Editor’s note: As part of CMN’s ongoing music journalism program, we asked our team of music writers to discuss their feelings about holiday music. Love it? Hate it? Only after Thanksgiving? Here’s what they had to say.
Who doesn’t love the most wonderful time of the year? The holidays are the best time to reflect and redirect at the end of the year.
For me that means Frank Sinatra all day every day, from the minute the turkey is on the table at Thanksgiving ’till the ball drops on New Years. Yeah sure, we all catch ourselves singing along to all of the same cheesy Christmas carols — and we all have to pretend we are Mariah Carey at least once every holiday season.
Holiday music is simply the best. No, I’m not say they’re the best records of all time. I certainly don’t listen to them in the middle of summer. But ’tis the season to be merry. The classic winter tracks help warm our soul while the hot coco warms our hands, and our loved ones warm our hearts.
The best thing about music is the fact that there are so many variations of it. That being said, not liking an entire brand of music based on its theme seems a bit lazy.
While I can’t call myself a fan of any of the obligatory classics played on repeat in malls and restaurants across America, almost every band — from Blink 182 to Queen — have taken a stab at creating holiday music. In fact, in the last month, Christmas-related records from August Burns Red, Tyler the Creator, John Legend (and undoubtedly many more) have been released.
One of my favorite examples of unorthodox attempts to spread the spirit came in 2013: Fearless Records release of Punk Goes Christmas. The 16 song deluxe edition features alternative covers from a plethora of different bands and can heard below.
In addition to Fearless record’s festive offering, here is a not so PG playlist of holiday tracks for anyone sick of the overplayed ones you’ll be hearing for the next month-and-a-half.
Happy Holidays 🙂
Christmas music is an absolute staple. It almost isn’t Christmas without Christmas music. The music is part of the Christmas spirit, you can’t truly get festive unless you’ve listened to at least one Christmas song.
There are certain times and places in my life that match different types of Christmas music. More traditional Christmas music like “Silver Bells” or “Silent Night” is usually background music at my family Christmas parties, or something my friends and I listen to when we’re going to our local Christmas light show.
Modern Christmas music such as Ariana Grande’s Christmas & Chill is what I listen to the most, because it’s more my music taste. Grande’s “Santa Tell Me” is the number one song that I play during the holiday season. Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas album is THE Christmas album. Nothing will get me more excited for Christmas than ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’.
I love listening to Christmas music, but I do think that since there are only so many standard songs with different variations, listening to them too soon can cause an abrupt holiday music overload. If you start listening as soon as Thanksgiving is over, you’ll get your fill of holiday music. That gives you a month to load up.
Something I always think about at this time of year is the diversity of holiday music.
I come from an interfaith family and celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas, yet I can only think of two well known songs that have to do with Hanukkah, but I could fill a whole page with Christmas songs. There is ample opportunity to write several songs surrounding the Jewish Festival of Lights. I mean, there are eight nights celebrated so why not a song called “Eight Nights of Hanukkah?”
Holiday music creates a desire and longing. A craving for comfort and family traditions never broken, and new ones yet to be created.
The music can be a wish for snowy weather in sunny California and un-delayed flights in New York City. Whether you feel joy for gifts about to be received, or sorrow because of the loved ones who will never be able to receive them again, holiday music conveys the mood of those who lucky enough to hear it.
Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” seems to play in the background of every shopping center in the country, filling in the white noise of busy shoppers and giddy children. Hot Chocolate shocks the palette as couples come out in droves to see the yearly light shows. Some unbox Nativity scenes, some light menorahs.
Me, I just Blast Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” and take it all in. Thankful for the desire and longing that have become me.
Holiday music is an important aspect of the season, of course, but it’s also an important aspect in marketing. If you’re active in the retail industry, you are probably swamped. Christmas music is inescapable. Therefore, you either love it or hate it. Neutral ground is hard to find when the songs are everywhere.
My favorite Christmas music is the songs you don’t hear on the radio. In general, the ones played on a continuous loop. Right now, Brett Eldredge’s Glow is my favorite Christmas album. It is a cross between an old-school jazz, Frank Sinatra and modern country.
Holiday music isn’t just limited to Christmas music. Halloween music is applicable, too, right? There’s nothing better than a good ‘ol “Monster Mash.” And why don’t we have more songs written about turkeys? Maybe a little ditty about the Easter Bunny as well?
Overall, holiday music is full of excitement and provides a sense of lightheartedness — something we all need in these times.
The basic Christmas carols don’t seem to do it for me anymore. I appreciate when musicians have their own take on holiday music, it makes me more inclined to listen to it.
The generic “Rudolph Red Nosed Reindeer”, and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” are overplayed and underdeveloped. Most Christmas carols I would be inclined to sing but society takes the fun out of the holidays. By the beginning of November people start to forget all about Thanksgiving and go straight towards Christmas: commercials about presents, Christmas tree sales, and Santa hats start to emerge.
It almost feels like the Christmas spirit dies as the actual holiday approaches. I wish holiday music would have more passion or some uniqueness about it, because, to be honest, it is always the same Christmas carols.
I’ve always admired the idea of giving to others during the colder months — to those that have less than you, the poor, the homeless, whomever it may be.
What I don’t care for is how our society has turned that notion into a capitalist venture.
Instead of donating a couple non-perishable cans and a blanket to your local soup kitchen we instead – beginning with Black Friday – go out and buy thousands and thousands of dollars’ worth of luxury items.
Sure, you may give a toy to your niece or something, but you’re failing to see the bigger picture. I’m not particularly fond of the Black Eyed Peas, I have to ask:
“Where is the love?”
Popular Christmas songs, in turn, reflect this capitalist undertone.
Hate to break it to you, but I’m talking about “12 Days of Christmas.”
And for those select few of us, as I alluded to earlier, who truly just want to curl up with our loved ones on a couch, watching the “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” on a “silent and holy night…”
If I’m being honest, those songs are still pretty corny.
Thanksgiving does have holiday music, but it’s only one song: the sound of dads yelling at football on TV.
In all honesty though, Thanksgiving doesn’t have the thousands of years of human history and tradition behind it like Christmas. It’s a fairly new holiday, and it’s probably the same reason you won’t hear a President’s Day jingle anytime soon (except for maybe a mattress commercial).
That said, I really hate Christmas music.
I feel like I’m in the throes of a mental breakdown after listening to more than one Christmas tune in a row. And a recent study confirms my theory that Christmas music can drive you crazy. The repetition of the same five awful renditions of already trite “traditional” hymns is absolutely grating on the human ears and the mind.
So forgive me. I’d rather listen to NYC Ghosts and Flowers instead.
When the time comes for holiday music, I prefer traditional Christmas songs over contemporary adult tunes. The problem is, there are not very many radio stations playing traditional Christmas music. Usually, it’s the contemporary soft-whatever stuff you find on compilations being sold at Goodwill the day after Christmas.
The only solace for me is the Christmas CDs my family has had for years: They provide a nostalgic, warm blanket over the cold musical wasteland of the season.
Holiday music is not all horrible, though.
Many, many bands have done covers I enjoy. Rob Halford of Judas Priest put out the solo album Winter Songs, and even the famed Christopher Lee — yes, the esteemed actor — put out several holiday singles amongst his metal discography. Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s popular Christmas song”Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24” which always receives radio play during the holiday season, isn’t bad either.
The Christmas season takes up about one twelfth of our year. So, much like everything else surrounding Christmas — eating too much fun food, buying lots of presents, drinking sugary alcoholic drinks, wearing fancy/gaudy/sparkly clothing to endless holiday parties — I believe we should also consume holiday music in excess.
Growing up, I always had generally positive experiences surrounding Christmas, so I am thankful to not have much baggage in the holiday department. For this reason, I totally welcome Christmas music a week or two before Thanksgiving. If there was Thanksgiving music (besides the viral sensation “Green Beans Potatoes Tomatoes”) I would absolutely wait until after Thanksgiving to partake in Christmas music.
But I consider listening to Christmas music part of celebrating Thanksgiving. And I don’t even skip the songs I hate. Call it tradition, call it masochism, but I will even muscle through Justin Beiber’s version of “Little Drummer Boy” in the name of holiday cheer.
This usually means I burn out around December 14th and switch back to Radiohead, but I’ll be damned if I don’t check the radio stations every day around the middle of November to see if they’ve started playing Christmas music. And I will practice my Mariah Carey “All I Want for Christmas is You” vocal runs EVERY TIME.
So yeah: Excess is the name of the game and I play to win.
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