Wednesday, December 13, 2023

The Definitive Guide to Christmas Music

 Welcome to the Christmas season. Sorry about the soundtrack.

Can we be honest for a minute? 80% of Christmas music is garbage. I'd like to issue an open recommendation to all bands and solo artists. At some point, your record label is going to come to you and say, "We think you should do a Christmas album." Resist the urge to say yes. In fact, run, and don't stop until Valentine's. 

Christmas music is much like Dante's Inferno in that it  descends into several levels of hell, each with its own unique brand of torture. You may disagree with the order, but as a former mall employee at Christmas, I had enough years of "Santa Baby" on repeat to consider myself somewhat of an expert in this space.

Let's start with I would consider acceptable Christmas music. Most Bing Crosby or Andy Williams contemporary tunes, and  Michael Buble, Pavorotti, Sara Bareillis, Sarah Brightman or Harry Connick Jr. singing carols fall into this category. String orchestras, brass quartets, and instrumental music are wonderful additions the holiday season. For levity, add in Straight No Chaser and Barenaked Ladies Christmas albums. They are tongue-in-cheek takes on the season and tolerable. 

Introduction to the Underworld: Maybe this is purgatory? These are the mildly annoying Christmas songs that don't make you want to take a letter opener and jam it into your ears, but aren't what I would choose to listen to. Unfortunately, Bing makes an appearance here with "Hawaiian Christmas,"  Gene Autry contributes with "Here Comes Santa Claus," "All I Want for Christmas is Two Front Teeth," and pretty much any song from a Claymation or Alvin and the Chipmunks holiday special. 

Hell Level 2, the Mall-at-Christmas Mix: When I worked at Wilson's Leather, we had exactly one CD we played, all day, everyday at Christmas. By the end of the shift, I would have heard each time approximately 9 times, and I believe that was when I first learned to grind my teeth. These upbeat Christmas tunes include Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You," and Wham's "Last Christmas." These songs cause you to evaluate your life choices, especially those that landed you in a retail store for days at a time. 

Hell Level 3, You Just Had to Make a Record: No one needs more Christmas songs. See above. Sia made a Christmas album? Were you being held hostage until you donned tinsel?

Hell Level 4, Rich People Singing About "Important" Topics: You know where this is going. A well-known artist pens a tune that I swear just tries to make people feel guilt. Life brings us enough guilt without the pop-star add on, am I right?  See John Lennon's Happy Christmas/War is Over: "let's hope its a good one, without any fear." There's also several who just write really BAD songs and try to pass them off in the same guilt-ridden way - and I'm looking you, New Kids on the Block with your "This One's For the Children." In case you brain-bleached this gem, it includes the lyric "some people are happy, and some people are sad." There are not enough puke emojis for this. 

Hell Level 5, Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer: and everything else with a horrible banjo twangy, bad attempt at humor. I can't.

Hell Level 6, Questionable Judgement and Significant Creep-Factors Playlist: Who decided "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" was a good idea? Seriously, this song sings about either parents' roleplaying or the child's mother's infidelity.  "Baby Its Cold Outside" is the worst. At minimum, it sends unclear messages about consent. At worst, its about manipulation and victim-drugging ("say, what's in this drink?") This needs to be consigned to the dust-bin of Christmas-music past. Do better. 

Hell Level 7, Josh Groban on Repeat: The only thing potentially worse than a wink and a nod to sexual assault (see Level 6) is the spate of designed-to-make-you-cry, emotional manipulators putting out Christmas music. I will fight you in the Kmart parking lot if "The Christmas Shoes" is your favorite Christmas Anthem. These songs come straight from the deepest level of hell and should go right back there. I was up on the ladder, decorating our tree earlier this week and Amazon Music started playing something about "Daddy I miss you, its been so long since you went off to war" and the amount of filth that came out of my mouth before I could hop down and advance the playlist rivaled George Carlin. Whoever writes this genre should be arrested. Note, I don't actually know if Josh Groban has a Christmas album, but he probably does and its probably in this category. He did sing that ice-pick-to-the-brain chart topper "You Raise Me Up." Vomit.

There you go, your definitive guide to musical survival this holiday season. Good luck and godspeed (but not God rest you, merry gentlemen.)

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