Cards offer bells and whistles

May 07, 2008|By KEVIN COWHERD

There's always something new from Hallmark, the sappy, greeting-card people, and this year is no exception.

This year's ground-breaking innovation is: Mother's Day cards that let you record a 10-second message to Mom and play a clip of the song that's apparently become synonymous with motherhood, Tag Team's "Whoomp! There It Is."

OK, maybe you're thinking: Gee, I didn't know that song was big with mothers.

Well, neither did I.

In fact, I seem to recall lyrics about shaking derrieres and swilling gin and juice and puff- ing something stronger than a Marlboro Light.

But strangely enough, it's one of the songs offered on these new cards, along with other more sedate tunes, including Phil Collins' "You'll Be in My Heart" and Tanya Tucker's "Here's Some Love."

I myself picked up a recordable Mother's Day card that plays Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line," which I think my 88-year-old mother will enjoy receiving.

Well, maybe. She's probably never heard a Johnny Cash song in her whole life.

Anyway, the outside of the colorful card has a picture of two birds sitting on telephone wires and says: "Mom, sometimes I was a handful, but you raised me right."

On the inside it says: "Thanks for keeping me in line."

So after she opens it and reads that, the first thing she'll hear is my recorded message. ("Mom, wishing you a happy Mother's Day from the Free State! Now sit back and listen to the dulcet tones of ... Mr. Johnny Cash!")

Then when Johnny starts warbling in that whiskey voice ("I keep a close watch on this heart of mine/I keep my eyes wide open all the time") I'm sure mom's reaction will be: What the hell is this?

She'll be on the phone to me 10 seconds later.

So maybe it'll all be a little too much for her.

But the "Whoomp! There It Is" card - that would've been way too much.

Anyway, Hallmark's new cards really are a technological marvel, seeing as how the sender's message is recorded on a computer chip that's embedded in the card.

And that, apparently, is why the price of each card is $74.95.

OK, I'm kidding.

They're really $5.99 each, which still seems pricey to me.

You could buy probably a gallon of gas for that kind of money. On the other hand, the fact that the card contains a computer chip and costs only $5.99 probably explains the poor quality of the voice that's being recorded.

Sure, no one ever likes to hear the sound of his or her own voice on a recording.

But my voice sounded particularly scratchy and far away, like one of those old recordings of Al Jolson from the 1920s.

There's also an oily quality to it, as if I'm emceeing a Jell-O-wrestling contest at a strip club.

On the other hand, Johnny Cash sounds terrific singing "I Walk the Line." So Hallmark didn't skimp on the recordings of music big-shots.

According to industry insiders, Hallmark came up with these recordable greeting cards to stave off the threat posed by e-cards and e-mails, which were cutting into profits.

And you can see how these cards would appeal to young people and young moms on Mother's Day.

The new Hallmark TV commercial pretty much nails its appeal for a hip, computer-savvy family.

It opens with a teenage girl recording a message on a card for her mom. It's a message that starts with a wistful "I remember ..." and is promptly declared lame by her two friends.

In the next scene, the girl hands her now-finished card to her mom, who is sitting with the girl's grandmother at the dining room table.

The mom opens the card. And the first thing she hears is her daughter's voice say: "Mom, you totally rock."

The next thing she hears is the pulsating '90s anthem "Unbelievable," sung by the British dance band EMF.

At this, the mom gets all teary-eyed.

"Isn't that sweet?" the grandmother says, or something like that.

And yes, the mom sure thinks it is.

Sure, it's sweet for her. And why wouldn't it be?

She gets a Mother's Day card featuring EMF and the upbeat "Unbelievable."

My mom's getting a card with a song sung in a monosyllabic voice by a dead country artist she knows nothing about.

She might not find it quite as sweet.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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