The Good and the Bad of Christmas Music

As Andy Williams famously sang in the 1960s, Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year”. Alongside heaps of turkey and gallons of wine, the festive period also comes packaged with an entire canon of songs from across the years.

From the classic tones of Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ to the modern rock of ‘Don’t Let The Bells End’ by The Darkness, there’s something in the holiday mix for everyone to enjoy. There’s a tonne of stuff to listen to over Christmas, but that doesn’t mean all of the melodies lurking under the tree are quality.

The first problem with Christmas music is its total omnipresence. From the middle of November until the middle of January, the same revolving door of about a dozen songs rings out from every shopping centre, pub and car radio in the country. It’s endearing for the first couple of days – even weeks – but it’s never long until fatigue sets in and every note of ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’ makes you want to tear your hair out.

This is a bizarre phenomenon that only holds true for festive music. The standard mix of holiday tunes hasn’t changed for many years, leaving the same stagnating pool of Christmas hits to play on a constant rotation every December. Noddy Holder’s trademark shriek may be fun on the first few occasions, but it’s like nails on a blackboard when you’re racing around town on Christmas Eve looking for a DVD of the new Brad Pitt film.

That said, there’s a real joy to Christmas music that has been somewhat lost in recent years. The aforementioned 2003 hit by The Darkness is perhaps the most recent entry that has stuck around in the definitive mix of Christmas tracks. In fact, the only new songs released at Christmas tend to be solidly non-festive or cover versions of the same old seasonal classics.

There are plenty of acts in the charts today who could produce a fun Christmas single to run alongside some of the stale songs that pump through speakers every year. However, the race to secure the number one spot in the charts for Christmas Day has rapidly become a bland competition, in which it’s either an X Factor winner or a charity single that reaches the top.

With this climate in place, it’s easy to see why the big hitters of the charts don’t feel the need to attack the number one spot. The likes of Rihanna, Katy Perry and co. could make their mark on the festive season with an indelible, catchy hit, but they elect not to, and British artists may find their tracks forgotten in favour of the latest generic mush from the Simon Cowell processing machine.

The Christmas season is crying out for an artist to take the risk and produce a song that can dislodge the stale classics that, whilst entertaining, have been overplayed more than ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ and ‘Chasing Cars’ put together.

But until that happens, it’s just going to be Slade, Wizzard and Mariah Carey all over again.

© 2014 Tom Beasley

Tom Beasley from Coventry is studying Multimedia Journalism at Bournemouth University, and each edition he offers his perspective on the world around us.  Email: tomjbeasley@gmail.com  Twitter: @TomJBeasley