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Darren Criss on his hippo holiday hit: “I’ve always been really obsessed with it”

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Scott Schaefer

One of 2021’s more unusual Christmas songs is Darren Criss‘ rendition of “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” originally recorded by 10-year-old Gayla Peevey in 1953. Darren says it’s definitely not one of those songs that everyone knows — and that’s one reason why he likes it.

“It seems to be very divisive: Either you know it and you love it, or you’ve never heard it, ever,” Darren tells ABC Audio. “I’ll talk to some people from certain parts of the country or the world [and] they’re like, ‘I’ve never heard this song!’ Somebody heard my version of it, and was like, ‘Did you write this one?’ And I would say, “I wish I wrote that song!”

Darren says he’s been “really obsessed” with “Hippopotamus” since he was a kid, because he couldn’t get over how great Peevey’s voice was. 

“I remember being 10, being like, ‘Wait, she’s 10 as well?’ like, ‘Wow…She sounds like an adult,'” he recalls.

“It has a lot of meaning to me…just ’cause it’s a very silly, fun song, that my mom loves to lip-sync to around the house,” he laughs.  And while he was determined to put the tune on his holiday album A Very Darren Crissmas, he knew that he needed to change it up.

“With this song, it’s usually covered by…female artists, and it’s usually a straight cover,” he notes. “I knew if I was gonna do it. I’d have to justify it by [doing] something completely different, which is this sort of half-time, electronic, very contemporary, IDGAF-kind of feeling.”

“That’s kind of what I do with everything,” Darren says. “I like taking things that you think you know and trying to make you reevaluate what you thought you knew to be true.”

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