It’s a source of some amazement to me how different the typical US and British Christmas music playlists are.
I’ve talked on Facebook about how so many of the traditional church carols have different tunes in their transatlantic incarnations, but it doesn’t stop there. The secular Christmas music is even more dissimilar.
In Britain, there’s a long-standing tradition of popular bands producing new annoying earworm songs specifically for Christmas, and the national pop music No. 1 on Christmas Day is usually something seasonal and absurd.
There’s a fairly extensive repertoire of these things, stretching from the awful 1970s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day through the Pogues‘ song croaked out by their lead “singer” who sounds like the drunken sot he is, right up to the present day. Stop the Cavalry. Mistletoe and Wine. Last Christmas (which the radio stations around here in Texas seem to have unaccountably latched onto this year and which needs to have all copies burned). These are mostly what the radio stations and shops play in the UK.
American radio stations mostly don’t.
Secular Christmas music sounds like it mostly stopped in about 1954 and to be focused on the Frank Sinatra/Perry Como/Gene Autry era. White Christmas (which is probably the best-known of these in the UK because it occasionally gets played there). Have a Holly Jolly Christmas. Let it Snow. Winter Wonderland.
Even the songs that are technically more recent are often more contemporary artists doing covers of these antiques.
Few of these songs get much airtime in the UK, so it makes Christmas music sound dramatically different.
Not worse; as far as I’m concerned most of the UK’s Christmas playlist could cheerfully be consigned to the Abyss. But not any better, either. Let it Snow is, if possible, even sillier in Texas than it is around London. Dreaming of a white Christmas is fairly futile when there’s an even-money chance of T-shirt weather on Christmas Day. Or it may be 15 degrees Fahrenheit and blowing a howling gale out of the flat part of the States, with nary a mountain between here and the North Pole to slow it down. You never can tell with Texas.
Initially the American Christmas playlist was a nice change of pace. A bit weirdly stuck in the past (it seems the irony of ironies that I, as a Brit, am saying this about America), but nice. Inoffensive. Twee.
My wife says Americans don’t have this word, but it’s a useful one. It’s a bit like cute with a heavy dose of old-fashioned and a side order of prim as well as the saccharin. Offensively inoffensive.
And it describes American Christmas music so perfectly.
This is the music of the age that American conservatives idolise, before the devil Rock’n’Roll took over the country. Some of it’s goodish. Most of it’s just bland. Some of it, though, takes some decidedly bizarre twists.
Like the line in It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year about “There’ll be scary ghost stories”. I’m sorry, but what in seven types of crap does that have to do with Christmas, religious or secular? Halloween, maybe, but Christmas? What kind of weird person would consider that enough of a Christmassy thing to reference in a seasonal song?
Or Here Comes Santa Claus, with its strange blurring of the lines between the secular and the religious. “Let’s give thanks to the Lord above ’cause Santa Claus comes tonight”. This is weirdness. Those of us who do give thanks to the Lord above for Christmas aren’t doing it because Santa is coming, but because Jesus already came. And those who are focused exclusively on the secular icon of Christmas are probably not going to be giving thanks to the Lord above. It’s an utterly odd song.
Oh, occasionally something more recent shows up. Pentatonix and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra are usually played somewhere, and welcome. TSO’s version of Carol of the Bells is one of the few worthwhile versions of this irritatingly repetitive carol, though Christian radio needs to get over its obsession with Mary Did You Know? And I suppose I have to mention The Carpenters, who were 1970s but share the same animating tweeness as all the other American Christmas songs.
I shouldn’t really object too loudly. I could be back listening to the endless I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day and Last Christmas loop track the UK seems to have. But it does get rather wearing to have the same six or seven songs played again and again and again.
This year, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus seems to be one of the endless loop-track selections in these parts. And when you find yourself loudly singing along “I saw Mommy wedgie Santa Claus!”, it may be time for the radio station to find a new song.
I can’t change the station. All the others are doing it, too. Can we have a little more diversity in what gets played, please?