I figured I'd also bring up Christmas music, but wanted a separate post for it. As some may remember, I have a larger-than-average collection of Christmas music. After deleting tons of duplicates last year, I was left with something like 12,500 Christmas songs. I've already added a few hundred to that this year. I tend to play it non-stop on my days off from 11/1-12/25 or so but never manage to listen to them all in a single season. Since I make a CD each year to send out to my family, I actually start listening to it regularly sometime in September or October just so I can start picking songs and figuring out a theme. I'm a bit behind this year. I have the theme in mind but no songs picked. I've also only scratched the surface of doing the artwork. I'm hoping to make a good deal of progress on both the CD and our Christmas card this upcoming week.
One thing I look forward to each year is the local lite rock station switching over to Christmas music. A few years ago they started on 11/1. Due to a small number of very vocal complainers, they held off the following year but finally started in earlier than they'd been planning thanks to a very large number of complaints. They took a survey last year and started on 11/1 again. This year they didn't start until 11/8, despite a deluge of complaints, calls, emails and letters (not to mention a ton of posts on their Facebook page). It's a good thing there's an 11-month break between the end of their Christmas music and them starting it back up again because it takes about that long for me to forget how much I despise their ridiculously limited play list. This year is easily the worst it's ever been. Last year they had about 20 songs that made up 80% or so of their programming. They had another 20-30 songs that made up about 75% of the remaining airtime, with another 20 or so that made up the rest. This year, the percentages are about the same, but the numbers are much worse. The top 80% is made up of about 12 songs, with another 20 or so in the next tier, and another 40 or so getting interspersed throughout the remainder of their day. Of that top 12, the song that dominates the airwaves is my least favorite Christmas song of all time: Happy Xmas (War is Over). They play either the John Lennon original or one of the insipid covers of it (mostly Celine Dion) at least once every 90 minutes, and sometimes more frequently than that.
I ran the numbers last year and determined that it truly is the worst Christmas song to ever be recorded (Step Into Christmas and Wonderful Christmastime came in at second and third). Yet despite my frequent complaints to the station, they do their ever-lovin' best to cram down our throats 20-26 times per day. What's really awful is that it's displaced Kenny Loggins' Celebrate Me Home and Dan Fogelberg's Same Old Lang Syne. Not that these two are particularly good Christmas tunes, but they'd at least eaten into John Lennon's territory enough in recent years that they were only playing him 8-12 times per day. This year, though, no Loggins, no Fogelberg, not even the occasional It Doesn't Have to Be That Way by Jim Croce (it got a lot of airplay last year). I realize the local DJ's have little to nothing to do with the programming, but the Clear Channel algorithms are way out of whack this year. In addition to the ridiculous amount of time devoted to Merry Xmas (it's almost like when we lost all our classic rock stations about a decade ago, then one switched back without announcing it, but instead played Stairway to Heaven 24/7 for a week), there have been several other annoying anomalies this year. We were in the car on Monday and they played Burl Ives' Holly Jolly Christmas twice within 90 minutes. Another day last week, they teamed Nat King Cole up with John Lennon and played The Christmas Song either immediately before or after Merry Xmas all day long. What's worse is that, a few times, they played another song by Nat either right after the two play, or one song later, so two out of three or four songs were by him. I like Nat King Cole, just not that often.
Whatever happened to good Christmas programming? The programming manager they had several years ago (back when it was left up to an actual human and not a computer) did a great job. Sure, she played the horrible trilogy a bit too much, but she also worked in listener requests and a decent variety of songs throughout the day. She also would occasionally throw in some pretty obscure songs as well as some oddball tracks that you weren't likely to hear elsewhere. I even sent her MP3's of several really obscure songs that she ended up playing on-air. It was almost as good as when I was a kid and that one rock station would switch to Christmas music a few days before. You'd turn it on late at night and you never knew what to expect. You'd hear Gene Autry matched up with The Kinks and Bing Crosby followed by something from Dr. Demento. Nowadays you get John Lennon followed by Taylor Swift followed by Josh Groban, then back to John Lennon. It's truly horrible.
I'd gladly offer my services--and cheap, at that--to set up their programming for them for these two months. My smallest Christmas playlist in iTunes has a wider variety than they have all season. I have multiple covers of even the most obscure song, so it's not like you'd have to hear Gayla Peavey singing about the Hippopotamus each time. I can put together hours-long playlist of just about any genre you can think of, as well as a mix that would please just about any crowd without offending anyone. I've practically begged them in the past to liven up their choices a bit to no avail. Sure, it's a lite rock station, but it's Christmas so a little Run D.M.C., Slade and Twisted Sister wouldn't upset the cart too much. And while they tout their "variety" in the non-Christmas times, their homogenized playlist has gotten so bad now that they've cut out tons of classics, from John Denver and the Muppets to half the normal songs from Bing, Frank, Dean and the rest.
The only saving grace on the radio this year is the Christian channel south of here. Sure, they play their fair share of Christian pop (and a bit too much of the Christmas Shoes), and they sometimes throw in that cringe-inducing group of little kids singing Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus, but they play a much wider variety than the lite rock channel. Plus, I've yet to hear John Lennon on there, and that makes them champs in my book.