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Kiss-kiss! Mistletoe songs of the season

You know it’s a big year for the traditional holiday plant when overexposed teen sensation Justin Bieber shows up all over the place promoting his No. 1 Christmas album “Under the Mistletoe” and its hit single, “Mistletoe.”

The Bieb, 17, has performed it at Disney World for the theme parks’ pre-taped Christmas Parade show and on the British version of “The X Factor,” not to mention publicity stops for the album at “Dancing With the Stars” and the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center.

And the media blitz has worked, boosting up the charts the song and the album laden with celebrity guest singers. Even so, the album was just knocked out of the top spot on the Billboard 200 by another holiday album, “Christmas” (which has several mistletoe mentions itself) by Michael Bublé.

One sign of the upbeat Bieber song’s popularity is the speed with which a parody version — tacky but fun — has appeared. (The last time I looked it had about 1.4 million hits.)

And even his video “co-star” — 18-year-old college freshman Ali Williams, who ends up kissed, of course, under the mistletoe — has found her 15 minutes of instant fame.

There’s even a new Hallmark Channel Christmas movie that premiered this season: “Mistletoe Over Manhattan.”

That’s a lot of publicity for one of the season’s favorite foliage, which is actually a parasitic plant with a long, long history of offbeat lore and legend.

A couple of years ago, another relative newcomer, Colbie Caillat, offered another song called “Mistletoe,” but hers has  much more of a downer message.

But actually, mistletoe songs get a lot of attention every Christmas. Check out a small sampling of the many, many seasonal songs that can’t help but mention mistletoe. A couple of them even take a few liberties by inventing new forms of the word.

We’ll start with the Christmas song that’s No. 1 in the latest holiday radio airplay chart:

Burl Ives’ “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” which got its start in 1964 in the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” TV special and has remained a seasonal staple:

Ho, ho, the mistletoe hung where you can see
Somebody waits for you, kiss her once for me.
 

As a matter of fact, four of the top five radio-play songs this week mention mistletoe, including:

• No. 2: Brenda Lee’s 1960 classic, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”

• No. 4: Even earlier (dating to 1946), Nat King Cole’s version of the Mel Torme standard, “The Christmas Song.”

• No. 5: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” performed here, too, at Disney World.

Then there’s another song with the same name: Vince Vance and the Valiants’ All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

And a couple of standards:

• Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

• Frank Sinatra’s “Mistletoe and Holly.”

And a forgotten favorite: the charming “Christmas Bride,” by the Ray Conniff Singers.

And how about one mistletoe mention from a non-seasonal song: Ella Fitzgerald’s version of the standard “I’m Beginning to See the Light”?

Now, we’re into the wilder stuff — with invented words:

• The office party song from the Burt Bacharach-Hal David Broadway musical “Promises Promises,” based on Billy Wilder’s Oscar-winning film “The Apartment.” The song “Turkey Lurkey Time” introduces us to the image of a “snowy, blowy Christmas, a mistletoe-y Christmas.” And here’s a 1969 version from the original production.

Those insurance company office parties are sure wilder than any journalism ones I’ve been invited to! We’ll see how MinnPost’s office party goes next week.

• And the perennial Andy Williams holiday favorite, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” which invents another mistletoe word:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
There’ll be much mistletoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When love ones are near.
 

I’ll end with my favorite mistletoe song, “It Must Have Been the Mistletoe” —two versions, one sung by Barbra (Streisand) and one sung by Barbara (Mandrell).

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