It's that time of year again. The time when the stores rev up the admittedly too-early and too-oft-repeated Christmas music. And the time of year when bloggers and Facebook status writers, eager to demonstrate their trad-ent or Catholic or Protestant-Scrooge creds, start complaining about Christmas music. This cartoon has been doing the rounds and allowing everyone to feel superior.
However, I was struck when going to the grocery store on the Friday after Thanksgiving by a strange feeling of relief as the strains of "White Christmas" wafted over the sound system. Why the relief? It took me a couple of moments to figure it out. Then I remembered the previous week when I stopped at the store of an evening and heard a song so graphic, so sexually explicit that I could not believe it, until one line had been repeated so many times that I couldn't deny what I was hearing. Admittedly, that was one of the worst to have been piped into my unwilling ears while I'm contemplating the cabbage, but for the most part, the music even on the "oldies" stations, even at our nice little local grocery store, is sufficiently junk-laden that I'm usually glad not to have children along on the trip and come home wishing there were such a thing as mouthwash for the brain. (The music makes a nice complement to the copies of Cosmo in the checkout lane.) Even when the lyrics aren't explicit, they include an almost never-ending stream of glorification of fornication, including such charming ditties as "Come On Over Tonight." (I can't help smiling wryly at the line in that one, "If it don't feel right, you can go." That's nice. "Look, Ma, no date rape!") In the evenings, whoever gets to choose the music often chooses hip-hop, so we get to listen to animalistic noises. During the day, a drawback of the so-called "oldies" station is that you can hear every word.
So, I have some questions for all the people who are posting or getting ready to post their yearly gripe about Christmas music in the stores: Why are you complaining about the one month out of the year when your local store plays "White Christmas" when you never uttered a peep about the eleven months out of the year when your local store was playing "Do That To Me One More Time" and "Undercover Angel"? Did all the real trash you've been hearing at other times go in one ear and out the other? Or do you actually prefer soft pornography to Christmas schmaltz?
Sure, there are suggestive Christmas songs as well, or so I'm told. (So far, I've been spared listening to them.) But let's face it: That isn't primarily what gets the complaints, and when it does, it's part of a larger diatribe about too much Christmas music, too contentless, too early, shouldn't be played during Advent, etc. For the most part, the "holiday season" is in musical terms quite an improvement both in the wholesomeness of the lyrics and, believe it or not, in the niceness of the music. I caught myself twice this morning thinking, as an intro. started up, "That's really pretty." The fact that it was an instrumental lead-in to a Christmas song that I'll have to hear five hundred times over the next month didn't change the fact that it was a big improvement over the second-rate rock I usually have to listen to. (No, I'm not an anti-rock hater. Remember me, the person who put up a positive post about "Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog"?)
Please take as read all the concessions about the fact that Christmas music is played for too long, that it is more repetitious than at other times of year, to the point that it must be something near torture for the employees before all is done, that some of the songs ("Here Comes Santa Claus," etc.) are utterly trivial and lacking in artistic merit. I acknowledge all of that freely. However: If the stores followed the same pattern in terms of genre and Wholesomeness Quotient for the rest of the year, we'd be listening to Cole Porter and the Andrews Sisters most of the time, with an occasional daring foray into the Temptations--perhaps "My Girl." And that would be, I submit, a change for the better.
So we should count our blessings. We get to listen to Christmas music until December 25th.