Guests at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom–as well as those viewing from home–were confused (and some even troubled) by Disney’s choice of musical guest to celebrate the kickoff of the Christmas season.
Nineties music fans, hold on to your seats because you might not believe who Disney tapped to sing a rendition of a Bing Crosby Christmas classic during Sunday’s The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration on ABC, and you’re not alone, as many who watched the event in person at Magic Kingdom and on television were just as shocked.
A Disney Holiday Tradition
The show, which aired on Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern–and is now available to stream on Hulu and Disney+–featured a long list of musical talents sharing their takes on several classic Christmas songs from various decades. The show was hosted by Derek Hough and Julianne Hough and featured Michael Bolton and Mickey Guyton, Andra Day and Adam Blackstone, Ariana DeBose from Disney’s newest animated feature film, Wish, Tori Kelly, Robin Thicke, and others.
But the performance that immediately set the internet ablaze was one of Bing Crosby’s holiday favorites, “Silver Bells,” sung by the 90s alternative rock band, The Smashing Pumpkins, with Billy Corgan on lead vocals.
A Performance By a Band No One Expected
The performance, which was filmed at Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort, shocked some viewers and completely confounded others. And it’s not because anything shocking or inappropriate took place as part of the performance. Rather, it has to do with the nature of the band’s members and the subjects about which the band usually sings and writes music.
The Smashing Pumpkins is usually characterized as a 90s alternative rock band, but the band’s music strays away from the boundaries of alternative rock from the 1990s and incorporates a variety of elements, including gothic rock, heavy metal, grunge, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, and shoegaze. Later recordings also include elements of electronica.
Usually Somber, Depressed–and “Infinitely” Sad
One of the band’s most popular songs, “1979,” is a heart-wrenching ballad (of sorts) about lead singer Billy Corgan’s transition from childhood to adulthood–and one that dives into “loss of hope, desolation, and finally resigned acceptance.” The song concludes as the singer “accepts the disquieting conclusion of mortality” as he sings, “Can’t you see, there’s no one around?”
The Pumpkins have been described as a band of “harbingers of doom and gloom,” and Spotify features a musical playlist titled “Smashing Pumpkins But Only the Sad Songs,” and the list is 29 depressing songs long. With album and song titles like “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” it’s no wonder that more than a few eyebrows were raised when viewers learned that the band would be performing during a magical Disney holiday show, let alone that they’d reboot a Bing Crosby Christmas favorite.
The primetime special was filmed at the Walt Disney World Resort and featured The Smashing Pumpkins’ unreleased Christmas song, titled “Evergreen,” as well as the Bing Crosby classic, “Silver Bells.”
Anti-Depressants and Advent?
Michael Broerman, a journalist at Live for Live Music, might have described the confusing scenario best when he wrote, “It was a bit odd to see the group responsible for a sizable amount of Prozac prescriptions at the turn of the century perform at [Disney World.] In front of Cinderella Castle, frontman Billy Corgan led the partially reunited lineup of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and guitarist James Iha alongside temporary bassist Sierra Swan.
Broerman continued, saying that fans who watched the performance took to social media and “expressed their disbelief” at The Smashing Pumpkins’ appearance at Disney World for a performance as part of a Christmas special.
I still can’t believe I am seeing The Smashing Pumpkins on a Disney Holiday special. Just wild pic.twitter.com/nok4P9YHiU
— Have Yourself a Barry Christmas (@culturenthrills) November 27, 2023
Lead singer Billy Corgan, who first created the group in the late 1980s, said in an interview with Derek Hough that he’s a Disney fan.
“I work in the world of professional wrestling, and when you’re a big fan of professional wrestling, they call you a mark. So I’m a Disney mark,” Corgan said. “I collect old Disneyland items. I have stuff from back on the opening day in 1955. So when they called me to come play Disney, I’m like, whatever you need.”
Fans can stream The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration on Disney+ and Hulu now.