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Review: Examining the absurd beauty of ‘Shatner Claus’

Photo designed by Kyle St. John

Hearing William Shatner sing is like witnessing a car crash you just can’t look away from.

His renditions of classic songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Space Oddity” and “Rocket Man” are laughable. The Captain Kirk actor essentially just talks over the backing instrumentals in his infamous and oft-parodied speaking style of pausing and emphasizing words without rhyme or reason.

Despite all that, his Christmas album “Shatner Claus” has become a mainstay in my holiday music rotation since its release in 2018. What started out as a way to torture those nearest and dearest to me — and got me banned from playing music during my family’s annual tree decoration — has since transformed into a yearly tradition and remained in my Christmas playlist.

There’s just something special about how bizarre it all is that keeps drawing me back in year after year.

Don’t get me wrong; I will be the first to admit that these songs are terrible. Yet for what it’s worth, Shatner gives us his all. The album, especially his spirited reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” captures an infectious sense of wonderment that causes you to laugh, whether it’s with or at Shatner.

What makes “Shatner Claus” so memorable is how the actor leans into the ridiculousness of it all. Where else could you hear the lead of a classic television series yell “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer! Hey, man! Dude, you’re gonna go down in history!” or a punk rock version of “Jingle Bells”?

The aforementioned “Jingle Bells – Punk Rock Version” features a seemingly drunk Shatner slurring his way through an electric guitar-laden cover of the carol before passing out and murmuring something about eggnog, which is referenced in a surprising number of songs, adding to the jokey nature of the whole affair.

Part of me thinks that this whole album was an excuse for Shatner to mess around with famous friends like Brad Paisley, Iggy Pop and Judy Collins while singing — if one can call it that — Christmas songs.

The message of “Shatner Claus,” then, is to relax and have fun with the people you love in the most wonderful time of the year. Just don’t drink too much eggnog …

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