Sunday, December 2, 2012

Why Most Christmas Music is Hideous

I know the Christmas Overlords will take me out to the public square for a stoning, but I'm going to say it anyway.

Most Christmas carols are incredibly grating. 

It turns out I have some company with that opinion. There was a good explanation recently about that hatred for too much holiday music in an NBC article I ran across.
Too many Christmas carols are like this picture: So
incredible  faux cute you want to barf

Here's some of the most pertinent info from the article:

"Endless loops of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or any tinsel-y tune can have a psychological impact known as the 'mere exposure effect,' says Victoria Williamson, Ph.D, who conducts research on the psychology of music at Goldsmiths, University of London. There's a U-shaped relationship between the amount of times we hear music that we like and our subsequent reaction to it, she says.

As Williamson puts it, at first we like music a bit, then we like it more and more until it hits a peak. And then we crash down -- we have overheard it. That's when boredom and annoyance at the repetition of the same sound hits home. "Anyone who has worked in a Christmas store over the holidays will know what I'm talking about," Williamson says. When asked why holiday music seems to have a polarizing effect, driving some people crazy while others like, or at least, can tolerate it, Williamson suggests that music's effect on us in any situation depends on our own psychological state.

There are other problems with Christmas music. So much of it is so sticky, icky sweet. It's one thing to hear a cheerful tune, it's another to be overwhelmed by the cloying saccharine tsunami of the carols. . All those sleighbells and rosy cheeked singers and ho ho hos! What kind of drugs are these people on?

Put it this way. If somebody put a cupcake in front of me, I'd happily eat the sweet treat. Put a one pound bag of Dominos sugar in front of me, demanding that I eat it, and I will rebel, big time.

It's the same with Christmas music. A little happiness goes a long way. Too much and I scream.

The overly cheerful holiday music also seems to demand that you be happy. I'm basically a happy person, but one effective way to make me deeply unhappy is to command that I be cheeful. Who are these insufferable Christmas carolers to tell me how I should feel?   I'll manage my brain and emotion, thanks. You just manage your own, please.
Icky, sticky sweet Christmas carols don't
make my heart grow three times over
like they ultimately did for this
formerly negative guy

This isn't to say all Christmas music is bad. Some is tolerable, even mildy enjoyable. A sense of humor goes a long way in holiday music, but it has to be actually funny. Could anyone please explain to me the appeal of "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer?"  An old woman who forgets to take her medication and is brutally mowed down by an animal is funny? And how does that relate to the holiday, other than the situation supposedly hit on Christmas Eve?

Why not put a little edge into some Christmas songs. No need to make them depressing. Just complex. Take Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home.")  It has a variety of emotions, Love belts the song out without hiding behind false cheer and insufferable Santas.

Then there's Eartha Kitt's "Santa Baby," that cheeky, breathless, sexy tribute to over the top Christmas commercialism. The song is a treat.

The music from Dr. Suess's the Grinch is great, too. The lyrics are so goofy you can't help smiling. Who can resist this lyrical description of the Grinch?

"You have termites in your smile
You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile"

The bottom line, though, is most Christmas music is toxicly cloying.   If I for some reason need a dose of seasonal noise, I'm perfectly capable of seeking it out myself, thanks. Otherwise, leave me out of it.

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