/How working in retail gave me a new appreciation for Christmas music
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How working in retail gave me a new appreciation for Christmas music

It’s December once again and that means Christmas is coming up quick. There are two topics that always seem to arise: “Christmas time” seems to keep starting earlier, and the anticipation or dread of the approaching Christmas music.  

For most of the people I know, Christmas music is typically enjoyable or they’ve heard it too much and can’t stand it. 

I personally thought I had become the latter in recent years, as the general charm of the holiday has kind of faded for me, and so had my enjoyment of the music. I never listen to the actual radio in my car either — I only use Spotify to listen to music. Sometimes you can’t escape the genre around this time of year, and the one place I couldn’t escape it, was work. 

I work at a retail store in Pelham with an intercom/radio system installed and I hate it. Normally, throughout the year they either play mediocre songs that were popular four to five years ago or they’ll play a good song covered by someone you’ve never heard of. My spirits were crushed the first time someone other than Freddy Mercury started singing “Killer Queen” over those intercoms. 

Christmas is slightly different. Not a single Bing Crosby song to be found here. Those pop songs from half a decade ago are replaced with weird “Christmas” songs. The original songs are either incredibly bad or they sound like what a mid-2000s Disney Channel show thought rock music was, making them funny-bad. My least favorite is about wanting an alien for Christmas. 

The covers are bland too; They either sound like the originals but worse or take the songs in directions that don’t work. One version of “Twelve Days of Christmas” in particular has the singers off-pitch and conflicting with each other, making it really unpleasant. I will admit the weird jazzy “I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” was enjoyable the first time through, but the charm didn’t last the second time. 

And did I mention they were sneaking a Christmas song every 5 or so songs in early October? Not only did the songs suck, they were also way too early.  

Through my two Christmas seasons at the store, I thought I completely hated Christmas music. The repetition in the store and the association with the worst customers all year were locked in my brain, but for some reason one night I decided before my ride home to put on a Christmas classics playlist. To my surprise, I loved just about every song on there. 

It didn’t matter if they were songs I had never heard before like “The Man With The Bag” sung by Kay Starr or songs I’ve heard hundreds of times like “Joy to the World” with Nat King Cole. Then I decided I was going to compare the in store radio and the Spotify playlist the next morning, which wound up being me just listening to the playlist on wireless earbuds while stocking the shelves ignoring the intercom. When I was called by a manager for our group break, “Run Run Rudolph” was playing simultaneously on Spotify and the intercom. Chuck Berry singing in one ear and this unknown cover artist in the other, and Chuck Berry was definitely winning. 

It dawned on me listening to the two what was going on; the problem was that the newer songs being used in the store didn’t feel genuine. These older classic songs usually feature the singers over these orchestrated pieces or these bands and choirs they’re working with. Of course these new songs have an aspect of this too, but something about them just sounds in a way artificial. 

Maybe I’m just partial to the big band and singer combo all these songs in the store lack. I do have one good thing to say  about these store radio Christmas songs – they’ve given me a greater appreciation for the classics I love.  

Now, I’m not saying if you’ve gotten tired of Christmas music or just never got it that you need to subject yourself to working in a retail store playing bad music. Nor am I saying you have to like those classic Christmas songs those might be the ones you dislike. I would suggest taking a break from the songs you love and are growing tired of, or maybe if you want to speed the process up, try listening to some Christmas songs you think are bad.  

Wesley Hyde is the digital media manager for The Alabamian.