I was once a little…um, okay, terribly obsessed with iTunes. I got my first iPod in 2004 and became immediately entranced by Apple’s seeming infinite lists of music for sale. Over the years, I spent way too much time on iTunes and spent way too much money on music, some of which was great, and some of which was not. In 2011, for the sake of my sanity and my bank account, I went cold turkey. I suspended my iTunes activities and completely stopped visiting site. With the iTunes Diaries, I take a look back, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly in music that I just had to have in the moment.
While the societal Christmas rush might occur before the 25th of December, for me, “Christmas” is all about the time between the 12/25 and New Year’s Day. It’s also the one week (or so) of year when I really indulge in Christmas music. Over the years I’ve gathered up a decent amount of Christmas music on my iPod, enough to find the need to categorize it into two groups: “traditional” — vocal classics like Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” and “choral” — grand-scale works like Handel’s Messiah. But recently I’ve started acquiring newer Christmas music, stuff from not the 1950s. One of my recent acquisitions was a song that I had wholly forgotten about until a dentist appointment, which I’ll explain momentarily. That song: “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses.
As I’m sure is the case in your neck of the woods, Christmas music begins filtering through the retail world around Thanksgiving. In some stores, I noticed holiday tunes being played as early as late October. As that is truly an aural abomination, I’ve learned to tune out most Christmas music until at least mid-December. Only by then am I prepared to hum along to I’ll Be Home for Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer while I’m seeking out gifts or doing the weekly grocery shopping. And in some cases, as with my (dreaded) bi-annual trips to the dentist, one of which always falls round Christmastime, Christmas music serves to soothe my nervous soul. It was during on of these appointments that I was treated to a cavalcade of “modern” Christmas music thanks to the office’s new subscription to satellite radio.
As I sat in the examination chair, the music played on. The voices of Michael Bublé, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Josh Groban, and others filled the air. I listened to what I could over the sounds of dental tools at work, and for whatever reason, the hygienist began telling me all about the radio station. She “loved” Christmas music, and this new satellite radio allowed them to pick from several different channels of the stuff. She preferred instrumental music, but was outvoted in favor of more “modern” fare. As she finished up her explanation and the cleaning, “Christmas Wrapping” came over the air…er, satellite waves. She stopped and looked at me. “Is this really Christmas music?” she asked. I just smiled but didn’t answer, as it took me a minute to recognize what was playing.
Despite my near-love for all things in 1980s pop music, one might think that new wave one-hit-wonders like The Waitresses would be at the top of that list. Sure, their fun and kitschy hit “I Know What Boys Like” is memorable enough, and it’s a sure-fire must for any 80s playlist, but that’s as far as the familiarity goes for me. I’d heard “Christmas Wrapping” before, but it had never left much of an impression. And I’m pretty sure that if that dental hygienist had never pointed it out so severely in that moment, I wouldn’t own the song today. To answer the hygienist’s question now, yes, it is a Christmas song. Took me a bit to warm up to it being so, because it’s not jazzy, not swingy, simply not as classic as I expect a Christmas song to be. But it’s fun, upbeat, a little silly, and it has a happy ending. Be it an anti-anthem of sorts, as neither Santa nor his reindeer nor family warmth and charm are to be found in its lyrics. “Christmas Wrapping” satisfies perfectly a different sort of modern fairytale for a modern Christmas.