The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


DieHard TryHards Try Holiday Singing & Songwriting

By Staff Writers Tavish Mohanti, Naveed Shakoor, Tanisha Srivatsa & Brooke Zheng

Although we’re still quarantining at home, the holiday spirit lives on through movies, food, and nostalgic yuletide carols. Inspired by dozens of Christmas song remixes, the Smoke Signal’s DieHard TryHards set out in a composition contest to find out whose original holiday song jingles the most bells. 



When I was a little kid, they used to call me the Christmas Killa’. Why? Because I drop some sick beats. With my smooth talking, sweet singing, and crazy Christmas attitude, I’m going to rock this competition. Next thing you know, I’ll have sold out three stadium tours, four platinum albums, and won a couple of Grammys along the way. Pssh—how hard can it be? With some and a healthy serving of holiday spirit, I’ll carol my way to the top of Santa’s list. 


In all honesty, I’m not too sure how I’m going to do in this challenge. I love listening to music and have tried many times to write songs of my own, but I’m awful at creating thought-provoking and innovative lyrics. However, what I lack in songwriting, I make up for with my melodies. My Voice Memos app is filled to the brim with melodies that I’ve come up with in the shower, during Zoom calls (while I’m on mute), and even in the car. I just hope Ian doesn’t hate my song; he seems to be quite the music connoisseur. 


When it comes to music, I might be the most experienced Smokie there is. Not only have I been listening to music for 16 years out of my 16-years-long existence, but I composed my first piece at the tender age of four: a R&B-inspired ballad aptly titled “If You Wanna.” Unfortunately, I seemed to be more of a one-hit-wonder, since I haven’t actually composed anything since 2008. On the bright side, this competition is a great opportunity for me to bust out my old songwriting chops, and I’m excited to give it all I’ve got. I’m pretty confident in my ability to rhyme words and mumble, so I think I’ve got this one in the bag. 


Oh no, what have I gotten myself into? My singing sounds like a dying goose and I have ZERO experience with singing — Hello? I’m a pianist (not that I’m very good at piano either), not a singer. I hate singing in front of people, especially if it’s alone, so this is completely out of my comfort zone. There’s also Naveed who’s already part of MSJ Syncopasians, MSJ’s acapella group; Tanisha, who has experience composing music; and Tavish, who just goes above and beyond with absolutely everything he does. I, being the inexperienced and talentless person I am, am in so much trouble. Everyone who’s listening better prepare some gauze pads and bandages because your ears will be bleeding and my song is going to be so incredibly cringe-worthy.



Wait, sorry, what? First place? The Grinch definitely has nothing on me. I’m glad I spent the weekend writing this song instead of studying for my calculus test. Taylor Swift makes it look so easy; I completely underestimated how hard it would be to write lyrics and figure out a melody. It took me a whole hour just to figure out a word that rhymes with “bells.” But, it paid off in the end. Look out for me on your Spotify Wrapped next year because the Christmas Killa’ is back baby.


I’m really proud of myself for coming in second place! Honestly, I underestimated the amount of time and effort it would take to write an original song. Despite having a premade beat, I found myself struggling to come up with a decent melody and well written lyrics (as I’d expected). However, the best part  of this entire DieHard TryHards experience was getting into the holiday spirit – writing festive lyrics inspired me to enact my winter fantasies in my own time! Hopefully I’ll come in first next time, but for now, I’ll let Tavish bask in his glory.


The moment Tavish announced that he was pre-recording background vocals for his song, I knew I was done for. In all honesty, though, I’m not too disappointed with my 4th place finish. Yeah, it’s pretty embarrassing, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to live this down, but I have to give myself props for being able to come up with a whole song with just one day to prepare. While “It’s Christmas” might not be featured on Billboard’s Top 40 anytime soon, with a few revisions (and some vocal coaching on my end), I think it could top the holiday-pop charts someday in the next 10 to 80 years. And Tavish — don’t get too comfortable with your victory. Next Christmas, I’m coming for you. 


I’m honestly happy enough with third place. I tried to take advantage of Ian’s obsession with Kid Cudi and Kanye West by making a rap song, but unfortunately that didn’t really work as well as I hoped it would … or maybe it’s just the fact that I sounded more like I was reading a poem rather than rapping. I’m also extremely happy I chose to rap after listening to how incredible all the other Smokies’ singing voices were. Performing in front of people was such a traumatic and embarrassing experience but the song-writing process was pretty fun, even though I spent 90% of the previous day trying to find the perfect topic and creating my rhymes. (Homework who?) All in all, I personally think that my lyrics were the most creative and I won first place in my heart. 

Who do you think won this DHTH Holiday Singing and Songwriting challenge?

Cover Graphic by Staff Writer Nishi Bhagat

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