What is it with the Christmas music they are pumping into stores this year?
I am no Grinch. I love Christmas music — yes, even dogs barking “Jingle Bells.” The stuff they are using this year, however, is abrasive: screeching voices, pounding beats. I can’t wait to get out of it. Did somebody do a study that indicated annoyed people buy more?
Dear Suddenly Scrooge,
I haven’t spent much time Christmas shopping yet, because I wait till the last minute every year. So I’m in no position to confirm or deny any decline in the quality of Christmas music.
It seems to me, though, that Christmas music by and large has always been terrible. This is not a new development, and it’s true even when the singer or band is generally pretty decent. Take, for instance, Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town” or Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time.” All of those songs are terrible.
Of course, setting and mood play a role, too. If you’re surrounded by friends and a little drunk on eggnog, you’ll be rockin’ right along with Brenda Lee. But if you’re out fighting the hordes at the mall on Black Friday, you’ll probably be more in a mood to tell McCartney just where he can put that “Wonderful Christmas Time” of his.
My solution: Do all of your shopping online while you drink heavily and listen to your own Christmas playlist. Tastes vary, but you could do worse than this lineup:
• “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues. Possibly the only Christmas song set in a drunk tank; it’s not for kids. But it is a soaring, joyous song. (Pairs well with: Powers Irish whiskey.)
• “Christmas Card from a Hooker In Minneapolis” by Tom Waits. Perfect if you like your beauty cut with sadness. (Pairs well with: Night Train fortified wine and trash-barrel fires.)
• “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love. Really, any song from “A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector” works, but this one is my favorite. (Pairs well with: cocoa spiked with peppermint schnapps.)
• “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby. This is one of the few canonical Christmas songs I don’t mind hearing a million times each year. (Pairs well with: Champagne. The real stuff from France; no skimping.)
• “It Must Be Santa” by Bob Dylan. I know, right? I wouldn’t have thought it would work either, but this song is just fun. (Pairs well with: absinthe or something similarly weird.)
• “Christmas in Hollis” by Run-D.M.C. To my knowledge this is the only song, Christmas-themed or otherwise, to include the phrase “an ill reindeer.” (Pairs well with: eggnog beneath the mistletoe.)
• “All Through the Night” by Lou Reed. This year’s in-memoriam entry, it’s an appropriately gritty sketch of urban desperation at Christmastime from the poet laureate of urban desperation. (Pairs well with: I don’t know; I want to say methadone, but let’s go with really dark red wine.)
• “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” by The Ramones. Because, as the song says, “Christmas ain’t the time for breaking each other’s hearts.” (Pairs well with: cheap beer in cans.)
Hope that helps.