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November 20, 2012

Slate: Why are Thanksgiving songs all turkeys?

The latest worst. song. ever. has entered the zeitgeist. In "It's Thanksgiving," 12-year-old Nicole Westbrook warbles into a glistening turkey leg, and — attempting a vague facsimile of rap — insists that we "can't be hateful, gotta be grateful; gotta be grateful, can't be hateful." The real crime here is not the exploitation of an underage, undertalented tween. (Westbrook is a protégé of Patrice Wilson, the diabolical producer who previously inflicted Rebecca Black on an ill-prepared America.) It's that, with so few Thanksgiving-themed songs out there to choose from, this abomination automatically enters the canon.



The ongoing dearth of good Thanksgiving-themed pop bewilders me. We've been gifted with enough catchy jingle bell rock to overflow our stockings many seasons over. Yet somehow Thanksgiving-lovers always get the short end of the wishbone. Why hasn't this rich cultural tradition inspired any moments of musical genius? Where, I ask, is the Turkey Day equivalent of "2000 Miles"? Or even "Christmas in Hollis"?

Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, which means a Thanksgiving song can appeal to a broader, nondenominational audience. (Though I grant the international charts might be tougher to conquer.) And, like Christmas, Thanksgiving boasts a bounty of established thematic elements — any lyricist worth her gravy should have no trouble throwing together a few on-topic verses. Note, for example, that "pumpkin pie" rhymes with "wonder why." That's evocative! You're halfway there!

Westbrook and Wilson are not the first poptrepreneurs to spot this unfilled market niche. Most famously, Adam Sandler made a naked bid to rule the late-November airwaves with "The Thanksgiving Song." Given couplets like "Love to eat the turkey at the table; I once saw a movie with Betty Grable," I deem this skimpy stuffing. Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Thanksgiving Song" is even worse: a treacly tryptophan snore.

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