Have you ever noticed how many mind-bogglingly awful Christmas tunes there are out there? And that all the really terrible ones were written within the twentieth century?
Okay, I'm assuming that everyone else thinks "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" is a terrible song, if they've thought about it at all. I assume most people haven't thought about it. It's a Christmas song, you listen to Christmas songs at Christmas. So they'll play fatuous drivel like "Holly Jolly Christmas" right after depressing tearjerkers like "Do They Know it's Christmas?" without any sense of irony.
I was trying to think about what made me hate these new-style Christmas songs so much. Bright, simple, major-chord tunes are part of it. But it's attitude more than anything. Whatever you think Christmas is, sacred holiday, shared cultural tradition, annoying time of year when everybody shoves their religion down your throat, it certainly seems like it should be about something other than shopping.
Modern Christmas tunes (except for a brief creative flame during the 70s and 80s which seems to have died out) are about stuff. Getting it. Sometimes giving it. And they're about snow, which is ironic, since most of the population of the U.S. lives in the sunbelt where it never snows. Worst, they're about Santa Claus. The problem with Santa Claus, with songs cheerily assuring the listener that Santa brings toys to all the little girls and boys, is that it's a BIG FAT LIE AND WE ALL KNOW IT. Santa doesn't bring toys to poor kids, all right? Even with Toys for Tots campaigns and the Salvation Army Bellringers, and Giving Trees and all that. Santa is a promise we break every year. And not just the promise of toys. The implied promise that the most important thing going on in the kid's life on Christmas will be the toy he does or does not get. So if he just gets that toy everything will be all right. The season will be bright. Hearts will be merry and gay.
No wonder so many people kill themselves around the holidays.
(all right, to be fair, the suicide rate doesn't actually increase around the holidays. Suicides are just a lot more...poignant.)
For the record, my favorite modern Christmas song is "Fairytale of New York." Pure brilliance. And I like all the old stuff, the real carols. Especially "The Coventry Carol."
The best Christmas songs are sad.