Christmas

The Banality of Exploding Pudding: Coldplay – “Christmas Lights”

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  Preliminary Note: Just before watching this for the first time, I noticed a YouTube comment from somebody claiming “the fish eating the boat is the best part!”. What the hell? What am I getting into with this one?

We start out with the camera focused on an old phonograph, with somebody getting ready to play a record of Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights”. Okay, that’s what I’m wanting to hear, so that’s good. A mysterious hand gets things going, and we pan down to a strange piano that is playing by itself. Aside from the paranormal angle, we’re also distracted by the fact that all of the keys have been painted different colors, back in about 1918 and whoever painted them is now presumably dead. Hmmm. So far, I can’t really say that this is the most cheery Christmas video out there.

Camera moves away from the piano and we pan along the band members lying on their backs on an old wooden floor. (What, they’re too lazy to actually perform in this video? Was the mayo bad in the tuna salad? Has Gwyneth put them in time-out?) We finally get to lead singer Chris, and he starts singing while still laying there. I spy an “X” on one of the floorboards near his head, and I find myself much more interested in what might be under that floorboard than where the rest of this video is going. I need to focus.

Chris is singing really softly on this part of the song, and I’m straining to hear as he wimpily gives birth to the lyrics, so it’s kind of a relief when the camera pans away. Sadly, we’re back at the creepy piano that is being played by the Ghost of Christmas Past, or maybe his cousin, the Ghost of Videos Where You’re Not Sure What Is Going On. The camera pulls back, and we see that Chris is still on the floor, but the rest of the band is no longer there. (I didn’t receive a memo on where they might have gone. Not judging, but it’s entirely possible that a drug dog wandered into the scene and certain key players had a professional interest in not being sniffed.)

Suddenly, Chris levitates from the floor into a standing position. Oh? There is just something really wrong with this place. Chris isn’t bothered that his body was just transported against his will, and instead of questioning the levitation like a normal person he decides to start banging on that Piano of the Dead. The camera pans to somewhere else, and we see a nice, billowy red curtain, one that is hopefully not possessed. The curtain parts, because that’s one of the job functions of billowy curtains, and hey, there’s the rest of the band. They’re playing their little instruments on an old-timey stage. There are cut-out props shaped like buildings in the background, and for some reason I think of Istanbul. I’m probably supposed to think of something else, but I’m very confused.

The guys jam for a bit as the camera moves backwards so we can get a better gander at this new tableau, and we can see that there are some pretty Chinese lights strung across the stage. Okay, are we supposed to be thinking of Christmas around the world? Not sure. (Do they even do Christmas in China? Sure seems like something you would want to keep on the down-low or your ass might end up in jail.) The camera zooms back in from the cheap seats so we can watch the Istanbul props slide into the wings, and then we have more sliding, with a new set of props that apparently involve an ocean and a moon rising out of the water. It’s primitively pretty and all, but I’m starting to think maybe the set decorator might have had some focus issues. This is confirmed when, suddenly, three drunken Elvis impersonators zip by while playing violins.

Did anybody talk to Graceland about this?

The hyperactive camera pulls back again (did somebody miss a scheduled dose of anxiety meds?) so we can see that the band is still playing, but that wasn’t really necessary since we can hear them the whole time. Then we zoom in on Chris still banging on that piano, and he’s singing to somebody that must be in the balcony because he sure doesn’t want to look at us. (What did we do wrong? Bastard.) At the back of the stage, the Elvis clones zip by again, followed by one of Lisa Marie’s lawyers.

Oh wait, here’s that part with the boat getting eaten by a giant fish. Well, then. I can’t really say it was the most agreeable development in this video, what with all that carnage and violence, but I’ll agree that it was unexpected. Still, it makes me a little sad that the YouTube comment got more votes than anybody in the recent Presidential election. Nothing says “hope for humanity” quite like millions of people who would rather eat a tub of ice cream while watching Rednecks Say the Funniest Things instead of helping pick the next leader of their country.

Chris gets bored with the decaying but psychedelic piano and moves closer to his mates, allowing for a great photo-op, should anyone be interested in such a thing. Then the camera once again (just take your pill, dude) pulls back from the stage, rather far this time, so we can see that there’s a little marquee above the stage with the words “Credo Elvem Etiam Vivere”. I’m sure there are scholarly people who can interpret this slogan for us, but I’m going to assume it means some character from “The Lord of the Rings” is now living in Las Vegas and helping Santa deliver presents.

The camera retreats far enough that we can see buildings in the distance over the top of the theatre. One of them looks like the Capitol Building in America, but I’m going to assume that it’s not, since we’re dealing with British folk who would prefer that the Pilgrims had just stayed home and sucked it up like everybody else. The bi-polar camera zooms back in on the band, still doing their thing. Now we’ve got fake snow falling down, which is kind of pretty even though it’s clearly just scraps of shredded newspaper that some low-paid stagehand is being forced to hurl about, so the magic is a bit thin. But Chris is now sporting a carnation, and that makes everything better. If the scene isn’t working, bring in a floral motif and all is forgiven.

The fake newspaper bits fall for a while. Somebody was really invested in this part of the goings on. I wasn’t that person.

Then the camera pans way to the left, and we’re looking at what I’m guessing is the River Thames. There’s a triple-decker boat floating about, with tons of people on the top deck releasing balloons at just the right lyrical moment. Fireworks light up the sky, which isn’t really something we do in the Colonies during the Yuletide season, but it’s very festive and I suppose it’s nice that the Union of United Explosive Handlers, Local 707, might be getting some overtime pay.

Now we’re zooming back into the old-timey theatre, with the Elvis Pod People playing their violins with a passion and more pyrotechnics exploding from where the seats would be if there had been an actual audience. (Should I worry about what might have happened to the concert goers? Maybe not. Don’t ask, don’t tell, invoke the Fifth Amendment should there be a court hearing.) At this point, Chris is really invested in doing hand movements over his head, so we’ll assume that this part of the song is super important to him. (I’m still trying to figure out what Istanbul has to do with any of this.)

The curtain closes, the camera gives us another glimpse of the creepy piano, and then it pans over the top of the theatre so we can see the cityscape once again. More fireworks explode as the music fades and, presumably, Tiny Tim convinces Scrooge that world peace is possible as long as everyone has enough figgy pudding and people stop blaming others for their hesitance to take responsibility for what is happening in their own lives…

 

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

Originally published on 12/12/10, revised and updated with extra flair for this post.