By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.
On Thanksgiving morning, my wife, two girls and I headed out on a five hour car trip to Michigan. Grandmas and Grandpas live up there, so our family makes this trip a good 10 times a year. We are all pretty used to it; or, I might say, we are all pretty sick of it. Five hours with 2 children under 7 years of age in a car can seem like an eternity. Keeping them occupied, and away from any sharp objects they could use to stab each other, is the name of the game.
This year, for most of the trip, we continually scanned radio stations, looking for the channels that play nothing but Christmas music during the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas day. We figured this would keep our girls happy. Happy girls means happy parents.
However, after five hours of listening, we had had enough. The family discovered that there is a limited number of recognizable, pop-radio friendly Christmas tunes. Though there seems to be endless iterations of these songs, there are only so many different versions of ‘Winter Wonderland’ (reggae, synth pop, smooth jazz) you can listen to before you are ready to jump out a moving car on I-94.
After hearing the same twenty or so songs over and over, I realized that Christmas music falls into a limited number of thematic categories. These are:
- Your classic, extremely Christian Christmas carols that have been within the catalog for a couple centuries. This would include ‘Silent Night’, ‘The First Noel’, ‘O’Holy Night’, ‘We Three Kings’, ‘Joy to The World’, etc. Generally, I love these songs….as long as Josh Groban or Carrie Underwood don’t get their mitts on them. If so, I shudder.
- You also have your Santa Claus songs. Usually not very religious, but obviously written specifically for one day of the year. Most of these are from the twentieth century, and can be performed by artists from almost any genre. Think ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’, ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’, ‘Rudolph,’ etc.
- Don’t forget the hybrid of the previous two. Christmas songs more serious than the Santa songs, but not as revered or religious as the classic ballads/choir pieces. You could put ‘Silver Bells’, ‘A Christmas Song’, ‘White Christmas’ under this heading.
- Lastly, you have the songs that are associated with Christmas, but are more about the season than the holiday. Songs such as ‘Sleigh Ride’, ‘Winter Wonderland’, ‘Let It Snow!’
But, wait! There is one more genre of Christmas music; the weirdest kind. You might call this ‘adult’ Christmas music, as it usually deals with love and romance. Some are sad, such as ‘Blue Christmas’, and some are just pop songs, such as ‘Christmastime is the Time to Say I Love You’. Most are pretty innocuous. But then….
We come to the sexualized Christmas song. That’s right, sexualized. A small number of regular rotation Christmas tunes are filled with adult situations, and double entendres. Look at ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’. Here is a song about a guy trying to talk a woman into staying the night at his house. Why is this song a holiday classic? I mean, the dude tries to spike her drink, for goodness sake! Maybe it is my 21st century jadedness, but all I can think of is ‘ruffies’ when I hear that lyric.
But, the most inappropriate Christmas song has to be ‘Santa Baby’. The language, the singing style, the message, the music; double entredre on top of double entredre, with ‘strip tease’ beats. It is so out of place to hear this tune squeezed between “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. If you think I am overstating things, or reading too much into an innocent song, have a listen to Eartha Kitt’s classic version.
Remember, this song was recorded in 1953. 1953! In 1950′s America, this song must have been inappropriate, comparable in the 1990′s to a ’2 Live Crew’ recording of ‘Frosty the Snowman’.
Okay, with that mental, and aural image in your head, I will just stop.