The season is upon us once again, when Christmas music once again fills the airwaves. Actually, if you work in any shopping mall you know that the Christmas music season starts promptly at midnight on November 1st. This is in an effort to get you, the consumer, in the Christmas, or more specifically, the Christmas shopping, spirit. Though in recent years it may inspire consumers to do some window shopping at best, only to go home and order it on Amazon.
Now right out of the gate let me clarify: I enjoy Christmas music. Well, a lot of it anyway. And in measured doses. A couple years ago I vowed that I wouldn’t listen to a single jingle bell until exactly two weeks before the big day. And you know, it was just the right amount.
Still, I think it’s time we put a halt to any new Christmas albums. A century or so ought to suffice. I say this for two reasons.
First, how many more versions of Jingle Bells do we really need? I get it, cutting a holiday album is a quick and easy way for an artist to sell another million or two, often with minimal royalties and other expenses to pay out. But you can practically hear the artists phoning it in. Each new version is as banal and uninspired as the last fifty.
You may be thinking, “But what about new Christmas songs?” Again, boring and as chock full of cliches as Top 40 country radio… well, almost. There are very few exceptions to this, in my opinion. Nearly anything by Trans-Siberian Orchestra or Clint Black’s Looking For Christmas are two examples that leap to mind. It aint Christmas without Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 or Milk and Cookies (’til Santa’s Gone).
I think it’s time we pump the brakes a bit on recording any Christmas music, covers or originals. In fact, I’ll go so far as to suggest we use the opportunity to cull a few head from the carol corral. There’s a few that I’d throw my rope at, and wouldn’t miss ever again:
( Note: YouTube won’t allow the videos to be played here, even though that’s why they offer embed codes. Click the links on the title if you wanna hear the songs. )
Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney
Just looking it up the song to get the link above was painful. The most dangerous place in the world is between my hand and the radio when this song comes on. When that first synthesized note plays, I can’t change the channel fast enough. Chugging Ivermectin like Alex Jones couldn’t rid me of this most infectious species of ear worm.
Honest to God, for all Paul McCartney contributed to music over the decades, this will forever be a black stain on his accomplishments as a Beatle and solo performer.
All I Want For Christmas Is You by Vince Vance and the Valiants
This is one I know you’ve heard. It’s on the damn radio every hour, after all. But you may be wondering who Vince Vance and the Valiants are. Honestly, I thought they were some unknown act plucked from the Vegas nightclub scene, thrown into a recording studio to do this song for a quick buck.
Turns out they’re from New Orleans.
So why is this song on my list? Well, in addition to being over sung and completely dripping with schmaltz, there’s an inflection in the singer’s voice that drives me absolutely insane every time I hear it.
Listen from the 1:22 mark to 1:28 ( I hope you appreciate my personal suffering to get those times. )
“All that I want, can’t be foundUH.”
What the hell is that?!? Did she and Metallica’s James Hetfield see the same vocal trainer? It drives me insane, and if not for that weird vocal inflection I could probably let this particular song continue to see light of day.
Actually, no I couldn’t
Rockin Around The Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee
Man, I can hear the groans from here. “Surely he’s not attacking this classic, is he?” Just last night at a family party my aunt and uncle couldn’t believe me when I said I didn’t like it.
Well, no, not really. It’s not a bad song, per se.
I’ve never exactly been a “kid person”. Now, if you know what I do to pay the bills, you find that statement ironically hysterical. So for argument’s sake we’ll narrow that down to “precocious kids.”
You know what I’m talking about. That kid who’s parents shove a microphone in their hand every chance they get and say, “Oh you just have to listen to Susie sing.” Then etiquette requires you to sit there and be treated to a rendering of whatever pop hit is currently popular with the pre-pubescent crowd. Maybe you have such a child in your family.
No? Me neither.
But you know what I’m talking about, don’t you? That’s the kind of thing this song reminds me of, and for good reason: Brenda Lee was only 13 when she recorded it. Which, I admit, along with her longevity in the business, is impressive. I still don’t like it though.
The Twelve Days Of Christmas by Everyone on the Planet
I’m not even gonna post a link to this one. You know what I’m talking about. This song is simply too long. In fact, so long I’m not gonna waste more words on it.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Barenaked Ladies ( featuring Sarah McLachlan )
Okay so in fairness I have to say I like Barenaked Ladies. And I actually like the first part of this song. It’s a fresh take on an oldie, simple and well produced.
And then Sarah McLachlan comes caterwauling in to drag the whole thing down like a musical wet blanket. She sounds out of place and there’s a shift in the energy of the song that bothers me.
I’m not saying she can’t sing. It’s just that when I hear her on this song I suddenly think of shivering abandoned puppies for some reason, so take from that what you will.
Chris Sherwood writes from his home in the hills of Chemung County. He is the author of In Times Of Trouble, In Times Of Trouble: Aftermath, and is currently working on his third book. Visit his website at cmsherwood.com