Music critic Christian Bordal did an interview on NPR a few years ago about how there is no good Christmas music (in the end he concedes there are "a few good" songs) and that the holiday music is simply background noise for shopping. It was all very bah-humbug and he basically framed his argument by saying:
"Seasonal music has to say Christmas trees, and eggnog, and mistletoe. Ergo, it can't be too artistically challenging, or emotionally tough, or the least bit dissonant. I mean, in short, it can't be any of the things that actually make music worth really sitting down and listening to."
Although I can somewhat understand being irked by the monotony of some Christmas tunes, I certainly would not denounce the whole genre. There are songs I need to hear every Christmas season for it to truly feel like the holidays and many of them are probably the stuff that drives Mr. Bordal crazy (oh, how he would hate the Sleigh Ride Jingle Bells album by The Caroleer Singers that I adore). If I really wanted to refute his argument though, I know a song that could do it. I remember thinking immediately about "River", originally recorded by Joni Mitchell in 1971 and covered by dozens and dozens since. Technically the track is set during Christmastime and not about Christmas, but it is still a holiday tune and I think "emotionally tough", as well as lyrically beautiful and poignant.
So for Monday, some "River" for everybody- three different versions, but they are all captivating to me.
All video courtesy of youtube.com