It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I've posted so many Christmas-related rants on this site, some readers may be lead to be believe that I am staunchly anti-Christmas. This is simply not the case. I am simply addressing a variety of Christmas-related issues brought forth by the ignorant masses in our society. Back to the soapbox:

So I'm in a restaurant on Black Friday, expecting to enjoy a nice hearty Italian meal, and much to my chagrin, the piped-in background music has been switched over to the “All-Holiday-Songs-All-The-Time” station.

I've accepted the fact that people are not only installing their Christmas lights, put powering them on as soon as Daylight Savings time ends. I've made reconciliation with stores who smear the airwaves with their holiday advertisements as soon as the clock strikes twelve on All Hallow's Eve. I have made peace with the retail stores that open early the week before Thanksgiving. I'm okay with them opening at 5am on Black Friday, simply because I have the free will of not waiting in line, and further, not shopping at any of those stores throughout the entirety of the holiday season. (God bless thee, merry internet, let nothing you dismay.)

But I'm still digesting turkey from yesterday. I don't need an Italian restaurant trying to guilt me into to going shopping, just because I haven't purchased a single thing to give to somebody a month from now. I came there for a steaming heap of pasta, not 24/7 holiday music.

I propose a reform movement for the playing of holiday music in public, but before I do so, let's look at holiday music as a whole.

There is a crapload of it.

It seems that artists signed to major labels since the mid 1940s have been contractually obligated to a holiday album. The longer the artist has been around recording albums, the more holiday albums they have released.

Most of the songs on these albums are the traditional Christmas songs we know and love. But that becomes a problem, for a variety of reasons.

First, there's not an infinite number of ways a person can sing The Christmas Song or Rockin' Around the Christmas tree. There's maybe two apiece. Yet there are hundreds of artist's renditions of each of these songs, all in equal rotation with the rest of the library.

Second, many times an artist, usually because of time constraints, or simply because they're recording the album in August and simply aren't in the Christmas spirit, will record a bad version of one of our favorites. When it's 97° outside, it's tough to convincingly sing about Frost the Snowman's magical button nose.

Finally, there's only so much you can do with the background orchestration of these favorites. If it doesn't have that swelling string section, or the beautifully played piano solo in it, disappointment results.

Then you have the artists who get creative, deciding that they can introduce a new holiday classic that will be revered for generations to come. Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson, to name an absurdly small portion of the guilty parties, have done exactly that.

How full of themselves are these artists? Do they realise they're competing with the collective library of holiday music for airplay? Apparently they do, and are counting on radio program managers' laziness on a nationwide scale.

But it's not the artist, or even the labels that should accept the blame here. They're just recording music. Nobody's forcing anyone else to listen to it. The real offense comes from the program managers at those radio stations who incorporate the All-Holiday-Music-All-The-Time format.

Once they pull the trigger on the format, all they do is sit back and watch the money roll in. There's clearly no energy or actual effort exerted in programming for the holiday season:

  1. Acquire every holiday album ever recorded.
  2. Put every single track in the playlist.
  3. Hit "Random"
  4. Press Play.
  5. Go home and drink eggnog until New Year's.

What results is a mixed cocktail that looks something like this

Mannheim Steamroller: 30%, The Christmas Song: 28%, Poorly Rendered Classics: 25%, Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer: 10%, Awful Originals: 5%, Decent Classic Recordings: 2%

Most of the stations that participate in this holiday format are generally of the soft-rock or top-40 genre, and usually have about an hour's worth of music in rotation in any given month, so switching to such a huge pool of music to play is a wild idea for them. And the poor souls whose dials have been stuck on these stations for the past eleven years are boggled with all the variety they're suddenly being exposed to: country, big-band, Frank Sinatra.

So they call in and tell the program manager how much they love all the holiday music. The program manager asks the single person who called in praising the format if they can use her phone call for on-air promos. She of course says yes, and now, between every song, you've got a clip of her saying, “I love it!”

Classy.

But shouldn't we be given some sort of warm-up period into the holiday music blitzkrieg? I mean, we're in a restaurant one day, and it's all normal, year-round music. You go in the very next day, and there's no Marc Anthony to be heard (not that that's a bad thing). Does this mean that, simply because Thanksgiving has transpired, people no longer want to hear any music that was hitting the top 10 countdown until after Christmas?

I'm not saying I agree with what radio stations or piped-in music providers do year-round, but I would like to propose a phasing-in of the holiday music time of year, as opposed to hitting all of society with a brick wall of seasonal cheer.

  1. Use a graduating ratio of holiday songs to non-holiday songs.
  2. I'll allow the first ratio to be implemented the week of Thanksgiving, not to exceed 5%.
  3. On the day after Thanksgiving, that ratio may increase to 20%.
  4. The ratio may increase gradually from the 1st to the 10th of December from 25% to 85%.
  5. The ratio is never allowed to exceed 85%.

I think these are fair rules, and I'm allowing you to keep every holiday song ever recorded, not worrying about rotation as a concession.

But if this situation doesn't improve, I'll be forced to remove all the other sub-par holiday recordings from anyone who plays it on-air, including Johnny Mathis' Christmas Favorites, Vol. III.

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