A Holiday Song for the Ages

It’s probably a lot of fun to ride in a one-horse open sleigh, but for most people, the lyrics to “Jingle Bells” aren’t exactly relatable. (Unless, of course, you’re Aleksandr Petrovsky — a.k.a. Mikhail Baryshnikov — in Sex and the City and can make a sleigh magically appear in a snowy New York City.) Now, however, those of us who live in the 21st century have finally been given the first modern, truly catchy holiday ditty, about a dude distributing Coke at a party.

Really. Part of an unexpected co-branding effort for Wal-Mart and Coca-Cola, and created by The Martin Agency and Leo Burnett, the spot is now running in theaters, mostly before showings of Twilight. The Cokes, in long-neck bottles, are taken out of a dorky Wal-Mart cooler bag proudly carried by the party’s host (the actor John Magaro, who resembles a young Dustin Hoffman). But don’t hold that cheapie blue bag against him. It’s the song he sings, with his appealing but imperfect voice, that matters. Exactly right for the zeitgeist, it’s filled with clever shoutouts to stepfamilies, online dates, office mates and the latest technology. Here’s a sampling of the lyrics:

The holidays are here again

So I’m inviting all my friends

The people who are close to me

They’re my extended family

You’ve got my mom, my sis, my brother

My surprisingly cool stepmother

And the two kids that she had

Before she ever met my dad

They go on to mention brand names like MySpace and Twitter, but not Wal-Mart or Coke, which is key in taking all the fakeness out of the setup. And more importantly, non-evil stepmothers everywhere at last have reason to rejoice. (But the jury is still out on the stepbro, who’s wearing a truly unfortunate red reindeer sweater.)

The song was written by Dave Muhlenfeld, the Martin copywriter who also writes the songs for freecreditreport.com. While the freecredit ones tend toward the hyper-self-aware and snarky, this one is somehow full of earnest joy without being sappy or corny.

The visuals are as comfy and inviting as the lyrics. Altogether, the spot has the sort of delightful, upbeat vibe of a Dr Pepper commercial — without the singing of the sponsor’s brand name or the jumping up on tables and/or garbage cans.

Even with a large cast, the scene is choreographed in a natural, seamless way. It looks to be one long tracking shot that follows our host from his crowded loft party to the hallway and then the roof. There’s also a heightened intimacy to the way it’s filmed so that it almost looks like a home movie.

After we meet the surprisingly not-bad stepmom, our host, Mr. Zeitgeist, introduces us to his uncles, cousins and his best friend’s “online date.” My favorite part is when he gets to the real alterna-family members, including his judo coach, who’s also decked out in a majorly festive sweater. Magaro is a short, skinny guy and the judo coach is gigantic, making for a funny combo. (Plus, wasn’t judo popular, like, back in the ’80s?)

The singer’s “allergist” comes after the judo coach (ba bum!), followed by “my MySpace friends and Twitter list.” Twitter list rhymes with “and the first girl that I ever kissed.” It’s a bravura moment as his ex is standing with a conservative-looking boy-friend and she glowers as he passes.

There’s a lot to process in the spot, which goes by quickly and builds as our host heads to the roof. Once there he sings, “When you stock up on joy, there’s enough to go around,” at which point everyone joins in to sing, “Joy! Enough to go around, enough to go around and around and around and around …”