A Great Big Sled - the Killers featuring Toni Halliday
Vegas band the Killers released a Christmas single every December from 2006 to 2015 (ten in all), donating the proceeds from each to AIDS charities in America. As is often the case, the first one, "A Great Big Sled", is the best, although the others are all pretty good.
There's a freshness about this which stills has the feel of excitement that was there when the band first surfaced three years earlier in 2003. This is a song reflecting on lost innocence, with singer Brandon Flowers looking back at childhood days when Christmas was a time of magic for children.
The first verse hits us with a triple metaphor, with the robot Christmas gifts symbolising the little boys themselves, not only about to break out of their wrappings into adulthood, but doomed to forever be enchained by the attitudes and social upbringing that has already been sown within their minds.
"This snowman is shaping up to be an eight but not out of ten
the robots awake to find that they've been taped down
wondering when, they'll break though these chains
but little boys have action toys for brains...."
- only the snowman - through his eight-like shape - is resisting the marking judgements out of ten that are already a major part of the kids' lives - he is innocence personified.
Similarly with the little girls:
".....now the girls up the street are innocent and sweet while they're all in bed: they got their makeup and dreams of wonderland
sprinkled inside their heads; soon they will change but tonight Hollywood hills never seemed so strange - Their mothers pray it will last a long time...."
For Flowers this innocence alone justifies celebrating Christmas. He wants to go back and have another chance to grow up so he can resist the corrupting influences that shaped him - "I wanna relearn what I already know".
As in Dickens, we have a sad vision of Christmas Future:
"now the boys are all grown up
and they're working their fingers to the bone,
they go round chasing them girls on the weekends,
you know they still can't be alone..."
Not only does Flowers want to get back the artlessness of childhood - "rolling around like a kid in the snow" - he wants to be Santa himself, the only adult in this world of innocence, flying through the sky on his "great big sled".
But his sincerity when he sings "I wanna wish you merry Christmas" is fraught with disturbing inner knowledge, his adult self that knows it's a lie, we can go back, personified by Toni Halliday as she worries that what the sounds of Christmas, - bells, noises on the roof - might actually be. A burglar? Surveillance?
The song ends with her sad, factual prompt "Can't do that". No you can't regain the innocence of a child's Christmas, not matter how much you want to. It's too late.
An intelligent, moving Christmas song. And, like the sled, and like Christmas, it's also moving in that it makes you want to dance.