A Defense of Shameless Christmas Music

A Defense of Shameless Christmas Music


Our editor Jay Gabler has recently been liking my Spotify account more than usual—a nod on my Mannheim Steamroller, a witty comment about Jackson Browne’s contribution to Celtic tradsters The Chieftains’ seminal holiday album Bells of Dublin, and maybe a good-natured “like” on my venture deep into Christmas in Sarajevo by Trans-Siberian Orchestra (yes, that band that has supplied a steady stream of tunes timed to suburban-holiday-light displays for the last ten years).

The tired, cynical uptake—and perhaps this appears as such from a distance—would be to say that Jay is recognizing my ironic displeasure in these tunes, hence my hipster-fortifying listening. In fact, just last week I put together a department Christmas party with another faculty member who insisted we make an “awesomely bad” Christmas music playlist on Spotify. I giggled, then went about selecting what I thought were choice tunes (Wham!’s “Last Christmas,” Kenny Loggins’ “Celebrate Me Home,” Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You”).

But you can guess my disappointment when she put together her half of the list with shit like “polka Christmas” by the “Sandusky Brothers” or whatever and a Christmas rap about science from some obscure weirdo. It was awful. And throughout the party, I found myself conveniently skipping over her tracks (say, something by New Kids on the Block) to get to that sad, bluesy Christmas song by the Eagles so that the students didn’t hang themselves with the leftover tinsel.

As you can see, I’m an unapologetic celebrator of shameless Christmas music: Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas, Perry Como’s sweater-infested crooners, and even that moody, depressing number about snow-turning-into-rain by Dan Fogelberg. When it comes to the yuletide jukebox, I want gingerbread-infused, Kris Kringle-alluding, hokey numbers about silent nights, rosy cheeks, and big presents under the tree that have a giant, North Pole chorus and some non-ironic sleigh bells in the background.

Now, I’m not going to engage the part of the discussion (that I can sense most internet music mavens ready to pounce on) about the distinction between “art” and “commercial,” etc…Maybe the holidays would be better if I listened to Rev. Peyton’s “Plasma for Christmas” or indulged only what Thom Yorke has to say about the holidays in a falsetto. Great. Go enjoy yourselves. While you audiophiles are getting your groove on, I’ll be over here riding the fictional sleigh rides with a giant icicle-sized candy cane in my mouth while John Williams’s soundtrack to Home Alone pipes through my speakers.

Just let me have Christmas, ya know? I mean like the rest of the year, I’m thoroughly obliging to the critical culture’s demand for dubstep, those dudes who named themselves Real Estate, and something called Into the Wild. I’ll come back out of the frosty-covered windows of my imaginary Terry Redlin house, ready my Spin, and complain into Sound Opinions for being too mainstream.

But for December, I’m going to indulge in the quickest line between me and holiday cheer: hit the Andy Williams and quit it 30 days later. If my parents listened to Springsteen’s collection, maybe I’d be defending those tasteful, held-at-arms-length covers by respected 20th Century artists.

But I’m not. I’m writing a post defending that fat Nebraska band director named Chip Davis who created Mannheim Steamroller.

Moreover, December is the only month I can be who I want to be with fear of backlash. And it turns out beneath my haranguing about culture writ large (I write for Tangy, no?) that I just want to be that kid in line up the stairs to meet Santa with his annoying kid brother in tow.

OF COURSE THOSE THUG ELVES WILL KICK ME DOWN THE SLIDE!!

But that’s what the other 11 months are for.

Dunstan McGill

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