James Hendicott: Christmas music is rubbish – but December needs it

by James Hendicott

There’s a certain routine to music as part of the modern-day commercial Christmas, one that hasn’t entirely been broken on this weirdest of years.

It begins with shops insisting the season has arrived by blasting lounge music versions on Jingle Bells about five minutes after Halloween.

By early December, it’s time to debate whether The Pogues ‘Fairytale of New York’ – one of few Christmas songs that would stand up at other times of year – should be played in the modern context of ‘that line’.

By the time it’s actually, really Christmas – which, for the record, properly falls somewhere between the beginning of the last working week, and the date a lax dad does his Christmas shopping – we’ve all been saturated with tunes so saccharine and awful you may as well just give into them in the same way the seasonal infusion of Quality Street might as well be pumped straight into the veins.

And yes, those of us who love our music year round tend to think ‘Driving Home For Christmas’ is ludicrously overplayed and trite, ‘Last Christmas’ should have had it’s last Christmas, and that song about Africans knowing whether it’s Christmas or not is, to say the least, a little bit culturally patronising, even if it is well-intentioned.

But then you have to ask, would it really be Christmas without it? Would stomping around Grafton Street trying to grab that last thing be the same without overblown sparkles and ear sugar?

The answer lies in the alternative: Christmas parties and atmosphere needs music, and can you really imagine these events propelled entirely by drab indie tunes, hip-hop, or the latest pop bangers? Infiltrating the playlist? Sure. Taking over? It would be the same as any other time of year. We need our Christmas melodies.

I’ll be honest, I straight up think Christmas music is rubbish. Played in late October, in particular, I genuinely hate it. I still think, come mid-December, we can all let go of hipster ideals and our sense of taste for a couple of weeks and embrace the childish nostalgia.

I might even check what’s number one. It wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

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