The Eighteenth Day of Mellowmas: Vanessa Carlton Has Tinnitus

Jeff: groan

Jason: What now?

Jeff: Nothing. Everything. I’ve reached the point of the season where I start having Mellowmas nightmares.

Jason: Welcome to the club! I had my first one in late August.

Jeff: I start dreaming that totally nonsensical artists have made Christmas albums. And then, of course, the worst part is that they all start coming true. A few years ago, I woke up screaming after having a nightmare about a Christmas song from Train.

Jason: And you reached for a Coca-Cola on the nightstand, only to find your worst fears had come to life.

Jeff: YES.

Jason: So clearly you have a nonsensical artist in mind. Let me see if I can guess. Three Doors Down?

Jeff: I think that already happened, didn’t it?

Jason: GODDAMMIT. Smash Mouth?

Jeff: I don’t remember who was singing in my nightmare. I only remember that she played piano and she sounded like a little girl. It was horrifying, Jason.

Jason: Okay, not Smash Mouth, then. Let’s see…piano, sounding like a little girl…isn’t that Regina Spektor?

Jeff: Blech. She already did it too. Remember?

Jason: How could I forget her heart-warming holiday ditty from last year?

Jeff: This girl was almost like Michelle Branch, only not as much.

Jason: Wait…almost like Michelle Branch…that can only mean one thing! It’s gotta be Vanessa Carlton. Because I can never tell the two of them apart.

Jeff: AAAAAHHHH! It was! It was Vanessa Carlton! She was singing about walking a thousand miles and pelting me with sleigh bells.

Jason: And lookee here, Jeff! Another nightmare come true!


Vanessa Carlton, "Hear the Bells"

Jason: Hear the Bells, an all-new release for 2011!


Jason: Featuring two Christmas covers, a Christmas original, and guess what the fourth track is? I’ll give you a hint: she had to put it on the album, or else nobody would buy it.

Jeff: “A Thousand Miles (Sleigh Bells Mix)”?

Jason: Close! “A Thousand Miles (Acoustic Version).” Which is good. Because the original version was pretty electric. I mean, who could forget that gritty guitar?

Jeff: Vanessa Carlton has pulled a Mardones at the ripe young age of…what is she, 15?

Jason: That’s ripe Mardones age!

Jeff: She has the singing voice of a precocious fetus.

Jason: Leave her alone, they say!

Jeff: Huh. Turns out she’s 31!

Jason: Is she the one who latched on to Stevie Nicks or is that Michelle Branch?

Jeff: Vanessa Carlton latched onto Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind. Who would you rather latch onto — Stephan Jenkins or Stevie Nicks?

Jason: Oh god, Sophie’s choice right here. Okay, okay, hang on, let me think…okay, I think I’d say Stevie Nicks, because if I latched onto her, I’d stand a chance of meeting Lindsey Buckingham.

Jeff: Or Don Henley. NOT AS MUCH FUN.

Jason: Dammit. You’re right.

Jeff: If you latched onto Stephan Jenkins, you’d stand a chance of getting a behind-the-scenes look at the operations of many of our nation’s finer casinos, rib fests, and minor league ballparks.

Jason: Maybe I’d run into Jack Wagner. Okay, Jenkins it is. I can’t believe you convinced me to choose him over Nicks. You have masterful powers of persuasion.

Jeff: I just wish we were about to listen to a Jack Wagner Christmas song. Why did it have to be Vanessa Carlton?

Jason: Because Jack Wagner doesn’t need the money?

Jeff: Oooooh! Burrrrn. Jack Wagner is too busy touring with Rick Springfield on what I believe is being called the Yellow Rick Road Tour.

And just in case you think I’m making a really horrible joke, I’m not.


Jeff: Good. Now YOU can have nightmares. Now I’m ready to listen to whatever the hell Vanessa Carlton has been up to.

Jason: Well, I say we go for the original track. Too many people cover “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” and I pretty much hate every single one.

Jeff: Good call. I don’t want to hear anyone cover that song. I mean, I don’t want to hear THIS, either, but…

Jason: FINALLY you understand how I feel about “Last Christmas.”

Well, who knows? Maybe Vanessa has given us a soon-to-be holiday classic. Maybe it’ll join the ranks of “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

Jeff: covers mouth Bill Hader style

Vanessa Carlton, “Hear the Bells” (download)
Vanessa Carlton, "Hear the Bells"
From Hear the Bells

Jeff: Ominous!

Jason: What instrument is that? Never mind, I don’t care.

Jeff: It’s kind of like a more festive version of the theme from Jaws.

Jason: Oh, I can already tell this is going to be anything but joyous.

Jeff: Bleeaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh. It’s “My First Tori Amos Song”! From Mattel.

Jason: Is she recording from inside a toilet bowl?

Jeff: Where are the bells, Vanessa? I only hear a guitar.

Jason: You know what this song could use? Some reverb.

“December, crossing arms in Chinatown as the wind starts to cut through”? What the shit?

Jeff: Something about poison and a stomachache?

Jason: “The poison’s running through you”?

Jeff: Witch doctor?

Jason: It’s Judy Collins for 2011!

Jeff: Yeah, really. What’s going on here? I feel like I missed something.

And still, no bells.

Jason: Right! And she keeps telling us to hear them.

Jeff: Maybe this MEANS something, MAN. Maybe it’s like a STATEMENT or something.

Or maybe I just hate it.

Jason: I know what it means! It means it’s going straight into my trash can!

Vanessa Carlton must be having a really bad life right now.

Jeff: Vanessa Carlton is having a fine life. I’m the one who’s in pain right now. More of this “hear the bells” shit. Now she’s just taunting us.



Jeff: Well. THAT was certainly the opposite of joyous.

Jason: Congratulations, Vanessa. You join the ranks of people who feel like they have to share their pissy Christmas mood with the world. You join Judy and Regina.

Jeff: Except Judy was really telling a story, and I think Regina is legitimately crazy.

Jason: I have taken to YouTube to see what the public thinks of this song: “This is her best album so far. AMAZING. 10/10 material”

Jeff: Oh dear.

Jason: “She was trying to re-create the echo effect that bells have in church towers in a city like London. I find it beautiful it’s pure music artistry! I think you need to listen to more music if you don’t like the audio effects, OBVIOUSLY SHE KNOWS WHAT AUDIO EFFECTS ARE SHE IS A MUSICIAN!”

“Vanessa herself has said this song is about a time when she was sick, both physically and not physically.”

Jeff: “It was today.”

How long before you think we see an “acoustic version” of “Hear the Bells”?

Jason: Y’know, I was just thinking, “I hope someone does this without all the crash cymbals.”

Jeff: Let us make a pact to not listen to any more Vanessa Carlton songs until she releases an acoustic “Hear the Bells.”

Or a duet with Benny Mardones.

Jason: Now THAT’S a deal!

  • http://www.wingsforwheels.net dslifton

    “She was trying to re-create the echo effect that bells have in church towers in a city like London.”
    Or she could have just set the keyboard to “Bells.”

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com Anonymous

    There’s a joke involving this song and the suicide rate at Christmas, but I’ll leave it to someone else. Nice “Wicker Man” reference, Jefito.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    I’m a little sad to hear that Jeff has broken up with Vanessa Carlton. 

  • http://sportsmyriad.com Beau

    I didn’t mind Vanessa Carlton, and I was always impressed with her educational background and her charity work. Yet when she said she was bisexual, I couldn’t help thinking, “Yeah, that’s a good career move.”

  • http://digitaldreamdoor.com/pages/best_songs-Power-Pop.html Brett Alan

    Wow, guys, I hate to say this, but…you have to listen to Vanessa Carlton again. Your pact says you’ll listen to her again when she does an acoustic version of “Hear The Bells”. Well, guess what…this IS the acoustic version of “Hear The Bells”! The original version was on her last album. Yes, really; I looked it up.

    LOL at “My First Tori Amos Song” from Mattel.

    Also at the commenter arguing that if you don’t like the audio effects on a recording by a musician, then you aren’t qualified to judge music. Since, you know, musicians know what audio effects ARE, so clearly they must be using them right. Yow.

    Listening to “Happy Xmas”, which I didn’t really need to do…just a pretty generic by-the-numbers version of the song with her voice on it. There’s a little hint of the angst of this track, but only a little.

    I was going to give her credit for releasing an original song that has absolutely no chance of getting played on Christmas radio, but if it’s just a recycled version of something she already did, I really can’t.

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    Brett Alan: Mellowmas Detective! It’s the YouTube sensation of winter 2013!

  • Anonymous

    I could truly appreciate this if not for:

    1. Her voice (too pinched).
    2. The “stomachache” reference (too precious).

    Here’s what the intro reminds me of (Medsker take note): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwcmVjg_ZEA (Instrumental is the name of the ensemble, to avoid/compound confusion.)

  • Old_Davy

    I think Vanessa is the only one hearing bells because she forgot to take her happy pills this morning.

  • http://www.theseconddisc.com Mike Duquette

    I am a bit disappointed that the mention of Jenkins didn’t preclude the tag “doot doot douchebag,” arguably my favorite Popdose tag in history.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    I like the cover art. The squiggles look like the curse words I was saying while listening to this. Vanessa Carlton – she is to Michelle Branch what Egg Beaters is to some other egg substitute product.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    The major failure of Christmas music is the inability to walk that middle line between Serious Statement And Dead Kids In Wartorn Nations and silly trifles that scream I Hope You’re Not Kosher ‘Cause I’d Like A Pork For Christmas. It’s either one extreme or the other and no moderation. How about, serious injurys for the kids instead of genocide and a little mercy sex under the bombed-out archway?

    Is that too much to ask, Vanessa?

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    “The stomachache” was a diagnosis, not a lyrical contrivance.

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    Dunphy, are you propositioning Vanessa Carlton?

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    I’d still take her over Michelle Branch, if that cheers you up any.

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    Truly a grievous oversight on our part. I apologize.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    Oh I figured you would…

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    Heck no. When you’ve been with Vanessa, you’ve been with Third Eye Blind.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    Heck no. When you’ve been with Vanessa, you’ve been with Third Eye Blind.

  • Michael Burke

    I think the instrument in the background is a mandolin, but don’t quote me on it.

    Her voice is…distractingly reverbed and processed. It sounds like someone threw her down a well.  Considering there’s nowhere near as much processing on the piano/mandolin, it’s really jarring and strange.

    Also, what on earth does this have to do with the holidays? Anything?

  • Andrew

    The reason why were voice sounds like it’s a reverb is because she recorded it live, in one take. It has not been processed or auto-tuned. And if you weren’t such douche bags and opened up your ears instead of trying (and failing) to make lame jokes about someone…you’d probably realize, her original song, is good music.

  • http://www.wingsforwheels.net dslifton

    A). No, there’s considerable processing to her voice. The lead is double-tracked and there’s plenty of reverb. If it was only the natural reverb of the room, the instruments, as Michael points out, would have the same amount. 

    B). While her vocals might not be auto-tuned, maybe it should have been. She misses a lot of notes, and not even the double-tracking can hide it.

  • Nessa

    Wow you guys are idiots.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ericabreig Erica Breig

    Wow you guys are idiots.  You *WERE* listening to an acoustic version of “Hear the Bells.”

    So I guess you outta listen to more of her music!
    If you take the time to listen to the CORRECT lyrics, you will get a better understanding of her songs.
    But I can’t blame you – Vanessa’s music isn’t for the shallow minded, which is probably you guys didn’t like it.