Downtown Lowdown: ’Tis the season for sucky music (and the few who get Christmas tunes right)

by DGO Web Administrator

Welcome to the holiday season and all its baggage that makes this equally the most joyous and most despised time of the year. Its false sentiment, bloated political correctness and attempts to get you to spend go hand in hand with good ol’ drunken gatherings, a snowy walk through a neighborhood strewn with holiday lights and maybe some longing thoughts about your youth and the perfect gift you received once.

And with the false sentiment, good times and other drudgeries that begin Thursday and end in five weeks comes the inescapable onslaught of holiday music, a series of sounds and songs that you can’t escape lest you insert an ice pick or two in your ears.

I’m not sure where holiday music took the dive. Perhaps it was when watered-down rock and country musicians with too much money and too much cocaine thought it would be a ripe idea to cut a holiday record. Maybe it was when Zooey Deschanel was born. I don’t claim to be an ethnomusicologist, I’m just a well-read music fan who will claim the best Christmas music came from the golden age of radio and recorded audio, and has only been done correctly in the modern sense by a handful of musicians. Let this be your road map for holiday audio-cheer, starting with what’s unacceptable.

The bad

Some music executive at one point told Rob Thomas and Matchbox 20 they’re important. They’re not. His song “A New York Christmas” is a disservice to the city of New York and anyone with ears and a brain.

Mariah Carey hired Justin Bieber for “All I Want for Christmas is You” and the same idiots who are in line right now for Black Friday sales purchased this on iTunes. Shame on you.

Sir Paul McCartney is one half of the greatest songwriting duo of the latter part of the 20th century, but nobody’s perfect. “Wonderful Christmastime” is his get-out-of-jail-free card.

David Hasselhoff recorded something called “The Christmas Song.” When I hear this I’m laughing at, not with.

Any holiday song by U2.

There is so much more for the “bad” category. But there’s also some that’s acceptable, and dare I say, “good.”

The good

“It was Christmas Eve babe, in the drunk-tank” is how The Pogues “Fairytale of New York” begins. I’m all for sordid tales of drunken debauchery and junkie-love in my holiday songs; some say Shane Macgowan’s masterpiece of a Christmas song is the best this side of “White Christmas.”

Vince Guaraldi Trio and the soundtrack to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is a jazz masterpiece. It’s the Christmas album of all Christmas albums, a hip dose of American music enjoyable in December or July.

“Christmas with Dino,” by Dean Martin. When you’ve got Dean Martin hitting all the classics, there’s no need to listen to anything else, ever.

Toss in the Los Straitjackets record of instrumental holiday tunes, Bing, Sinatra, Nat King Cole and RUN-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis,” and you’re on your way to some acceptable holiday audio.

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].


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