Bad Tune

There are some songs that are just. plain. annoying.

I don’t mean songs that are poor music, styles that I don’t personally like, or something like that. I mean songs that are, plain and simple, annoying. Something about them irks me and I can’t stand listening to them — especially because invariably they get stuck in my head and there I am an hour later singing this song that annoys the hell out of me.

Oh, you want an example? Well, it’s December, and last week I talked about all the Christmas music that I really like, so let’s turn it around. How about that Christmas music that should never be played anywhere, ever.

I like a sleighride (Jingle Bells) by Peggy Lee. Let’s start simple. It’s Jingle Bells. It’s pretty much the first Christmas song you learn as a kid, and the first Christmas song you parody as a kid, which should say something. It’s peppy, it’s cheerful, and it’s overdone. There should be a ban on actually playing Jingle Bells at Christmas. The only way it’s possibly manageable is as an instrumental version, or as part of a medley.

But that’s not the worst part of I like a sleighride. No, this song includes this chorus of children who can barely sing throwing in this line “I like a sleighride.” It opens with them singing it over and over, and then just when you think you’re free of it because Peggy Lee has started to sing, they throw it in between lines of the verse as well. It just sounds annoying and it ruins what is already an annoying song and ahh it’s stuck in my head now.

But it’s true that some things added to perfectly good songs can just ruin them. Maybe it even seemed like a good idea at the time, and maybe it’s cute the first time you hear it, but after that it’s just… not.

And even otherwise good musicians aren’t immune. Kristin Chenowith’s Christmas album, which I mentioned as one I liked, falls prey to this. Chenowith is known for singing in musicals — she was the original Broadway Galinda in Wicked (best. musical. ever.), and she has a great voice for musicals and for that part. But she does one song on her Christmas album, Sleigh Ride/Marshmallow World with John Pizzarelli, that I find it hard to listen to. The lyrics of Sleigh Ride include the words “yoo-hoo”, and rather than sing it, she actually calls out “yoo-hoo!” It’s going along nicely when for a brief moment, musicality is thrown out the window. Then at the end of the song, she starts having this cutesy conversation with John, and it’s kind of — well, cute. The first time. But if I’m listening to¬† music, especially in the background while I’m doing something else, it just stands right out.

The unfortunate part is, I end up skipping songs like that, and have to lose even the good bits.

And don’t even get me started on the slightly creepy and disturbing mental images of Santa Baby, which also gets stuck in my head all the time argh.

It’s also tough at Christmas when almost every song is a song that’s been covered by a dozen artists already, and each new artist is looking for a new and unique way to do it. So they change the song — beautiful, slow pieces become poppy dance numbers and fun, jazzy pieces get slowed down and stretched out way too long. Also, there’s a reason there’s only one verse to a lot of carols.

I’ve used Christmas music as an example for annoying songs, but they’re everywhere. There are some songs I just can’t stand listening to, because something in them rubs me the wrong way. It’s unfortunate, it really is.

And I can’t help but wonder how the musicians, who would have to have listened to them over and over and over again in recording, didn’t catch it.

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