Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Music

Here in Utah, we have two radio stations that play Christmas music exclusively at this time of year. They’re big competitors, and they’re always trying to get the jump on the other. When they started, FM100 was playing 100 hours of Christmas music (therefore starting about 4 days before Christmas). Then 106.5 decided to get in on the game and started earlier. As they continually try to “one-up” each other, the date continually moves up. This year, they started before Halloween. Next year, they’re going to start around Labor Day.

As I’ve listened to the holiday cheer, I’ve noticed that Christmas songs seem to fall into roughly four categories for me. Though some can be put in more than one category, there are a few clear lines.

First, there are the traditional, “classic” songs. You know, White Christmas, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Joy to the World, Deck the Halls, Oh Holy Night, etc. The good stuff. The ones that every artist has to sing. The ones that I can still imagine being played on a record player.

Second, there are the classic songs that have nothing to do with Christmas. Winter Wonderland, Sleigh Ride, Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, Let it Snow. They’re fun songs, but they’re actually songs about winter in general. So, why don’t we hear them in January? My January could use a little cheering up with “Winter Carols.” And while we’re talking about Christmas songs that aren’t really Christmas songs, what’s up with playing “Favorite Things” at Christmas? I mean, it came from the Sound of Music. Do they even have a winter scene in that show? Wikipedia notes the following: “The wintertime imagery of some of the lyrics has made ‘My Favorite Things’ a popular song during the Christmas season … although in the show and movie it is sung during a summer thunderstorm.” Uh-huh. A summer thunderstorm. Can’t think of anything more Christmas-y than that!

Third, there are the Santa songs. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Up on the Housetop, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Here Comes Santa Claus, Jolly Old St Nicholas, Santa Baby. Again, fun songs that deal only with the commercialization of Christmas, avoiding the “reason for the season.” These are the ones that kids are still allowed to sing in public schools.

Then there are the new songs. Ah the new songs. While there are some that I enjoy (generally the ones by BNL), most of them drive me crazy. Christmas Shoes; Do they Know it’s Christmas?; So This is Christmas; Grownup Christmas List; Last Christmas. I don’t know why, but these songs just grate on my nerves. Maybe it’s because they’re played all too often on the radio at this time of year. Maybe it’s because I have no memory linking them to wonderful Christmases in the past.

Or maybe it’s just because they’re stupid songs.

For example: “Do They Know it’s Christmas?” This is a song that focuses on those less fortunate than us, specifically those in Africa. While I appreciate the sentiment and the charge to “feed the world,” I find it humorous that the song points out that “there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas.” Well, duh! When was the last time they had snow in Africa? And why on earth is it a bad thing that they’re not getting any this year? I mean, really, have the writers of this song ever been in snow? Would you really want to wish it on a people who are in no way prepared to handle it?

Wanna know what’s on my Grownup Christmas List? An ITunes card, some clothes, jewelry, books.

And of course, World Peace.