Underrated: Christmas Music

December 16, 2008 | Comments (0) | by T.R.

No, I assure you, I am not being facetious. Christmas, let alone the music associated with it, truly gets a bum deal these days. Whether its your co-worker, your spouse, bloggers you've never met in your life, or the ever-so-incorrigible Christopher Hitchens, everyone these days seems to have nothing but contempt for Christmas. It's so fashionable to bemoan the holiday season. It's very hip to be like the frowning bastards that have no joy and warmth in their hearts.

I will admit that some of the Christmas complaints are legitimate. Many people despise the crowds when they go shopping. That's understandable at times. Do the stores put out their holiday items far too early? Certainly they do, but they have to capitalize on the grandmothers who finish their Christmas shopping by November 10. Some people, on the other hand, get entirely too hung up on the religious aspects of Christmas, going so far as to decry the imposition of Christianity on our daily lives. I'm not a religious man by any means, but I guess I'm better than others at setting the baby Jesus farm apart from the jolly fat man. Despite all these grievances, the tradition that often seems to invoke the most wrath is the music that tags along in December.

Personally, I'll agree with the old standard. Christmas is certainly the most wonderful time of the year for me. I love dusting off the classic Christmas movies. I love trying to outdo last year's gifts to my wife. I love filling out the sarcastic, nonsensical cards to my friends. I love it when the winter ales hit the liquor store. I love it when it gets cold outside (granted I live in Southern California now, so cold is a relative term). I love picking out a tree in the makeshift lot on the corner. And yes, damn it all, I love Christmas music.

I can think of few simpler and greater pleasures than sipping on a glass of scotch and listening to Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald reprise the classics. Dean Martin singing "Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!" puts me in the spirit regardless of the time of year. Eartha Kitt lusting through a rendition of "Santa Baby"? Yes, please! I'm not talking about the Trans-Siberian Orchestra or Mannheim Steamroller here. I'm looking at Bing and David. Classic shit. Religious sentiment? Who cares, its indisputably fantastic music!

But great Christmas music is not just limited to the oldies. Those might be the best versions of these songs, and they're terribly difficult to top, but check out this version of "Baby it's Cold Outside". The sultry female lead on that one is Zooey Deschanel from the Elf soundtrack, back when she was blonde, seemingly hotter, and had not yet perfected the vacant stare. I'll offer to keep her warm. And here's something I never thought I would admit: I like that Mariah Carey song from the '90s, heterosexuality be damned!

But you know what my favorite addition to the Christmas catalog is? The reasonably priced five disc set that Sufjan Stevens put out a few years ago. It's a great mix of chopped up old classics and new material. We've passed it on to a few friends and family, and they've grown to make his collection a staple in their Christmas as well.

The bottom line is that I will unabashedly disagree with the Christmas naysayers and fight the good fight for not only Christmas music, but the holiday itself. Life is too short to be a miser and pretend that Christmas is overrated. Unless of course you hate being given days off of work, and despise getting gifts and eating junk food. If that's the case, wait until you're in the throes of August. Then you'll be praying for the holidays. Long live Christmas and the music that defines it!