You have to admit it – popular cultural has a ‘canon’ of Christmas songs, in the same that any great type of art has a core of works that are universally revered. And while timeless literature boasts Dante and Shakespeare, we draw our seasonal tunes from the ones that were written in the 1800s through to the 1950s and 1960s. ‘Winter Wonderland’ was written in 1934, while ‘Jingle Bells’ dates back to 1857 – it’s actually thought that ‘Jingle Bells’ was written for a Children’s church choir, but historians dispute this because it would have been considered too ‘racy’ for something like that.
Now, though, these songs are anything but titivating. They can be downright dull at times, because they’re all we hear, year in and year out. The same songs have been playing for a month every year since the 1950s – that’s the equivalent of having the same set of tracks in the Top 40 for five and a half years (although I guess 2014’s ‘Rude’ and ‘Happy’ might have felt that way for some people).
I’m not denying they’re great tracks – they are, undeniably – but part of their staying power is that without fail, every year another artist will make a ‘Christmas album’ containing the same 20 songs covered unimaginatively and uninterestingly. There can be diamonds in the rough, since most people appreciate the brilliance of Bulbé. But most are decidedly average, full of generic covers that don’t add anything new to the tracks – the last few years alone have given us whole-y boring compilations from everyone from Idina Menzel to LeAnn Rimes, and from to Seth MacFarlane to Steps. Steps. It was their first album in 12 years.
Hugely talented musicians (and Seth MacFarlane, apparently) hide their talent under straight covers of the same old Christmas tunes that have been sung by 200 people before them. But unless your voice is stand out or you do something new, your efforts are going to fad into obscuring. I don’t know exactly know many people bought Christmas Perri’s A Very Merry Perri Christmas, but probably fewer than those who bought Bublé’s, or Johnny Cash’s.
I hope in years to come, more and more artists try and release new content, to bring fresh favourites to our festive season and make more modern classics. Hey, ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ only came out in our lifetimes.