Music (?) of the Season

Caution: entering Grinch zone.

Silence makes a lot of people uncomfortable, so in stores, you often hear music intended to be soft and inoffensive.  Most of the time, it’s pretty innocuous.  Now and then the muzak version of “Light My Fire” will force me to confront the passage of time, but that isn’t really a bad thing.

So why do stores at this time of year feel compelled to play the musical equivalent of leaf blowers on a Saturday morning?  I’m talking about all the denatured “Christmas” songs, the fluff ones, the ones designed not to offend, which wind up offending everybody because they are so insipid.  Do you like hearing, “Jingle Bell Rock?”  Or “Rocking around the Christmas Tree?”  If so, post a comment.  I probably won’t believe you and will assume you’re pulling my chain, but comment anyway.  Pa rum pum pum pum.

Today I ventured out to several stores, and I’ll share some of my findings.  My current working hypothesis is that stupid music confuses our brains and makes us less rational shoppers.  Let’s see how the data holds up.

First stop was JC Penny’s.  I like Penny’s, and they also shot up in my esteem for opting out of the Black Friday midnight madness.  I was hunting for a specific gift.  When I didn’t find it, I thought about browsing, but just then, “Holly Jolly Christmas,” came over the sound system.  I hurried for the exit.

Next I went to a Best Buy.  I went to look at DVD players and noticed there was no music at all – I could actually hear myself think!   In the end, I wasn’t sure which model to get, so I decided to think it over and come back later.  As I was leaving the store, after that moment of clarity, I began to wonder if that is not the point of obnoxious holiday music – to befuddle our minds and rob us of clarity?  What happens to your brain when you hear “Little St. Nick?”  All I can think is, “Make it stop,”  and I’m ready to throw down a credit card if that will do the trick!

Next stop was OSH, for a string of tree lights. No Christmas songs, for which they get kudos, but their music was equally strange – the worst of old time rock, with songs like, “Sugar Shack,” and “These Boots are Made for Walking?” I did as the lyric suggested and walked right out of there.  The strange thing is, I go to OSH throughout the year for minor hardware needs, and they never play music like that.  What possessed them to do it now?

That question launched my backup theory of holiday music – mass possession of store managers by evil entities.  Perhaps I should save that one for another occasion…

By then it was time for lunch, so I stopped at Fresh Choice, one of those make-your-own-salad restaurants.  I like eating there, but never again at this time of year!  The music was one part Dean Martin – Christmas songs you could tap dance to – and one part “The Little Drummer Boy,” which played twice while I was there.  Twice!!!  I am not making this up!

After I bolted my food and hurried out of the restaurant, I remembered the New Age adage that we attract to ourselves what we dwell upon. I did my best to clear my mind before my final stop of the day, at Beverly’s, a crafts store.

However you want to explain it, something worked.  Not only did I find exactly the gift I was looking for, but the music was nice instrumental Christmas songs.  I caught the sound of a harpsichord as I stood in the check out line, and I made a point of telling the clerk how much I enjoyed their civilized music.

So here are a few more Grinchly survival tips for the season, not necessarily in order of importance:

1)  Humor is everything.  Actually, this is number one in importance.

2)  If someone is doing something right, let them know.

3)  Earbuds are not a bad idea.  You may look silly if you’re not a teen, but I’m going to carry them next time.

I’ll be back with more tips as the season drags on, but meanwhile,  Be careful out there!

10 thoughts on “Music (?) of the Season

  1. You’re absolutely right, of course! The very worst, I think, is a Hallmark store. Who can read and pick out cards while songs with words are blaring from the loudspeaker?? I mean, c’mon, surely there are nice, classical (or other instrumentals) available!


  2. I read this from the comfort of my Grinch pajamas (no joke). I agree!! And there’s something so very depressing about obnoxious, cheery Christmas music playing in the disheveled aisles of a Wal-Mart torn to pieces by crazy holiday customers.


  3. Part of the problem with the music in most stores is that the people who work there have no say whatsoever in the music that is playing. When I was a manager at Wendy’s I bought some audio cables and adapters so that I could hook my laptop up to the store speakers when the dining room was closed so that I could listen to the music I wanted to and not the random crap that they played all year long. Although as much as I hated the regular music that they played, I absolutely couldn’t stand Christmas music after a while. If you’re working 50 hours a week at a place that is playing Christmas music all day long, it gets really annoying. How many different versions of Jingle Bells or Little Drummer Boy can you really listen to before you start to hate all Christmas music?

    (Although I can’t say that I really hate all Christmas music, I love the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but they’re actually a unique interpretation of Christmas music, sadly one that never gets played in stores when you’re shopping.)


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