Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thoughts While Listening to the Christmas Music Station in the Car

- Who doesn't like Karen Carpenter's voice? Such a sweet, natural, pleasing tone. And we only hear it in December.

- "Mr. Grinch" = linguistic brilliance that could only have been written by Dr. Suess. And brilliantly performed.

- I know I should be okay with artists doing the traditional songs and giving them their own personal flare -- I mean, some of these interpretations are great, and they become the new classics.  But some are really awful. And most are hopelessly forgettable. I most get annoyed when they do a classic ("Let It Snow", anyone?) and don't make it their own -- when their version is orchestrated and paced and everything just like everyone else's.  They apparently think that their fabulous voice and their minor melody changes here and there make it better than what's been done before and worth the audience's time to listen to. Yeesh.

- And speaking of . . . I don't ever quite get over the sound of Hall & Oates singing "Sleigh Bells". It's just . . . odd to me.

- Now, there are a few artists that get it right. James Taylor on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."  Whitney Houston on "Do You Hear What I Hear." (Oh, Whitney . . . seriously, the lady had pipes.)

- I know how many people love "Christmastime is Here", the Charlie Brown song. I don't. The vocals make me cringe. Call me Grinch. Your heart's a dead tomato squashed with moldy purple spots . . .

- My favorite this year (and for a few years now): "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  This is the one Christmas song right now that completely transports me, that I get totally lost in. I'm air-guitarring, air-pianoing, pounding out the drums on the steering wheel . . . I'm downright dangerous. I asked for the CD for Christmas so I can enjoy it in the safety of my own living room at home.

- Fascinating the many, many different styles of music we listen to during the holiday season that we would never deign to listen to in, say, July.

- I'm noticing something interesting this year: I find myself rather bored by the traditional mid-20th century crooners and their classics (Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, Bing -- you know, with the cheesy sounding choir in the background). But when Harry Connick Jr. does the same song in the same style, I'm enthralled. And I usually don't even know I'm listening to Harry Connick Jr. until the song's over. If I had the musical knowledge, I'd try to analyze exactly what it is he does differently that appeals to me. Gotta love Harry.

- I have yet to hear "O Holy Night" anywhere this year. I love that song.

- One of these years, I'm going to have to pick what I think are the definitive versions of each Christmas song and make my own personal Christmas CD. And to my surprise, I think one of those definitive versions would be Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You". The first time I think I heard that song was many years ago, during a morning newscast when they were showing her live giving a concert to troops overseas. She was singing with passion and gusto and blowing it away, and I was just flat out impressed.

- And for the umpteenth year in a row, I find my favorite Christmas hymn is "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing". The whole song. All the unfamiliar verses, too. Glorious in sound and glorious in sense. Just glorious.

Except when some uber-hip modern poser who has no sense at all of the meaning of the words just butchers it trying to "make it their own". Step away from the microphone, buddy.

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