The season is almost upon us, retailers pumping out the Christmas carols (and less spiritual seasonal songs) in an attempt to stir up a buying frenzy and make their bottom line happy for another year. Storekeepers seem to think customers have a Pavlovian reaction to Christmas music – hear it and they spend.
The world likes Christmas music, though in recent years the content has changed, more Santa songs and fewer Jesus songs. The Jesus songs are problematic. The idea of birth, a baby and gifts is fine, it’s what happens afterward that makes people uncomfortable. Easter music is only popular in churches, not in shopping malls.
It seems each year the Muzak starts a little earlier. Christmas decorations hit the stores before Halloween and the music follows suit. I hate Christmas music. Well, not really. I should clarify that it is not the music itself that annoys me. Traditional carols are great, and there are some good new songs in the carol tradition, though I could do without “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” which really has nothing to do with Christmas and everything to do with commercialism.
My major problem is that, as retailers and the rest of the world gear up for the Christmas season, I have already been listening to new Christmas music for a couple of months. The last thing I want to hear in November and December are the songs I already heard in September and October.
I understand your confusion. Why do I listen to the music then and not when everyone else does? For the same reason most Christmas albums are recorded in the hot July heat. It’s all about marketing.
I am a music programmer for Stingray Music. In order for new Christmas music to be played on my channel in the Christmas season I can’t wait until December first to start listening. Record companies know this, and the music starts showing up in my in-box in mid-September. So while you have been enjoying the Fall weather I have been listening to Christmas carols for a month now.
Most new Christmas albums I find forgettable. There’s only so much you can do with the old tunes after all. Give me a solid interpretation of a traditional Christmas carol and I am happy. Write me a new Christmas song that is not schmaltzy and I am very happy. Send me another version of “The Christmas Shoes” and I won’t even listen to it.
There are some bright lights in the season of course. A decade ago my friend Carolyn Arends released a Christmas album of mostly original tunes, and today she releases another, Christmas: The Story of Stories. Every Christmas Carolyn sings at her church’s Christmas Eve service and each year she sings a new song she has written for the occasion. Some years she has the song composed well in advance; other years she feels the pressure of writing to deadline. It’s not always easy to come up with a new and fresh approach to a 2,000 year-old story, but Carolyn manages it.
When the Advent season rolls around my wife likes to play a lot of Christmas music around the house. She hasn’t overdosed on the stuff the way I have. At the beginning of December each year she asks me if there is any new Christmas music she can play that won’t annoy me. She likes to play the same Cd over and over, so it has to be something that will survive repeated listenings without driving me crazy. This year Christmas: The Story of Stories will be on the playlist.