Beware of bad Christmas music

Published: Thursday, Nov. 29 2012 7:25 p.m. MST

"Little Drummer Boy"

Fox Family

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People claim that radio stations always start playing Christmas music far too early, but I’m one of those weirdos who can’t get enough of it. I find that Christmas music is a welcome reminder of something larger than ourselves, something that makes the universe a far less barren place than it often seems to be during the rest of the year.

Of course, that only applies to good Christmas music.

Everyone has his or her holiday favorites, of course, and decent people can disagree about which yuletide tunes are praiseworthy. However, all of humankind is united in recognizing that Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” is dreck. Pure dreck. It may, in fact, be the dreck gold standard. I consider it the aural equivalent of being trapped overnight in the McDonalds’ Playplace ball pit.

I can’t decide, though, if it’s better or worse than listening to the various versions of Wham!’s irredeemably dippy “Last Christmas,” in which the singer laments that he gave his true love his heart during the previous year’s celebrations, only to learn that “the very next day,” that special someone “gave it away.”

All right, how does that work, exactly?

During my dating career, I was always under the impression that romantic interest was nontransferable. But according to George Michael, affections can apparently be regifted within 24 hours, perhaps to be sold at auction.

Yes, these songs are bad, but they’re also pretty innocuous.

I quite enjoy most Santa songs, even as I try to separate the sacred from the silly. Jolly tunes about things like neon reindeer noses provide welcome reminders of the Christmas magic of yesteryear, but songs like “Silent Night” and “Angels We Have Heard on High” embrace truths I now believe in far more deeply than I did as a child. That’s why I get a little squeamish when other ditties inject childish fantasies into stories about the birth of the Savior of the world.

Case in point: “The Little Drummer Boy.”

Forgive me if this sounds Grinchy, but I’m pretty sure the shepherds’ erstwhile percussionist wasn’t a historical figure. Nor do I think that the manger in Bethlehem was being guarded by an ox and a lamb who were capable of serving as metronomes. I’m probably in the minority in this, but I’ve always felt this song, while certainly well-intentioned, still cheapens a profound reality by eroding the line between fact and fiction.

Still, I’d rather listen to all of the above for hours on end before I’d voluntarily subject myself to a single rendition of “Christmas Shoes” ever again.

“Christmas Shoes” is the worst of the worst. It isn’t a song so much as a manipulative lump of saccharine that mistakes maudlin sentiment for spirituality. I find its story disturbing on a number of levels. I always want to ask, “If your mother is dying, kid, why aren’t you by her side, enjoying every last minute with her, rather than wasting your time buying a stupid pair of shoes?” See, that makes me think his mom’s fine, and the whole thing’s a scam. He’s probably done this at a number of stores, telling whatever sob story he needs, just so he can return the items and get the cash when the Christmas rush is over.

Kid, last Christmas, I gave you those shoes, but the very next day, you gave them away …

Wow, I may have something there.

Jim Bennett is a recovering actor, theater producer and politico, and he writes about pop culture and politics at his blog, stallioncornell.com.

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