I stood there waiting for my Tall Peppermint Mocha Latte in shock. Half of me begging to reach out and get the answers right then and there, and the other half– my sanity– pleading for me to forget it; take my Christmas-in-a-cup and go. I was already on a holiday overload as it was, I didn’t need to add to it. But I was just so damn curious!
Fine. I caved. I reached for the A Very Special Christmas– 25 Years cd and flipped it over. Who were the big names singing to me this year? Christina Aguilera’s got “O Holy Night,” while Michael Buble will serenade me in “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” Okay, those were givens. But Jewel, Cheap Trick, and Rascal Flatts all on one CD? How did that happen? And oh my God, did they seriously put Dave Matthews Band on here? And why is Jason Mraz– the king of sunshine– singing “Winter Wonderland”?
As I cringed my way through the list, I knew this was another holiday hit I would not be purchasing. But it got me thinking, what would make me buy a holiday CD? What names would make anyone want a non-traditional holiday album? Who were the ideal people to hear singing “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” over the loud-speakers in every store at the mall?
I decided to ask around, and as a result, I compilied a list of songs that wouldn’t be any better if they were combined on their own holiday mix. Everyone had their favorite artist or genre of music they wanted to hear, and not many of the choices had much in common, besides the holiday joy from their hypothetical performances.
The dubstep-addict thought a Skrillex remix of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Wizards in Winter” would be ideal, while the R&B/hip-hop buff ecstatically claimed The Roots doing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” would be “awesome. Oh my God, yes, that would be so awesome.” And of course the obsessive fan girl believed that anything by her latest craze would be the best thing of all time. In this case, it was a fan of MGMT hoping to hear their version of “Last Christmas” because that’s the Christmas song she likes the most.
There didn’t seem to be that much thought when it came to the selection or the artist beyond that. Most people wanted to hear songs that were already made, like “Last Christmas” by Wham! and “This Christmas” by Chris Brown. And when someone wanted to hear Taylor Swift singing “I don’t know, maybe any of the songs on her Holiday Collection,” which she’d released in 2007, I didn’t think it would get more interesting.
But it did.
Who knew Lady Gaga released a holiday jingle in 2008 titled “Christmas Tree”? My confused expression after receiving that as a response led to an explanation. “Okay, it’s kind of bad,” Mary Jaeger confessed as she whipped out her phone to find the Gaga song on Youtube. “But, it’s catchy.” It left me somewhat speechless and ready to give up on Christmas music forever, so I fumbled to ask how she liked it. Her reply was a laugh, “I really don’t know. It’s just one of those ridiculous things that I just enjoy. And I laugh whenever I hear it.”
In a way, that is what holiday music is supposed to be about. It’s not necessarily about being the best song, the greatest lyrics, or the most put-together rendition, but what the tune does for people’s spirits when they listen to it. And when you’re with your friends or family, sometimes the joy found in this music has a way of bringing you a little bit closer. That’s why people buy these non-traditional albums full of their favorite artists’ spinning classics. Or, at least, people who enjoy that kind of thing buy them.
And when I asked Michelle Hahn what she would love to hear on a Christmas or holiday album, she happened to be one of those people.
“It’s funny that you ask that because last night I was actually in the car with my dad and we were listening to Christmas music the whole time,” she began. The songs ranged from “Santa Baby” to “It’s the Holiday Season.” And when I asked why they didn’t change the station or listen to Today’s Top 40, she simply shrugged, “I don’t know. I guess it was just a way of bonding.”
So after much thought, and a listing of at least twenty different Christmas songs, she decided. “I listened to ‘I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas’ a lot when I was younger. Oh, and if Johnny Cash would have done a rendition of that? It would have been like, the definition of my childhood wrapped up in a Christmas song. I used to listen to Johnny Cash with my dad a lot too. So yeah, that: a Johnny Cash version of ‘I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas’.”
In the end, I gathered the most eclectic mix of Christmas songs for an album by far. But maybe it’d be the one I’d buy simply because it’s a mix of songs picked by people I know. It holds that memory to it, and that alone could bring some more joy to my holiday spirit. Although, it’s not like I need anymore of that, so maybe I should just stick to my Starbucks peppermint drinks.