Wednesday, December 03, 2014

I Hate Christmas Music and So Should You

When I was a kid, I loved Christmas so much. I remember specifically thinking one year that I didn't even need any presents, because just the feeling that I got around Christmas time was magical. You know how it goes: the tree, the colored lights, snow out the window, the cocoa/tea, and of course, the presents.

But even more than Christmas Day -- the day of presents -- I always loved Christmas Eve. I don't know if it was the anticipation or the excitement of what was to come the next day, but for most of my life, Christmas Eve was one of the very best days of the year. We would often go to church -- yawn, I know, but hey, it's for Jesus -- and then we could come home to have a special dinner of some kind. My grandpa used to show up, and my aunt Peggy still does. It was very tight-knit, and although I didn't grow up in one of those "warm" households (like your typical Italian family) those nights were as close to guaranteed perfection as you can imagine.

One of the best memories I have is listening to the radio every year on Christmas Eve, and hearing the panoply of Christmas songs that would come on the radio. Although Christmas was always a big thing when I was a kid, it wasn't inescapable like it is now. There were Christmas commercials, but there were also commercials for other things too. And though you might hear a few Christmas songs in the mall in December, you could still listen to Wham! or Bon Jovi on the radio if you wanted to.

But on this one night, we would envelop ourselves in nothing but Christmas music, and it was wonderful! We'd hear all the classics -- "White Christmas," "Jingle Bells," "The Little Drummer Boy," etc. -- and it was a genuine thrill. In fact, hearing a lot of those songs still makes me feel good to this day, due to the association. We also heard a lot of relatively obscure Christmas songs (well, obscure for me), like John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War is Over)," Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," and "Do They Know It's Christmas?" (the Feed the World) song. And hearing all these songs packed into one day as you sat around the tree, opened gifts, or gabbed with your relatives, was just the best.

Which brings me to today, in which case nothing is special, everything is overexposed, and there is no hiding from the ubiquitous spectre of Christmas. Not only does Christmas season start before Halloween now, but when it starts, there is absolutely no escaping it. If there is a War on Christmas, then Christmas is kicking the ever-loving shit out of whoever it's fighting.

The bane of my existence today and for the next three weeks is Christmas music. You may think that's silly, as most Christmas songs are happy and some are really great. It should make me feel good! But it doesn't, and the reason why is purely due to repetition.

The second the clock strikes midnight, turning Thanksgiving Day into Black Friday, Christmas is all you will hear about for a straight month. Most of this I am actually pretty good at avoiding: I do a lot of my gift-buying online, and I don't watch a lot of live TV other than football on Sundays, so for the most part I am able to shield myself from the onslaught that is the GIMME GIMME GIMME BUY BUY BUY Christmas season.

But the music is absolutely inescapable.

One day in, I'm assuming, the late 1990s, some asshole genius decided that, starting on the Friday after Thanksgiving, we needed to have multiple radio stations dedicated to nothing but Christmas music, 24 hours a day, for the majority of December. (In case you're wondering, that makes a total of 28 days, or 672 hours. Or better yet, 40,320 minutes, which means you can squeeze approximately 10,080 four-minute songs into that span.

I don't even have 10,080 songs on my entire computer.

Let's say there are 50 Christmas songs TOTAL (I think I'm being very liberal with that number). That means they are playing these approximately 50 songs a total of 201 times each in a month.

I don't know about you, but I don't listen to my favorite ALBUMS THAT MUCH. Who in Jesus's name needs to hear that "pa-rum-pa-pum-pum" song -- 15 different versions of it, I might add! -- 200 times in a month. Name me one person who that benefits.

I work in an office with music that plays overhead. Which means I get precisely 8 consecutive hours of Christmas music every day, that's only if I leave my desk for a half hour. I love Led Zeppelin IV. If I had to listen to Led Zeppelin IV every day for eight hours, I would tear my eardrums out of my head.

Nobody should have to listen to that much repetitive music all day. No one. This is the kind of thing they use to torture people in Guantanamo.

It's bad enough that most "workday" radio stations just shuffle the same shitty eight-our block of songs so you get a "NO REPEAT WORKDAY!" Having to hear the same song five times a week makes me crazy. HAVING TO HEAR MARIAH CAREY'S "ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU" FOUR TIMES IN ONE DAY (which I did, last December) IS ENOUGH TO MAKE ME HOMICIDAL.

What's amazing to me is that no one else seems to give a shit. Even music snobs like myself -- who never listen to the radio and have thousands of albums and a deep appreciation for eclectic musical styles -- don't say a word about this scourge on our world. They seem to be like "Hey! It's Christmas!" But I'm at the point where I actually dread Christmastime. I DREAD CHRISTMASTIME! I hope the eleven year-old me isn't watching this.

I would be absolutely fine if there was some kind of variety in Christmas music. I wouldn't even mind taking regular songs and fucking with the words a little bit to make them Christmasy. Do about 20 of these a year by big artists, and within a decade or so, we might have a much better batch of songs to choose from. But as it stands now, you have a whole lot of Peggy Lee, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and then duplicate versions of the same songs. (And no, Christmas musicians, you aren't fooling anyone with that one version of "Jingle Bells" you do, where you put ten seconds of glissando into "all the way-ayyy-ayyyy-ayyyyy!")

This isn't like "A Christmas Story" being played consecutively on TBS for 24 hours. Not even close. That's because 24 hours of "A Christmas Story" is, well, 24 hours. One glorious day. Also, if you don't want to watch it, you can turn the channel and watch something else! I can't very well ask the guy in the mall to turn the goddamn radio station to Soft Rock Hits.

I want to, again, as I once did, enjoy the holiday without feeling completely suffocated by it. Now that I'm not in school anymore, Christmas's allure has waned. (In school, at least you know you get like a month off around Christmas.) I would just love to be able to casually pop in and out of a Christmas-y mood, without being mandated every waking second of every day to face it down. I have other interests in my life, and I should be able to pursue them without Christmas constantly barreling into me, panting, making sure I didn't forget about it for five seconds.

Bah humbug.

1 comment:

Chris Acton said...

Every time I hear about the same-sameness of Christmas music, I'm glad I listen to Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Jingle All the Way is a phenomenal take on all the same Christmas songs . I highly recommend checking it out. It keeps me in the Christmas spirit, and I don't really listen to the radio except in limited quantities so I don't get sick of the other stuff.

Sorry to hear you're stuck with it nonstop 8 hours a day. Can you do headphones at work? I'm guessing that's a no go.