It’s the holiday season, which means that radio channels like KOST 103.5 are blasting holiday classics such as Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” Nat “King” Cole’s “Christmas Song” and The Pretenders’ “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” These classics are played consistently in a loop.
The holiday season calls for festivities, merrymaking and music. Yet as a nostalgic society, we tend to only turn to canonical holiday music at this time of year. And although these classics conjure warm memories, we rarely hear new holiday additions from today’s singers.
Take Justin Bieber’s 2010 Christmas album, Under the Mistletoe, as an example. Around half of the songs are covers of originals like “The Christmas Song,” and “All I Want for Christmas is You.” Only a few songs, like “Only Thing I Ever Get for Christmas,” are new, original songs. Likewise, more than half of the songs on Kelly Clarkson’s new holiday album Wrapped in Red are remakes. The breadth of commonly known Hanukkah songs is limited as well; only “Little Dreidel” seems to be part of popular culture.
Teenagers interviewed for this piece said they stick to holiday classics for sentimental reasons.
“The music is part of the collective event of celebrating a holiday,” stated Eileen Lee, a junior at Granada Hills Charter High School. “Listening to classic holiday music brings me back to my childhood, and it’s always a cozy feeling every time. Maybe that’s why we can’t seem to steer away from the classics.”
Some may also be afraid of abandoning old traditions because seek the warmth of childhood memories.
“Listening to new holiday music does not quite fulfill my overall image of the perfect holiday season. I feel almost incomplete without being surrounded by classics during this time of the year,” said Granada Hills junior Jasmin Kim.
Despite these sentiments, the limits of our exposure to new or underrepresented holiday carols should be addressed. In a progressive society, individuals should expand on traditions and create new memories. Though remakes like Mindy Gledhill’s take on “The Christmas Song” are quite innovative, the limited amount of new holiday music we hear on the radio limits our ability to form new feelings or emotions.
Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights” and Gledhill’s “Little Soldier” are great examples of new holiday-themed song that offer different emotions attached to the holidays. “Little Soldier” particularly explores the feeling of growing up within a season associated with warm childhood memories.
This does not mean that classics or covers of classics are devalued because of a lack of novelty. However, our holiday listening habits reflect the insistence of society to stick with the past and relive old traditions. We should stray from strictly adhering to traditions. The classic music craze should neither restrict musicians from creating new song nor audiences from exploring them.