Love it or hate it: Christmas music

by Patty Templeton

Love ItSnow flutters outside. Light glitters on the tree. Hot chocolate is in hand. You know what’s next. CHRISTMAS MUSIC! I LOVE CHRISTMAS MUSIC! (Imagine me shout-singing this while leaping from a red and green, voluminously ribboned present.)

This is not a blanket statement. There are totally crap Christmas songs out there. But there’s also RuPaul’s “Jingle Dem Bells” or any of James Dooley’s Christmas instrumental work. I’m particularly fond of his “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” It sounds like what Beowulf woulda curled up to with a hot toddy. Take it 180 the other way, and you got Ultra Lounge’s “Christmas Cocktails” – a retrolicious, tikitastic take on Christmas. And, oh my Eris, have you heard Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Christmas Favorites?” Most people know Ford for “Sixteen Tons,” but I frikkin love his hymns and holiday stuff. It doesn’t all have to be obscura, either. I can get down with Bing Crosby. One of my favorite events of the season is watching “White Christmas,” and you can be damn sure I make it a dress-up, sing-a-long affair.

What I’m saying is, there’s definitely crap out there. Christmas albums I’d have no qualms starting a dumpster fire with. But there is more good out there than there is bad.

Now, if you excuse me, I gotta get swingin’ to Reverend Horton Heat’s “We Three Kings” and Brian Setzer’s “Boogie Woogie Christmas.”

— Patty TempletonHate itYou’d understand completely if you’d been living inside my head for the past four weeks, where “Sleigh Ride” and “Jingle Bell Rock” have been playing ’round the clock. I’m pretty sure the CIA uses such tactics to break down terrorists.

There’s a wacky dynamic Christmas music has, wherein the catchier the jingle and the more nauseating the lyrics the more likely that particular carol will lodge itself in your brain rabies-like, making one foam at the mouth and attack innocent bystanders relentlessly. I recall in fourth grade uttering the phrase, “It’s February and I’m still singing Christmas carols!” Give me the rabies next time.

Christmas music is intolerable for two reasons primarily. One, it’s the same songs sung over and over again, people thinking that what the world needs is one more rendition of “Little Drummer Boy.” They’ll slow them down or speed them up, put techno beats behind them, or awkwardly pair David Bowie and Bing Crosby, but it’s still the same insufferable song. Two, the content of the music is unbearable, whether it’s the arrogant, ethnocentric “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” or the date-rapey “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” or the repugnant nostalgia of every other Christmas song ever, celebrating times where things were (hardly) perfect, a world where children live to wear mittens and sled, where folks travel by sleigh, and Christmas is always white, white, white.

— David Holub


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