By Tyler White | Guest Contributor
It’s that time of year again. Music everywhere slowly shifts from the biggest hits of the day to the returning nostalgia of Christmas songs. The music charts are filled yet again with big-name artists releasing new Christmas albums. Compilation records of beloved traditional Christmas tracks and the classic hits like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” return to the top.
Growing up, I would listen to these songs every year with my family, enjoying the big Christmas hits and checking out whatever new Pentatonix Christmas album had come out that year. Yet, as I got older, I noticed that it was always the same seasonal cycle of music — same songs, same albums, same artists. There didn’t seem to be anything new for Christmas coming out. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t new music; it just means the music industry is relying on the success of the nostalgic hits that bring in the money. Why does the industry do this?
According to a Billboard article, “nearly all Christmas standards possess two characteristics: if they’re not time-tested hits released by major labels, they’re new songs by one of a handful of artists with the marketing muscle to get attention.” This explains the lack of new music. These major labels replay the same hits that are guaranteed to get airplay, or they take a “chance” on a new song by an artist who is already well established in the industry.
Moreover, according to the article, “a new Christmas song must overcome listeners’ desire for familiarity during a season of ritual.” The industry continues to bring back the same classics for the season and rope audiences back into the joys of Christmas music. Why listen to new Christmas songs when you can listen to the tried-and-true tracks of the season?
There is so much more to Christmas music than what the industry pushes as mainstream. Beyond the same Christmas music and big-name artists of the last several decades, there are many other avenues of Christmas music that aren’t mentioned enough. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you prefer, chances are, there is Christmas music in that genre. From rock and metal to indie and folk, there are seasonal options; you just have to search for them.
One of the most saturated genres of Christmas music happens to be rock and metal music. It sounds strange, but many heavier bands and artists have either created one-off Christmas songs or devoted entire albums to recreating the joy of Christmas music in the aggressive style. Compilation album “Punk Goes Christmas” has contributions from metalcore bands Crown the Empire and Issues and similar bands that have crafted metal renditions of classic Christmas songs. Other bands like August Burns Red have devoted entire albums, like “Sleddin’ Hill,” to create metal instrumentals of Christmas hymns and seasonal tracks.
If metal isn’t your cup of tea, various indie rock, folk and pop artists have also created joyful renditions of many Christmas classics. Manchester Orchestra, an indie rock group, released an extended play of classic Christmas hymns this year. Others like Phoebe Bridgers, an indie pop artist, and Ruston Kelly, an indie folk/country songwriter, have spent time crafting short records of Christmas music with moody twists from their respective genres.
I’m not saying that you should stop listening to the Christmas hits all together. In fact, you should continue enjoying those classics. There’s a reason why they’ve endured throughout the years. However, as you embrace this season of joy, take the time to venture out a bit and discover new artists and lesser-known renditions. You may not find it all enjoyable, but there is bound to be something out there for you this Christmas.