Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Music: The Heaven and Hell of It

My husband and I were on a phone call recently that required us to wait on hold for about half of the total one-hour time it took to complete the transaction. While we were on hold, we were subjected to the torturous sounds of New Age ‘music,’ put there by some well-meaning person convinced we needed to be entertained while we were waiting. Running barefoot on broken glass would have been infinitely more satisfying. I am convinced that New Age ‘music’ destroys brain cells and breaks down resistance to truth, logic and common sense, making people believe that evil is good and good is evil. It dissolves any conscience a person may have hitherto possessed. Suddenly everything is hunky-dory for these people and they think all the problems of the world would go away if we would all just sit around listening to and grooving on this foulest form of air pollution. New Age ‘music’ is the sorry consequence of bra burning, free love, and Woodstock.
That’s one way of saying I’m picky about music, especially now that it's Christmas time and there's more questionable music in the air. My eclectic musical tastes were formed in a home where we listened to the Metropolitan Opera broadcast on Saturday mornings, and ended the day with both the steel guitars, sweet harmonies and ukuleles on Hawaii Calls, and the authentic Western sounds of Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch.
Because music has such power, my deeply personal celebration of Christmas very often centers on great music inspired by a heavenly source, and its effect on me is profound. Most especially, probably because I pay close attention to the precise meanings of words, my soul yearns to hear or sing appropriate lyrics from significant texts, paired with satisfying and rewarding melodies expressing the deepest meaning of Christmas. Let me worship through reverent music in the most sublime, eloquent way, as the Savior of the world deserves. My heart is touched by so many inspired works – Handel’s Messiah, O come O Come Emmanuel, O Holy Night, Lo How a Rose ‘Ere Blooming, Mary Did You Know, O Come All Ye Faithful, Angels We Have Heard on High, Once in Royal David’s City, and authentic folk music like Rise Up Shepherd and Follow, Bring a Torch Jeanette, Isabella, and The Cherry Tree Carol.
However, there is some Christmas music so patently offensive that I want to wipe out all memories of ever having heard or sung it. I want to slink, Grinch-like, into all the music stores, radio stations, private collections and sheet music publishers and obliterate some sounds I hear over public address systems in stores during the holidays. You don’t have a choice when you hear this drivel in a shopping mall. They mean well, but it doesn’t entertain. It annoys and brings out the Scrooge in me, making me want to buy less so I can leave the premises as quickly as possible. That’s how I first heard the number one selection on my Top Twenty List of Christmas Songs I Never Want To Hear Again. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s the complete list of losers with the heartfelt scorn and derision each so richly deserves:
20. It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas – …to which I want to respond, “Well, duh! What was your first clue – sundown on Thanksgiving Day?” It sounds like the guy who says during a heat wave, “Hot enough for ya?” This is something clueless Goofy would have said to patient Mickey, who is far more tolerant of stupid remarks than I.
19. (tie) Winter Wonderland/Marshmallow World – Ain’t no time nowhere winter is a wonderland for me; I cannot celebrate the charm I do not find. Winter is a slip-on-the-ice, sprain-your-ankle, freeze-your-tushie-off, endlessly boring season broken only by the sweetness of celebrating a sacred holiday. Don’t let’s confuse the two.
18. I’ll be Home for Christmas – Total schmaltz when you first hear it, mind-numbingly dull after that. So you’re not going to be there except in your dreams – get over it.
17. Let it Snow – This is nothing but a seductive (you’ll excuse the expression) invitation to use bad weather as an excuse for someone to stay over at his sweetie’s house, a one-of-a-kind gift that can only be given once.
16. Have A Holly Jolly Christmas – Actually, this sounds like the worst kind of Christmas to have, completely unrelated to the real meaning of the holiday.
15. Jingle Bell Rock – Social events at holiday time are nice, but this lyric is unencumbered by logic or a description of an appropriate observance of a sacred day.
14. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – See #15 and #16.
13. Frosty the Snowman – Christmas is not mentioned in this stupid winter legend and after you’ve heard it once, subsequent hearings are migraine-inducing torture.
12. The Christmas Song (you know… chestnuts roasting… yada, yada, yada) – Nothing is more offensive than clich├ęs, and this one is loaded with them. In fact, Santa has loaded his sleigh with THINGS. Isn’t that what’s wrong with Christmas in the first place? We don’t need more things.
11. White Christmas – Another string of clich├ęs. What’s the big deal about snow? What about Christmas in Australia that takes place in the summer? Huh? Did you ever think of that?
10. Silver Bells – Not much wrong with this one if you like a boring melody and totally mindless lyrics. Can you say platitude?
9. It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Really? You love spending too much money, eating too much rich food, going to parties you don’t want to go to with people you don’t really like? What’s wonderful about that?
8. Twelve Days of Christmas – Repetition is the last refuge of the unimaginative. Again, we’re stuck on using things to express love, a pitiful substitute for the genuine article.
7. Deck the Halls – Nonsense lyrics are Exhibit A in the case against this song. I don’t drink, but I should think that drunk would be the best way to find meaning in it. Far more appealing, rewarding and cogent was the Mad Magazine version of this I read in my youth, which began, “Deck us all with Boston Charlie, Walla Walla Wash and Kalamazoo…”
6. (all songs referring to reindeer with or without red noses) – completely idiotic, without redeeming value or even a modicum of charm. Lord of the Flies teaches kids to play nice together, too.
5. (all songs referring to Santa Claus, especially Santa Baby) – He sees you when you’re sleeping? Really? He knows when you’re awake? Really? Isn’t that what God does, and didn’t He do it first? How can kids NOT get confused?
4. Jingle Bells – Translation: people with the IQ of pinecones ride around in the snow apparently unwilling to take refuge from the weather and protect themselves against frostbite.
3. We Wish You a Merry Christmas – Nobody even knows what figgy pudding is anyway, and simply repeating the sentiment ad infinitum doesn’t make it more intelligible.
2. Feliz Navidad – If a guy sang this to me, I’d poison his eggnog. I do not want this derivative, dreary rubbish stuck in my head for the month of December.
1. Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time – No, we’re not. We’re paralyzed by the tedium of this inferior music and pointless lyric written by Paul McCartney in a fit of acute uninspired tastelessness. The last chorus repeats ad nauseum until you think you’ve entered a new rung of Purgatory Dante must have created just for you. If Christmas shopping doesn’t trigger insanity, you haven’t spent enough time in the Walmart listening to this on the PA system.
And while I’m on a roll, here’s a bonus: I never want to hear another roomful of third graders shouting I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ for Christmas, or Up On the Housetop, or All I Want For Christmas is my Two Front Teeth. It’s only cute once.
If I’ve left off this list any songs worthy of contempt, add your favorite Christmas music you love to hate. Here’s the rule for participation: we’ll just talk about music; we won’t cast aspersions on the intelligence or the parentage of people making comments.
And by the way, Merry Christmas.

1 comment:

Janet Kay Jensen said...

I agree 100% on your list of carols that should be buried for the next 200 years. But I do like new age and some of the Christmas new age arrangments have a freshness I like about them.

Janet
and it's way past Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year. .....