Art and life co-habitate, informing, imitating, and enriching each other constantly. Each week in Better Living Through Music, RFT Music writer Ryan Wasoba explores this symbiotic relationship.
I don't hate hearing Christmas music as much as I hate hearing people complain about Christmas music. "It isn't even Thanksgiving/Halloween/Veteran's Day and they're already playing Christmas music at Kohls/Walgreens/Vintage Vinyl! The horror!"
I am not defending the music of the Yuletide season, nor am I forgiving those who will abuse and overplay these songs in the coming month. But I personally don't see Christmas music as inherently offensive, or at least any worse than bad pop music heard the other eleven months out of the year. Thus, I wonder: why do people hate Christmas music so?
If you expected an answer other than "it's complicated," sorry. The best theory I can muster involves the relatively small number of universally recognized Christmas songs, a catalog of around forty entries. This is low, but not prohibitively low. Great artists have worked with less and produced amazing results, but few push themselves when it comes to Christmas music. If the sound of carols make you cringe, 'tis not the songs, but the artists who are to blame.
The Christmas music situation is similar to the concept of jazz standards, those handfuls of tunes that every jazz musician knows and can pull off at any moment. Frequently a jazz musician will complain about a standard like "Autumn Leaves," and I understand why. If I had a dollar for every mediocre version of "Autumn Leaves" I've witnessed, I wouldn't be rich but I could buy a really nice delay pedal. But these standards are templates for expansion, and any grudge against a tune disappears when somebody plays a killer version.