Christmas Song Octagon: 'We Three Kings'

That's too many Jell-O molds, dudes. Even for a baby. - Wikimedia Commons

Our writers would like to fight you over Christmas music, so please: step into the Christmas Song Octagon and keep it clean. Next up: the traditional "We Three Kings," defended by Bill Hanstock.

"We Three Kings," when taken on its own, is a fine song. Terrific cadence, solid melody and structure, as well as a ton of leeway in terms of range, so you can just sit back at a Christmas Eve service and sing it softly, or go nuts and belt it out in your home or car or wherever while your hand does that Christina Aguilera thing where you think she might be playing a theremin but she sadly isn't doing that at all.

But I'm not arguing for the song in general. I'm arguing for a specific version of this song. I'd like to bring to your attention to the song as it appeared in A Claymation Christmas Celebration, which may still be the best Christmas show ever given the CBS Special Presentation logo.

Please take a couple of minutes to observe "We Three Kings," as performed by clay.

Now that is one insanely rockin' version of "We Three Kings," even if it did come out at the same time that the hardest-rockin' song on the charts was Lionel Richie's "Dancin' on the Ceiling" (which describes partying logistics that are still unclear).

The Claymation studios were, of course, brought us the California Raisins and were sort of practitioners of the overly-produced doo-wop-as-R&B thing that sort of permeated the late 1980s and early 1990s. On the plus side, it brought Ray Charles back into vogue, but on the minus side it led to Diet Pepsi cans with "UH HUH!" on the side of them. So this version of "We Three Kings" is basically a mash-up of a strict, traditional performance on the verses and a "SHA DOOBY DOO" delivery for the chorus. The end result, however, is undeniably pleasing.

Some of the best things about this version/video:

1. The Kings seem shocked that their camels are beginning to sing, but are fairly nonplussed about the fact that said camels were already wearing a fez and sneakers and one of them HAD A CULTIVATED LITTLE RICHARD MUSTACHE. Camels don't have mustaches, dude. I don't care what century it is.

2. The second and third verses really hammer home that each of the magi gets their own moment in the sun to be like YEAH I'M BRINGING A RAD GIFT TO JESUS AND HERE'S WHAT'S SO COOL IT. Sure, that's undermined in the video by the Richard Sterban wise man just kind of surreptitiously being all "Annnnnd the myrrh goes in this box here," but we'll give them a pass.

3. Sitar during the frankincense verse.

4. Guitar solo behind the chorus following the frankincense verse that appears to be nothing more than them hooking the sitar up to a distortion pedal and letting the sitar guy (probably G.E. Smith; every guitar solo in 1987 was G.E. Smith) sort of wail away feebly.

5. Contractually-mandated "OH YEAH!" stinger. That's how you know it's authentic.

If you think this version of the song is a bit cheesy or hasn't aged well, I invite you to watch Wolverine himself yucking it up with some of his fellow countrymen in a truly unnecessarily-hammy rendition. (NOTE: don't watch that version. It's exceedingly awful even before they start pronouncing "deity" as "die-a-tee.")

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