Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pandora: Christmas Edition

After ten years working in a restaurant, I thought I was done with Christmas music forever. From Halloween to December 24th, all we listened to were inane versions of the same five Christmas songs sung over and over and over. "Jingle Bell Rock" doesn't have much charm to begin with, but try listening to it in Spanish, in country twang, in a soft rock revamp and in the original--ALL IN THE SAME HOUR. It's like having your brain sucked out through your ear.

And then. This year. I'd been a bit glum since the cloudier, cooler weather started (this is before I started shoveling in vitamin D like it was candy--10,000 IUI/day is apparently what it takes to make me happy). I got a bizarre hankering for some Christmas music, so I decided to see what Pandora had to offer.

My favorite version ever of any Christmas song ever is sung by--get this--The Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan:

It is utterly perfect in every way. And I don't even like Sarah McLachlan since all the rage about her a decade or so ago (her voice is lovely, but I'm so tired of it).

So this is the song I plugged in to get my Christmas station started. There have been many good songs and many good artists. But then there are the hordes of breathy, overwrought emotional Christmas hymns or rocked-out, overwrought Christmas hymns, and it makes me want to scream.

There are two kinds of classic music that I like.

1. The original version.
2. A fresh, new version that still stays true to the spirit of the original. Please don't tell me that "O Holy Night" needs an electric guitar or breathy arpeggios. Or that "Silent Night" needs to be wailed at the top of your lungs.

So what does Pandora give me?

Breathy, flowered-up or rocked-out versions of old Christmas classics. OVER AND OVER AGAIN, despite me hovering over the computer every chance I get, plugging in thumbs up and thumbs down for every song I have a strong reaction to.

Me: Oh, what a lovely version of "Oh Come Oh Come Immanuel." LIKE.

Pandora: SIIII-III-LENT NII-II-II-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-GHT [where each "I" represents a part of the amazing scale this singer can sing], HO-HO-HOHOHOHOHOLY NII-II-II-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-GHT...


Pandora: Personally, I really love this extremely twangy group of musicians who pronounce their Rs like they're trying their darndest to hold them in their mouth with their teeth until the Second Coming. You sure you don't want to give them another shot?

Me: NO.

Pandora: Okay, I'll throw you a bone. How's this for bizarre? Annie Lennox singing the most beautiful, haunting rendition of "Lullay Lullay" that you have ever heard. Enjoy crying into the soup you're cooking for your little tiny babies.

Me: *sniff* LIKE. A LOT. BUT IT'S SO SAD.

Pandora: Fine, how about something cheery like "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer"?

Me: Are you listening at ALL? HATE.

And so on.

If you can sift through the horrible stuff, Pandora does come up with real gems. If you like really strange ladies singing about terrible tragedy.

I dare you not to cry.


  1. I don't understand what Pandora is?

  2. Oh, sorry! It's a "radio" station on the Internet. You give it a song seed, it starts a radio station for you. It's actually a great little site, but it needs constant correction if you're picky about what plays on your station (I have one for Christmas music, one for housework--energetic, singable--, one for relaxing, etc).

  3. Ooh - that sounds like fun to play with!

  4. I had a guess as to what the song was about when you said it made you cry. The Nativity Story, when it has the Massacre of the Innocents, makes me cry. It's amazing how much more impact that part of the Christmas story has on me now that I have children.

    I love original Christmas carols/classical music that isn't fiddled with, myself. I can't stand half of the renditions of things like "The Star Spangled Banner" where it seems like every artist wants to put their own mark on it, so they make a mess of it. Nobody seems to sing it straight anymore.

  5. Hey thanks for that BNL tip *throws money at amazon*

  6. I sang that song (Lullay Lullay, or something like that) for last year's church Christmas dinner. So. Beautiful.

  7. Josh really likes Over the Rhine's Christmas music.

  8. Thank you; I love Over the Rhine, but had no idea they had any Christmas music.

  9. The BNL and Sarah Maclachlan is my favorite radio Christmas song: it made me buy the BNL Christmas album and I never buy albums. Thanks for the Annie Lenox tip!

  10. I loooove Lullay Lullay. Especially this version.

    When I was in college, I worked at a toy store, and during the holiday season, kids songs played nonstop on the store PA. I still can't hear the Chipmunks Christmas song without wanted to chew my own arm off, 127 Hours style.

  11. Hmm. That's definitely a much better version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Thanks! And Mark hasn't found a version of Silent Night that he can tolerate. The first syllable is drawn out for like 5 full seconds, and that's only half of the first word of the song. And who says it was silent in a barn full of animals? I think that would have defeated the purpose of having a non-extaordinary entrance into the world.