying to cover it. I heard some weird hip-hop version a couple of years ago. It just depressed me.

bex said...

I sort of think that if asked to come up with a physical representation of my heart, a gaudy faux diamond brooch would be the first thing that came to mind.