Christmas in the Stars by Maury Yeston (writer); Meco Menardo (producer); Anthony Daniels and Jon Bon Jovi (performers) (1980, RSO Records)
As I did last year, I’d like to mark the holiday season on this blog by taking a look at some Star Wars-related Christmas kitsch. Christmas in the Stars is, as you may have already guessed, a Star Wars Christmas album. Someone, somewhere, thought this was a good idea, even after The Star Wars Holiday Special (or, if you prefer my pet name for it, the Abomination of Desolation).
Christmas in the Stars is a concept album of sorts, in which C-3PO and R2-D2 are inexplicably working in a toy shop with a crew of other droids for one “S. Claus.” Many of the songs are variations on well-known Christmas tunes, but others are wholly original. It’s really difficult for me to decide which type of song is worse on this record.
The album is nine tracks long. Let’s look at them one by one, shall we? If you’d like to listen along, just click each song title, where I’ve included a link to where you can find each track uploaded on YouTube.
The album opens with the title track. This begins with a very brief skit that establishes that R2-D2 and C-3PO are celebrating Christmas, and that Threepio is pretty excited about it. The skit is insufficient, however, in explaining just why the droids are celebrating (or even know about) Christmas. Of course, it’s silly to nitpick continuity gaffs on something like this; I’d except the conceit of the album gladly… if it were good.
After the skit, we get our first taste of what nearly this entire album is going to be—Anthony Daniels as Threepio speaking, rather than singing, his part with marginal rhythm, while a chorus sings in the background and Artoo beeps and blats at almost musically appropriate intervals. The choral part is mixed pretty low, almost so much as to make them entirely superfluous.
We’re also introduced here to the other droids in the workshop, chastising one another about playing with the toys they are supposed to be preparing. These droids’ voices are pretty annoying, but more on that later.
Chewbacca finds himself under a sprig of mistletoe with one of these droids, and apparently kisses it. One of the other droids quips, “Only a Wookie would kiss a droid for Christmas.”
…Uh, ha, ha?
The first song leads directly into this one, with Artoo asking Threepio about the sound at the end of “Christmas in the Stars.” Threepio explains to his counterpart that it’s the sound of bells.
Really? I can accept, for the purposes of this record, that C-3PO and R2-D2 are filling the position of Santa’s elves, but am I really expected to believe that they don’t have bells in the Star Wars galaxy?
Throughout the song, Threepio explains bells to Artoo. The entire song is built around the most forced rhymes possible. My favorites are from the beginning of the song:
“I cannot believe the question.
It’s like, ‘What is indigestion?’
Not that bells and indigestion are the same
I cannot believe the query.
That you’d ask, ‘What is Einstein’s theory’
Compared to ‘What are bells?’ seems almost tame.”
In this Christmas classic, C-3PO expands on how unlikely the Christmas holiday is by telling us that the invention of the wheel, the signing of the Magna Carta, or the discovery of North America by Europeans could have happened on December 25th. Interesting choices, given that, in the case of the latter two examples, Christmas was already an established holiday.
In doubtlessly the most grating, annoying song on the album, the nameless backup singer droids take center stage as they ponder what they’re going to do about getting Chewbacca a Christmas present. Every joke is based around the fact that Chewbacca has a lot of hair; this becomes tiresome very quickly.
This appears to be an attempt at a Muppet-esque, humorous kid’s Christmas tune, but it fails in every possible way. The only rivals these robots have in terms of how irritating they sound is the cast of Family Guy. Until I reached this track, I never thought I’d actually miss Anthony Daniels’s Shatner-inspired vocal style.
By the way, the droids decide to give Chewbacca “love and understanding, and goodwill to men.” Cheap bastards.
In this song, Threepio introduces Artoo to a bunch of heretofore unmentioned children who apparently want to show their love and appreciation for the little droid. Who the hell are these kids?
I’m not sure, but I do know that they’re led by Jon Bon Jovi, in his first professional recording. This would be his lamest song, if it weren’t for “It’s My Life.”
To the tune of the original “Sleigh Ride,” C-3PO explains to Artoo how music works. Aside from being baffled by why R2-D2 is so ignorant of everything about life, I’m struck by the irony of Threepio explaining signing technique in spoken word verses.
This is another one from the horrible back-up droids. There’s a callback to “What Can You Get a Wookie for Christmas?.” They’re apparently really proud of that one.
A choice line from this song: “Here’s a toy robot/ That goes to sleep/ Can you believe the way he does it is by counting sheep?” Is this a Phillip K. Dick reference?
We get another sketch here, where the robots are in a panic about having to leave before “S. Claus” arrives. We’re not told exactly why. Maybe he hates droids, and doesn’t serve their kind there.
Regardless, one of the droids speculates that S. Claus doesn’t exist. This prompts Threepio to tell a story to the contrary—a story which differs from the original “Night Before Christmas” only in a few token Threepio-isms about cowardice and keeping track of odds. Honestly, I could go the rest of my life without hearing another reimagining of this poem.
There’s one more skit here, in which we discover that “S. Claus” is not, in fact, Santa, but Santa’s son. Is this a joke? What the hell is the point of this—other than allowing a vocalist that doesn’t sound like anyone’s conception of Santa Claus to sing as that character?
Anyway, Threepio asks the Santa-kid what Christmas means. S. Claus responds with the standard secular warm-and-fuzzies, leading a chorus in a completely unearned emotional climax to the album.
This song is sooooooo looooooong! Halfway through, S. Claus launches into what amounts to a separate song about making every day like Christmas. This is probably the best song on the album, but that isn’t saying much. Like everything else on this record, its sentiments ring false and are transparent as the exercise in cynical commercialism that they are.
Christmas in the Stars is nowhere near as bad as The Star Wars Holiday Special. Unlike that nearly feature-length snore-fest, Christmas in the Stars falls mostly into the “so bad it’s good” column. Most importantly, it’s shorter. Nevertheless, I’d recommend against listening to the whole album. Check out “What Can You Get a Wookie for Christmas?” and “R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and you’ll get the idea.
If you decide, in the Christmas spirit, not to send me hate mail for dissing Bon Jovi and Family Guy, or if I don’t otherwise hear from you, have a great holiday, and I will see you back here next week!