By Jonathan Hodgers: Assistant Music Research Fellow, Trinity College Dublin London, December 25 (The Conversation) There is probably no position on the charts more hotly contested than Christmas number one. This year, it looks like LadBaby will steal his fourth straight chart victory – a new all-time high – with a song starring Elton John and Ed Sheeran.
“But what does it really take to propel a song to the coveted spot on another COVID Christmas?” And what makes great Christmas music – the kind we want to consume throughout the holiday season? We know Christmas music when we hear it, but it’s not always clear what features (if any) it needs to have in order to pass the Christmas test. Many explicitly Christmas-themed songs will have certain musical characteristics, although they are always optional. These include a major key, an accessible pitch range, and a moderate tempo, making them both easier to sing along with and more pleasing to the ear.
Certain sounds too, such as bells, celeste, glockenspiel and a choir also signal the festival. For over a month, this music has been everywhere: people don’t necessarily pay for it or try to hear it, but it’s there anyway, like acoustic wallpaper.
The Christmas Blues The fact that it is hard to escape Christmas music might explain the rolling eyes that greet it each year. It’s understandable that one shrinks from the sound of even more Slade and sleigh bells against a backdrop of crowded parking lots and endless queues.
Sometimes the idealized qualities of music can even instill melancholy. Hearing a fictionalized version of family and togetherness can cause a more acute sense of their absence and block listeners who cannot participate in reindeer games.
The artificial or fantasy side of music can be even more off-putting given the business climate in which these feelings are shared.
The very idea of ââchasing the top spot seems in some ways disconnected from the âreal meaningâ of Christmas. It suggests competitive zeal and commercial reward rather than community values ââand altruism. This tension could be one of the reasons why several artists have linked their ranking offer to charitable causes.
A Festive Rebellion of the Charts Yet, for all the ways in which it is easy to tire of excess Christmas carols, for many people, the music we should be enjoying this time of year matters. People notice the political and ideological trajectory of music, and may mount a rebellion when they feel the falsehood has gone too far.
Look no further than the successful campaign in 2009 to put Rage Against the Machine’s Killing In The Name at the top of the UK charts and prevent another X Factor single from reaching number one. It was everything Christmas carols aren’t, or at least aren’t meant to be (although there is certainly some form of protest, albeit less revolutionary, in John Lennon’s Happy Xmas and Do They Know It’s Christmas by Band Aid).
He indicated that some people care whether the number one position goes to another schmaltzy ballad. I suspect listeners didn’t need an excuse to rebel against the X Factor monopoly at the time, but the fact that the campaign took place over Christmas suggests the rebels found a cause.
The power of pop This upheaval is however a departure from the norm. One only has to look at the list of Christmas numbers one to see on the one hand their variety, but on the other hand, how they gravitate towards a particular type of popular music.
Trying to define pop, rock writer Simon Frith saw it as what’s left over when you take out rock, country, and other venerable popular genres.
The remaining, loosely defined category of “pop” is designed to appeal to everyone: often family-oriented, musically conservative, professionally produced, low-key, and a vector of clichÃ© and mainstream emotional states like “love, loss, jealousy. “. The way Frith characterizes this residual class of music resonates strongly with typical Christmas music.
As he also points out, such music, despite its alleged banality, can be used to affect. Its participatory quality and its way of bringing together memories and associations lend themselves to strong ritual and personal resonances.
These factors, among others, might help explain why we turn to such music at this time of year. Looking at the influence of Victorian Britain on modern Christmas celebrations, musicologist Sheila Whiteley emphasizes the importance of family (both literal and the larger idea), as well as a ‘utopia of values. shared â.
Maybe that sense of sharing pushes the importance of Christmas Week Number One beyond anything high on the charts at any other time of the year.
The first place is the result of a popularity contest among music fans. While the metrics have changed over the decades, the principle of success has not changed. The positions in the graph represent a nationally established ranking, suggesting consensus, even if you were not among those who supported the winner.
Maybe something is appealing in the perception that people – without necessarily wanting to – have sent something to the top of a public list, indicating that many others appreciate it. It alludes to the social and the community.
Maybe the specific holiday also multiplies these factors and makes them a little more important. It seems to represent a consensus at a time when animosities and hostilities are to be put aside (in theory at least) and when a social rapprochement is falling like light snow for a few days.
In particular, our need for a sense of oneness cannot be underestimated amid COVID restrictions and reduced social interaction. The sense of common consent, tacit agreement, and shared sensibilities is most appealing when people perceive its absence elsewhere. (The Conversation) MRJ
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