Have Yourself an Easy-Listening Christmas

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Once again this year, Taylor Swift’s new Christmas song notwithstanding, America’s most popular Christmas music is old stuff. Mariah Carey’s 1994 “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is near the top of the Hot 100 again, and so is Brenda Lee’s 1960 “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” New stars like Pentatonix and Straight No Chaser will take up some playlist spots at radio stations, but it will be with songs that are in some cases generations old.

(Digression: can we for cryin’ out loud stop considering the Pentatonix version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” to be a Christmas song?)

America’s obsession with Christmas music we’ve heard before is cause for lamentation every year, although I suspect that the loudest lamentators (is that a word?) are people who listen to Christmas music hardly at all anyway. Nevertheless, they worry about the rut we’re stuck in, how the worst of the holiday perennials reveals the average American as a irredeemable philistine, and so on—even as the average American continues to give not one single damn about their opinions.

I have a theory about why we keep going back to the well with these old songs. It’s one of the topics of my latest podcast episode, “Have Yourself an Easy-Listening Christmas.” You’ll also hear what some easy-listening fans might have considered “weird long-hair music,” and you can win absolutely nothing by guessing the title of a holiday song. You can hear the episode right here.

In addition to Soundcloud, my podcast is also available at Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayTuneIn and Stitcher. Please enjoy it wherever you find it.

8 thoughts on “Have Yourself an Easy-Listening Christmas

  1. TimMoore

    I go back to the well because it comforts me..reminds me of past times which were simpler and in a lot of cases,more enjoyable..some of my favorite and best Christmas memories envolve my parents and the old stuff was theirs…and has become mine..and my families..Merry Christmas everyone!

    1. mikehagerty

      Exactly. There is no holiday more steeped in nostalgia than Christmas. And because the canon of Christmas carols and secular seasonal songs is fairly small, all of us know the same stuff.

      And that’s not such a bad thing, maybe. Let’s face it, certain artists are only known today because, of all the things they recorded, their Christmas songs caught on. Jose Feliciano, The Carpenters, Brenda Lee, Andy Williams, Burl Ives, Bing Crosby—and very nearly Nat King Cole—only get play off their Christmas sides.

      Actually, it’s probably true of Nat, too—but I don’t want to deal with that reality, yet.

  2. Gary Omaha

    Thanks for including…oh, wait, you asked listeners to guess the name, so I won’t put a spoiler here. Anyway, (artist redacted) is one of my favorite Easy Listening artists for when I’m in THAT mood.

  3. Joni Mitchell is actually angry that “River” has become a Chritmas favorite. Even though it mentions Christmas early in the song she said it is not a Chrstmas song. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” & “River” only became holiday tunes when political correctness forbade radio from playing carols and artists stopped recording them for the same reason.

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