Holiday music made right: The best and the worst  

Joey Abate ‘23, Photo Editor

As the years go by, the genre of Christmas music continues to broaden its scope. From the soft jazz of Nat King Cole, to the pop sound of Paul McCartney, all the way to the hair metal of Twisted Sister Christmas music has continuously had an undefined mold. As long as there are sleigh bells somewhere in the song, it has the ability to instantly become a holiday hit. However, not all songs made for the holidays are successful, begging the question: why do some Christmas songs bop, while others flop?

Released in 1953, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas (Hippo the Hero)” by Gayla Peevey has objectively been described as one of the worst Christmas songs to ever be made. Peevey’s flat singing only brings the tonal mood down and makes the two-minute and 35 second track drag on painfully. Senior and long-time music consumer, Akira Elliott said, “I hate it. The vocals. I hate it, her voice makes my brain angry…in the most primal way possible.” Elliot added “The instruments are very hippo-esque, not enough jingle bells for a holiday song, let alone a Christmas song.”

 Additionally, part of the reason songs are so special, has to do with their relatable factor to all of them. Songs about Christmas, they all speak of dreams of a snowy Christmas, or finding the love of your life—and has any child in their right mind truly asked for a hippopotamus for Christmas? The holidays are not a time for telling tall tales.

In 1984, the 80s pop band Wham! saved us by producing the holiday hit, “Last Christmas.” Following its release, the song was able to reach second place on the UK singles chart for five consecutive weeks, only being beaten by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Wham! took what we knew as a Christmas song and brought it to the next level. Elliott said “[As the music starts] it doesn’t waste your time; it just gives you Christmas spirit in the most wholesome and best way.” The track’s synthesizer uses a balance between flanger and chorus effects in order to give it that iconic sound—a sound that has never been used before in any Christmas song. Along with that, a proper amount of sleigh bells playing quietly in the background, pick up appropriately in the first chorus breakdown. Paired with George Michaels’ heartbreaking lyrics and vocal performance, it perfectly captures the emotions of a heartbreak, and hits close to home for all of the hopeless romantics this holiday season.

On a more traditional note, the phrase, Mariah Carey has been defrosted is actually the modern way of saying It is that time of year again, and we can tell because she has been filling the cold winter air with “All I Want for Christmas is You.” As of Nov. 30, Carey has garnered more than 1.2 billion plays on Spotify and more than 11.4 million Tik Tok videos using her song. 

There is no debating that what she has done with the song is incredible. Starting the track with her belting, dramatic, and sometimes soft vocals, the singer then instantly diverts listener expectation by picking it up with the iconic piano progression—so simple yet so iconic. Her love-filled lyrics, paired up with the fantastic backup choir, has pierced the hearts and made tears form in the eyes of many as they listen to her sing about everyone’s true wishes this holiday season. Breaking holiday stereotypes, Carey informs us that she will not be hanging her stocking “there upon the fireplace,” neglecting any happiness from Santa’s material possessions, and will not be participating in sending Santa a letter… because all she wants for Christmas is you. Even with these classic holiday traditions being boycotted by Carey, at the end of the day, the icing on the cake to this perfect song—there are just enough jingle bells!

No matter your location, you are bound to hear Christmas music the closer it gets to the holidays. While some songs may be ear-wrenching, others will set you in the right mood for the jolly season. Just as long as the jingle bells stay at a minimum. 

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