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Is Christmas music wonderful or annoying: you decide

Bobby Musker

The   Christmas   album   is,   with   a   few   notable   exceptions,   is   one   of   the   laziest   types   of   albums   an   artist   can   record.   Hit   the   studio   with   some   session   guys   on   autopilot,   record   a   few   holiday   classics,   and   throw   some   “Christmas-­y”   elements   in   the   mix,   like   jingle   bells,   or   the   sound   of   snow   and   ice   whipping   around.

If   you’re   feeling   ambitious,   you   might   do   some   half-­assed   skits   about   Santa,   or   read   a   poem   in   between   songs.   The   worst   of   these   albums   become   so-­ bad-­   it’s-­hilarious   holiday   kitsch,   like   Bob   Dylan’s   baffling   Christmas   in   the   Heart    from  2009,  and  Olivia   Newton-­John   and   John   Travolta’s   cringeworthy   This  Christmas  from  2012.

Worse,   in   my   opinion,     are  the  middlebrow  holiday   albums   that   aren’t   terrible,   just  boring.  They  clutter  up   Yuletide   store   shelves   and   foist  thousands  of  unwanted   covers   of   “The   Christmas   Song”   onto   defenseless   listeners.   If   you   take   just   one   quick   stop   by   Sirius   XM’s   “Holly”   channel,   which   plays   Christmas   music   recorded   in   the   last   25   years,   I   guarantee   you’ll   be   driven   away   by   the   endless   procession   of   faceless   crooners,   and   pop   and   country   superstars   on   autopilot   that   make   up  most  of  its  playlists.   If   you   flee   to   a   classic  seasonal   radio   station   like   Chicago’s   93.9   FM,   you’re   met  instead  with  all  the  old   standards,   but   they   will   be   repeated  so  often  that  by  the   second   hour   of   listening,   you’ll   want   to   drive   your   car  into  the  lake  if  you  have   to   hear   “Rudolph   the   Red-­   Nosed  Reindeer”  one  more   time.

The   holiday   music   listener   is   stuck   between   two   unappealing   options:   being   smothered   to   death   by  boring  new  recordings  of   overplayed   songs,   or   being   pummeled  into  the  ground   by   the   same   10   classics   on   endless   repeat.   What’s   the   solution?

I   believe   that   the   best   remedy   is   for   artists   and   professional   songwriters   to   start   composing   new,   interesting  Christmas  music   again.   When   I   think   about   my   favorite   Christmas   songs,   the   ones   that   I   can   return   to   season   after   season   without   getting   fed   up,  most  of  them  are  either   the   original   recordings   of   standards   from   the   40s   and   50s,   like   Bing   Crosby’s   version   of   “White   Christmas,”   or   Nat   King   Cole’s   “Christmas   Song,”   or   songs   composed   in   the   last  50  years  or  so,  since  the   invention   of   rock   and   roll,   like  Run-­DMC’s  “Christmas   in  Hollis”  or  Darlene  Love’s   “Christmas   (Baby   Please   Come  Home).”

When   artists   do   new  versions   of   old   songs,   they’re   best   when   they   completely   reinvent   them,   like   the   Cocteau   Twins’   version   of   “Frosty   the   Snowman,”   or   Elvis   Presley’s   “Blue   Christmas.”   I   even   have   a   soft   spot   for   that   quintessential   example   of   80s   hubris,   Band-­ Aid’s   “Do   They   Know   It’s   Christmas,”   because   it’s   slick   synth-­pop   sounds   are   a   refreshing   contrast   to   the   old   strings-­band-­   jingle   bells   recipe   that   the   tracks   surrounding  it  usually  have.

These   songs   are   classics   for  a  reason:  the  songwriting   and   instrumentation   are   very   high   quality,   and   are   unique   in   their   own   ways.   The   holiday   music   racket   needs   more   songs   like   them:  original  compositions   that   do   new   interesting   things   while   still   keeping   the   atmosphere   and   spirit   that   people   associate   with   the   holidays.   Instead   of   doing   yet   another   cover   of   “Sleigh   Ride,”   or   “Winter   Wonderland,”   or   (god   help   us)  “Jingle  Bells,”  make  new   standards   to   break   up   the   holiday  monotony.

Julia Dirkes-Jacks

While   I   agree   that   it’s   easy   to   get   sick   of   the   same   old   holiday   music   we  always  listen  to,  I  think   the   solution   isn’t   to   create   a   new   wave   of   holiday   music.   The   solution   is   to   stop  playing  holiday  music   so  damn  much.

First  of  all,  holiday  music   is   inherently   not   inclusive.   Even  though  radio  stations   and   that   one   guy   from   accounting   that   DJs   your   office   holiday   party   always   take   care   to   play   “Celebrate   it’s   Kwanzaa”   or   “Oh   Hanukkah”   at   least   once,   the   fact   of   the   matter   is   holiday   music   is   primarily   Christian.   We   don’t   need   radio   stations   that   play   holiday   music   all   of   December,   or   holiday   music   being   played   in   stores,   restaurants,   and   coffee   shops   all   the   time.   Those   places   should   continue   to   play   the   secular   music   they   play   during  the  rest  of  the  year.

The   place   for   holiday   music,  because  let’s  face  it,  holiday  music  means Christmas   music   most   of   the   time,   is   in   religious   services.   I   get   plenty   of   Christmas   music   in   mass,   it   doesn’t   need   to   be   everywhere   else   between   Thanksgiving   and   New   Years.

Lots   of   people   make   the   argument   that   as   long   as   you   take   care   to   also   play   songs   written   for   holidays   of   other   faiths   around   the   same   time,   it   is   inclusive.   However,   not   every   religion   has   a   holiday   in   December,   and   not   every   person  has  a  religion.

Our   country   has   commercialized   many   aspects   of   Christmas   over   the   years,   and   in   doing   so   has   forced   it   upon   people   who   don’t   practice   Christianity   or   celebrate   Christmas.   We   need   to   start   recognizing   this   and   fighting   back   against   it   in   order   to   create   a   more   inclusive  space.

I’m  Catholic  and  I   love   the   traditional   hymns   sung   during   the   Christmas   season.   I’m   going   to   continue   to   enjoy   them   during   mass   and   by   myself,   or   when   celebrating  Christmas  with   friends   and   family   I   know   also   celebrate   Christmas.   I   am   not,   however,   going   to   play   Christmas   music   at   my   workplace,   in   class,   or   when   spending   time   with   friends   who   do   not   celebrate  Christmas.

I   urge   everyone   to   continue   to   enjoy   all   the   traditions   that   are   a   part   of   the   holidays   they   celebrate   and   to   share   them   with   friends   who   are   interested   and   want   to   experience   them,   but   also   to  stop  assuming  everyone   celebrates  a  holiday  during   what   we   refer   to   as   the   “holiday   season”   and   not   to  make  other  people  listen   to   music   that   is   centric   to   your  belief  system.

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