Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Though gingerbread houses, buying gifts, decorating the tree, and hot chocolate are all trademarks of the holiday season, arguably the most prominent and defining part of the season is the music.
While people debate whether or not it’s acceptable to start listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving, there’s no doubt the holiday season is defined by the music. Many use the music to build excitement about the holiday.
One issue apparent in the Christmas music genre is the fact that writing a great, memorable, and timeless Christmas song is very difficult.
The sentiment that a Christmas song is difficult to write is further solidified by the fact that many artists release covers of already great songs rather than creating a new song. Most of the time, releasing a new, original holiday song results in it being quickly forgotten or disregarded.
Out of the new Christmas songs released in the 21st century, the only ones that can even compare to the classics are Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me” and possibly Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe.” Even with their popularity, they pale in comparison to the timelessness of the classics. But why is that?
For a song to be considered a classic, it needs to be able to stand the test of time. While most come from the 1940s and ‘50s, like “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “White Christmas,” songs like “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and “Last Christmas” were more recently deemed classics.
These songs were able to create a timeless sound because they did not rely on pop-heavy sounds. The music and lyrics do not date these songs because they avoid mentioning things that would date them — such as technology or current events. They focus solely on Christmas and the season.
Generational gaps also play a role in the popularity of a song. Many older people are not fans of a more modern sound. Though that may not affect listening within households, radio hosts and event organizers are more likely to choose classical sounds. They seem to be less open to experimental or alternative songs.
The few newer songs that have been able to become classics emulate the sounds of old ones. They feature jingle bells and have a dream-like quality to them.
Few artists may be able to overcome the hurdles required to create a new, memorable Christmas song. But when they do, they are able to be enjoyed by all for many generations to come.