It’s that Christmas song playlist time of year again. The most horrible time of the year.
I was wandering through the streets with a friend last week when Christmas carols started buzzing like tinny, torturous little winter bees. “Oh!” my friend exclaimed “they’ve started caroling!”
“Isn’t it lovely?” I replied.
Over Thanksgiving, my father cheerfully remarked “we have six Christmas Carol stations on the radio now!”
“That is terrific!” I said, gritting my teeth into a festive grimace.
I do this. I smile. I clap my hands. I act as though I am in the spirit of the season. I lie. I say things like “I hope they play Silver Bells” or “yes, it’s entirely reasonable that counterculture legend Robert Zimmerman has a Christmas Album.” But what I am thinking when I say these things is “if they play that ‘All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth’ song, I am going to stab my eardrum in with a very merry chopstick.”
When I found out that not one, but two, of the radio stations I listen to are playing nothing but carols until Christmas I muttered a word that Santa would not say, because it began with donkey and and ended with a word that rhymes with “muckers.”
I hate Christmas carols. And this isn’t me being an iconoclast or trying to say something controversial – I just really, really hate them. I remember a kid in school saying that he thought that Hell would be being in a concert where they played your least favorite kind of music, and everyone else liked it. Forever. This is the kind of 6th grade thought experiment 12 year old kids indulge in, but I remember it every Christmas season, because he perfectly described what this season is like for people who don’t enjoy carols.
And I feel horrible about this. Not liking Christmas carols is akin to not liking puppies or cupcakes or Marcel the Shell. And to be fair, there are ones I hate considerably less than others. I quite like listening to Eartha Kitt sing “Santa Baby” but I think I’d quite like listening to Eartha Kitt singing the phone book (remember phone books? Alright, a Twitter feed). I will also listen to Tom Jones sing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” because that man is in his 70’s and just won’t stop pelvic thrusting, and that is inspiring, or something. I guess I’m able to listen to Christmas carols that involve the word “baby.” But not, you know, that baby. The Jesus baby.
Other than that? Yeah, I hate most of them. When I say this, there are inevitably people who come up to me and say “but what about — insert your favorite carol here — ? You can’t hate that.” And I will reply “oh, no, you’re right, that’s a really good one! Gosh! I didn’t even think of that one.” Want to know a secret? When I say that, I will be lying.
Partly, this has a lot to do with my own musical preferences. Given my own choice I generally gravitate either to cocktail music from the 30s and 40’s or punk bands from the 80’s (which gives a lot of credence to the notion that the 40’s were just the 80’s with coke, at least in my mind). Christmas Carols don’t tend to focus the witty wordplay of say, Gershwin or Noel Coward. They also don’t really help you learn how to place phone calls to cities. Those are things I look for in songs, apparently. But that said, I believe this goes beyond my musical preferences. I believe that Christmas carols might just plain be bad.
They’re bad because they do not have to be good, because they are not being judged by normal human standards.
Remember how in Love Actually an aging rocker re-recorded a terrible song where he substituted the word “Christmas” for the word “love.” It’s terrible. He knows it’s terrible, and an unadulterated attempt to capitalize upon people’s sentimental nature in the month of December. His entire bit in the movie is based around him making fun of this fact. I feel like a lot of singers end up doing this, but, unlike Bill Nighy, they just don’t admit it. And it’s not nearly as funny when they don’t admit it.
Because it’s not as though you’re ever going to get all outre and creative with a holiday song. There are only so many ways you can go with the themes. We understand the whole “Christmas premise.” Virgin birth. Reindeer. Snow. Santa. Visiting dignitaries with tasteful gifts. Gifts! Peace on Earth. It’s very unlikely that any Christmas carol is going to express a sentiment that wasn’t listed there. There’s never going to be much room for surprise.
Maybe that’s why people keep seeming to try to spice up those themes by having young children sing them. Which I know is supposed to be charming, but their voices. Their voices are awful. They sound like chipmunks drunk on helium when they sing about wanting their two front teeth for Christmas. Think about all the popular Christmas ballads you’ve heard sung by children. Now think about all the normal songs you listen to that have been sung by children. It’s pretty much just the cover of Radiohead’s Creep for The Social Network. Right. There is a reason those kids are not singing 11 months of the year.
All I’m saying is that all I want for Christmas is to not hear carols for a month. So if the world could just stop, that would be great. Everyone cool with that? No? Justify yourselves.