Here's the Scoop: January 1, 2014

Post-holiday non-music to my ears
Well, it’s been nearly a week since I’ve heard any holiday music. The silence is music to my ears.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good seasonal song, but I do have a few qualifications that must be met. Please notice that I included the word “good” in the last sentence. That eliminates a lot of holiday “classics.”
Sure, there are some seasonal tunes that are truly “timeless.” However, no matter how great a song may start out, it can easily be ruined in the wrong hands, or vocal chords.
I guess the thing that strikes me each year is how many singers/bands feel an obligation (or an urge for a paycheck) that makes them think it’s their duty to record a Christmas song. Or, worse yet, an entire Christmas album. Such notions usually fall under the category of Bad Ideas.

Get in the mix
We own a handful of Christmas albums, but nearly all of them contain just one song by different artists. Mostly, though, we try to find Pandora stations offering various holiday music mixes. This often results in some bizarre listening “pleasure.” If you’re familiar with Pandora, you know that the “thumbs down” function becomes a high priority in such cases.
For instance, anyone familiar with holiday songs has almost certainly heard “Last Christmas.” I wasn’t aware of this song until a few years ago, even though my research shows it’s been around for about two decades. My recent listening experience tells me that nearly everyone who has signed a music contract has recorded a version of this tune. In the three weeks leading up to Christmas, we heard this song 128 times. Plus, I’m sure it played many more times when we were outside decorating.

All the right ingredients
The song is undeniably catchy and must be easy to sing. Plus, it really only uses “Christmas” as a reference to gift-giving (in this case a “heart”) and has no religious overtones. For those reasons, many, many musicians have decided to record their own version of this song. Truthfully, these “different” renditions sound pretty much the same to me and can mostly be distinguished by checking the Pandora playlist.
I get why a lot of music types shy away from traditional tunes like “Silent Night.” First of all, that one requires good singing skills — the performer can’t really hide behind a thumping bass line or crashing drums. Plus, well, “Silent Night” doesn’t get a lot of play at rocking Christmas parties and this makes it difficult to rack up artist royalties.
It’s interesting to see which direction musicians go when they venture into holiday tune territory. Bruce Springsteen rocking out to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is a perfect fit. On the other hand, Justin Bieber’s “Under The Mistletoe” isn’t exactly one that I’ve listened to yet. Nor will I. Ever.
Not shockingly, a quick search turns up evidence that Justin himself has recorded his own special “Last Christmas” version. It’ll be a perfect holiday season for me if I never hear his version.
— Brian Sweeney