TAKE COVER: Remembering Ashley Tisdale's "Last Christmas"

I don’t know much about Ashley Tisdale, but, so? I think she was in an unfortunately popular Disney Channel musical/teen rom-com crossover aptly titled High School Musical, but I can neither confirm nor deny, and my lax journalistic efforts lend this essay a certain spice, I think. I imagine, in 2016, she’s getting a lot of this

Unlike her HSM cohorts Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, et. al, Ashely Tisdale failed to receive similar notoriety, instead going the way of Corbin Bleu, or the kid who plays Miley Cyrus’ older brother on Hannah Montana, or other child actors I remember even less.

Perhaps the release of a “Last Christmas” cover in 2006 was an ill-fated yet predictable attempt by (D-list exclusive) managers to rocket Ashley Tisdale to fame. I can’t explain why they chose this jingle in particular, other than the fact that it’s as vanilla as Tisdale herself. As formulaic and saccharine as the rest of them, but special, somehow, or at least special enough to have been covered at least 12 times by other desperate artists.

The cover itself is… fine. Ashley’s voice tinny and thin but technically on key, and I appreciate her homage to the original. She seems to be channeling Wham! In the way she pronounces “tears” with a painfully hard “R,” a voice defect akin to the way George Michael mispronounces “gave” as “gav.” There is but one video for the song, a recording of a live performance, inexplicably posted to YouTube three years after the song was released (2006). It is truly incredible to watch, a Christmas miracle. Luckily for you, it’s linked below. It is not unjust to say that Ashley Tisdale never got the hang of performing—a cloud of awkwardness hangs heavy over the stage at Rockefeller Center; I feel a distinct pang of chagrin—but she’s saved from the embarrassment due to her soft fade into obscurity.

The video starts with a heavy-lidded Ashley titillating the camera. It’s clearly a lip synch, a bad one, I’m not sure she can she actually sing? Just now I watched a couple clips from High School Musical to help me come up with an answer. It was then I realized she can’t dance. She does quite a bit of smirking in that unpleasant way that sends chills down my spine, then she stomps around the stage, spends some time setting up then executing an awkward shoulder twist/hair flip as if to punctuate the most important message of the song (proprietor of her heart): “I’ll give it to someone… someone… special.”

More stomping, some hip swiveling, and then… the camera pans out… to reveal… a completely empty stadium??? “Live.At.Rockefeller” is in the title of the video, but I guess that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s performing In.Front.Of.People. It makes an already uncomfortable video even more AWKWARD AS HELL. I’m giddy with glee. Especially when she forgets to not sing along to the backing vocals and waves at “someone in the audience” to cover the flub. The song fades out, and as Ashley Tisdale beams at the audience, bursts of light dot the screen to imitate camera flashes, and the “audience” cheers.  

My roommate shuffles to the doorway, peering into the living room, eyes bleary with sleep, and I jump. “I’m writing an essay about the song that’s playing right now,” I offer, somewhat weakly. A pregnant pause. “It’s not like I’m actually enjoying listening to this song.” (This is a lie.) She shuffles out. Now I know what a fool I’ve been, indeed.

Catherine EvesComment