Merry Christmas Eve! I’m getting into the spirit with this post, which is all about Christmas music.
CHRISTMAS SONGS I’VE HEARD WAY TOO MUCH RECENTLY:
Santa Baby – I don’t remember hearing this all that much in my formative years, so for a little while it was kind of an interesting novelty. Now, however, it seems like every half hour I’m hearing some chick (usually Madonna; can’t they at least play the Eartha Kitt version?) ask for the deed to a platinum mine.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – It’s probably worth reading the Wikipedia entry on this song, because it’s short but quite interesting. The way the song was originally written for the movie Meet Me in St. Louis was deemed too depressing, so it was rewritten to be slightly less so. Then Frank Sinatra recorded a version with the lyrics even further altered to be less depressing, and it’s that version that gets covered and played most often. The thing is, even with those twice-altered lyrics, it’s still depressing. Part of it is the tone of the music (I’m really clueless when it comes to musical terms, but would it be accurate to say it’s in a minor key?), but also just look at the title. Despite the later mention of faithful friends gathering near, the “yourself” kind of makes it sound like you’re spending Christmas alone. Then there’s the “little,” as if to say it’s not a full-fledged holiday. I mean, you’d be disappointed if someone told you they were taking you on vacation to Italy and they took you to Little Italy instead, right? I think it’s much the same way as if you’re expecting Christmas and get Little Christmas instead. It’s like, “I know Christmas is going to suck, but try to squeeze a little bit of enjoyment out of it, okay?”, which I guess was the original intention, but I got the impression Sinatra was unsuccessfully trying to avoid that message.
Christmas Canon – I’ve complained about how the writers of “What Child Is This?” couldn’t be bothered to come up with their own tune, but my tongue was pretty firmly lodged in my cheek at the time. Besides, at least they wrote a whole new set of lyrics! But Pachebel’s Canon with kids singing “Merry Christmas” over and over on top of it? That’s just freaking lazy.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Okay, I’m actually not tired of this one, despite its being constantly played, but I still wanted to comment on it because it’s so bizarre (which I suppose is part of why I’m not tired of it). Do you think anyone would write a song like that these days? Not only do we have implied date rape (“Say, what’s in this drink?”), but what girl nowadays would use their family being upset as a reason why they couldn’t stay with some guy? Would anyone today who wasn’t a hardcore religious prude care what the neighbors would think? Also, as part of the C. Everett Koop generation, if I were trying to put the moves on a woman and she lit up a cigarette, that would totally kill the mood. And as far as recent versions of this song go, Martina McBride doing a duet with the late Dean Martin? What the hell sense does THAT make?
Anything by the Carpenters – Seriously, is there any Christmas song they DIDN’T cover? The local easy listening station, which I can really only stand to listen to at this time of year because they play all Christmas music, seems to play the Carpenters for every other song. I can take them in small doses, but come on, could Karen Carpenter have any less attitude in her vocals?
CHRISTMAS SONG THAT SURPRISINGLY HASN’T BEEN OVERPLAYED RECENTLY: I don’t think I’ve heard “Christmas Shoes” at all this year. Believe me, I hate the song with a passion, but I’d gotten used to hearing it over and over again at this time of year. Did it fall out of public favor? Granted, it never should have been IN it, but old ladies apparently found it actually touching, because they missed how having some kid’s mom die on Christmas is REALLY overdone sentimentality. Not to mention that it’s incredibly weak musically.
CHRISTMAS SONGS I ACTUALLY LIKE HEARING: Honestly, a great many of them. While certain songs just get on my nerves from having to hear them constantly, I like Christmas music in general. I can’t listen to it all the time, but I enjoy it occasionally. I must say I have a particular fondness for some of the light-hearted recordings from the past. I can’t help but sing along when I hear Burl Ives doing “Holly Jolly Christmas,” and Gene Autry’s version of “Here Comes Santa Claus” (or, more accurately to the way he sings it, “Here Comes SANTY Claus”) is pretty fun as well. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but that latter song has always interested me in its being both religious AND secular. I mean, you have Santa, the major icon of secular Christmas, but we’re also being exhorted to say our prayers, and reassured that “Santa knows we’re all God’s children.” How many other holiday songs cross genres like that?
While we’re at it, here are some posts from previous years about Christmas music:
Caroling Into Obscurity
Categories of Carols
Santa Claus: Judge, Jury, and Executioner, about “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”