Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas music - humbug

I was enjoying a quick dinner with my wife at Taco Bell reflecting on having just put down a pet and the background music was bordering on making my ears bleed.  It was Christmas music.    The memorable section where the full annoyances settled in had....Joy to the World (some opera-ish lady), Frosty the Snowman, ...and some other standard which is escaping me right now (something about sleigh bells).  I felt like I was being tortured.

I'll try to maintain my focus on annoyance with Christmas music and not just style preferences.

I love Christmas...Jesus, birthday, presents, family friends.   What's not to love?
I love music; I have a sound style I prefer and love, I enjoy others from there, tolerate a pretty wide swath and there are a few extremes I just avoid. 

Somehow Christmas is moving into the "do not enjoy" column.

Right now there are 2 Christmas albums I enjoy - Behold the Lamb of God, and Christmas by Jill Phillips and Andy Gullahorn.

Behold the Lamb of God sets the mark pretty high with a story telling of mostly original songs that each one takes you a step on the Christmas story and the coming of Jesus.

Christmas is just exactly the style I like and they aren't all the same songs I've heard for 34 years.  Plus they're good songs, being a new song or a dug-out old song doesn't mean it was good.

It seems like there's a pattern within Christian music.  After 3-6 reasonably successful albums a performer must put out a Christmas album.  Generally this will have 8-10 standards and possibly 1-3 original songs. 

I like Steven Curtis Chapman and I think somewhere I own his Christmas album.  I can honestly say I have little interest in hearing him sing the standards.  I know the standards, I know he sings well with a good tone.  Yawn.

It could be that in prepping for the church Christmas Program I have heard the same album about 40x and I'm saturated.  I don't want to hear any more Christmas music.  So anything that has the feel of a song I've heard a bunch is feeling like a sliver on the back of the hand when you need 2 hands to take it out. 

Uncomfortable, pesky, and there.  An irritant you can't get rid of.

Here's the formula I have developed (and I'm working on empirically proving):

operatic/crooner + standard = uncontrolled vomiting
operatic/crooner + any song = terrible
bad sound + standard = tolerable for .04 minutes (2.4 seconds)
good sound + standard = tolerable for 4 minutes
bad sound + non-standard song(s) = tolerable for 4 songs
good sound + non-standard song(s) = tolerable for 4 hours

Basically the two I've enjoyed this season I can listen to in the background for a full day at work.  All else is falling off after 4 minutes or 4 songs depending on the radio station.

I may be alone on this and that's okay, it'll all be done in 9 more days.  I can just avoid the radio and have myself a merry little Christmas.


  1. Sorry Christmas music is making you feel so grinchy, Dan. I've loved Christmas music all my life- but I agree that standards are getting over done- and at times overly mutilated with depressing slow music and dreary vocals. I tend to get irritated with the Santa songs too, but I can only recall one period of my life that I've felt the way you currently do about Christmas music. When I worked retail at a store that played it constantly starting on Black Friday.

    I will be working with a friend to turn that Christmas poem on my blog into a song tomorrow- I'll keep your formula in mind and try to hit the 4 hour category. I hope your Christmas is very Merry, friend; and your New Year very Blessed.

  2. Wow. So Joy to the World is my favorite, but I really only like it at midnight mass (which, not being Catholic, I rarely get to hear), and it's more because of the way people sing it. With excitement, after all the expectant waiting. It should not ever be slow and operatic. Ick.

    You better stay away from our house, because we are all John Denver & the Muppets, Elvis, Bing & Go Fish.

    Really the most disturbing part of this entire post was that you were enjoying a meal at Taco Bell.

  3. I actually enjoy Christmas music, just not the store/restaurant kind, or the music played on mainstream stations. I have a few CD's that I didn't dig out this year because we're focused on our Christmas program and have been listening to Slugs&Bugs Christmas since late Oct. I think Behold the Lamb has just spoiled you.

    And Carrie, Taco Bell is fine, since I only go about twice a year anymore. We needed fast food and something to "comfort" me before we picked up the kids.

  4. You should try listening to the Bebo Norman Christmas CD. If you want non-standard, it actually has more than one song written to insult the listener, the Christmas holiday and really all of western culture -- and all without an Irish accent.