It never ceases to amaze me that despite the plethora of beautiful Christmas music that is available, what we must endure on the radio and in stores between November 1 (WAY too early, but no one asked us, let alone me) and December 31 is a steady diet of the worst Christmas music ever recorded.

The other thing that amazes me is that, despite the fact there is an inexhaustible amount of Christmas music of varying quality out there, what we get on the radio and in the stores is only a small sampling of the worst Christmas music ever recorded, played on continuous loop.  I was driving to my aunt’s funeral on Friday, and my mood being what it was, I needed some white noise in the car, so I decided to turn the radio to the station that has been playing Christmas music exclusively since All Souls’ Day.  On the way to the funeral I heard “Last Christmas,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Feliz Navidad,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “Winter Wonderland,” and “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting, etc.).”  Three hours later, on the way home, I heard “Last Christmas,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Feliz Navidad,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “Winter Wonderland” and “The Christmas Song.”  (In fairness, it was a different “Frosty the Snowman” than before, but not a better one, so variety in this case was unhelpful.)

I know everyone and his or her dog has recorded a Christmas album, regardless of whether or not it seemed like a good idea at the time.  It’s like you reach a certain level of success as a performer, and you are obligated to put together a Christmas album.  Unless you’re Eminem, thank God.  (Please, if Eminem has recorded a Christmas album, don’t let me know this.)  The worst part about these Christmas albums is not the narcissistic and precious reimaginings of Yuletide classics but the new, original Christmas songs included in an often-sincere attempt to craft new holiday classics.  I’m not a fan.

And I love Christmas music.  I do.  I adore it.  I own several Christmas albums in different genres.  I think the music is the best part of Christmas, right after the food.  I just don’t like bad Christmas music.  Bad Christmas music is worse than regular bad music because it takes something awesome–Christmas–and makes it make you want to freaking kill yourself.  That’s uncool.

I realize that this is all a matter of taste, of course.  One person’s awesome is another person’s running from the room screaming.  I dig that.  So if, over the course of this post, I express disdain or dislike for one of your favorite Christmas songs/recordings, understand that it’s just me being fussy and I certainly don’t think any less of you personally for liking whatever you like.  Unless what you like is communism.  Because I’m not down with that, and neither is Baby Jesus.  (Because babies aren’t political, and neither should Christmas be.)  At any rate, you are always free to make fun of my taste in music.  (Unless you start dissing Sinatra, the greatest singer who ever lived.  You may as well dis Christmas itself, you freaking commie.  Yeah, I went there.)

Here are some Christmas songs I could stand never to hear again as long as I lived:  “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “Winter Wonderland” (really not technically a Christmas song, I guess, more a winter song, but does anyone sing it in January?), and “Jingle Bell Rock.”  There’s nothing particularly wrong with any of those songs.  I just don’t happen to like them, and the more I hear them, the less I like them.  Given the choice, I will turn them off.  However, they don’t quite reach the level of hurts-my-soul-to-hear.  Reserved for that list are the following:  “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” (which is funny when you’re, like, ten, but not a minute after that), and legions of new-fangled, wannabe Christmas songs that must remain nameless because after about forty-five seconds of listening to them, I started crying, “Why, why, WHY???” and so never got the names.  Oh, and that version of “Jingle Bells” with the dogs barking?  I want all those dogs shot.  That is not a feeling that should happen any time of year, let alone the season of good will toward men (and by extension, their best friends).

Confession:  When I was young, one of my favorite Christmas songs was “The Little Drummer Boy.”  I don’t know what changed or when, but I really can’t stand it now.  It’s hard because it’s just the sort of emotionally manipulative thing I usually go for, but I think that musically it just bores me.  A little too heavy on the rum-pum-pum-pum.  Except when I’m watching Grace Jones sing it on the Pee-Wee Herman Christmas special, because then you can watch her crazy eyes as she dances around the Playhouse, and then it’s kind of trippy.

Wham!’s immortal “Last Christmas” is something that I ought to hate in theory, and I think even in practice I do hate it, but really, it’s probably more accurate to say that I love to hate it.  There’s something about its unrelenting cornball-ness that charms me.  The way George Michael whispers “someone spe-shul” utterly without shame–grudgingly, I must respect it.

“Feliz Navidad” always makes me think of Charo.  Probably because of the Pee-Wee Christmas special, but also maybe because she probably sang it on The Love Boat at some point?  Can anyone confirm this?  I mean, she’s Charo, for Pete’s sake.  Why wouldn’t she have been singing “Feliz Navidad” for years?  Despite the fact that it makes me think of Charo, even when Jose Feliciano is singing it, despite the fact that it’s overplayed (to put it mildly) year after year, I find that I cannot NOT like “Feliz Navidad,”  Maybe I secretly, subconsciously like Charo, maybe I just like doing Jose Feliciano impressions, but when “Feliz Navidad” comes on, I can’t not sing along.  Does anyone else have this problem?  It would be good to know I’m not alone.  (Leave a comment in the comments section, or put an ad on a city bus.  Whatever you’re comfortable with.)

I wanted to take some time to talk about Christmas songs that I love, but I just love too many of them.  (Only the good versions, mind you.)  Will that stop me?  I admit that I’m kind of old-school.  I like older versions of songs better than newer versions. But not necessarily the oldest versions.

I am a fan of “O Holy Night,” but I have sort of an idealized version of the song in my brain, and nothing commercially available is acceptable to me. I don’t like Josh Groban’s version, no offense to him, because it just…doesn’t do it for me. He has a nice voice, but I always feel like he’s holding something back. I’m always thinking, “This cat is phoning it in.” I know lots of people love the Grobanator, and I appreciate that, but I just can’t share the enthusiasm.

But you know who never phoned it in? Sinatra. If he had to get it to you fast, he always sent it Western Union.

All the way, baby!

Now for the essay portion of the program:

What are some of your favorite Christmas songs? Least favorite? Ones that make you run screaming from the room? Worst Christmas album ever conceived, in your opinion? In short, tell me everything you want to say about Christmas music.

Advertisements