“Do You Hear What I Hear?” – the most odious quasi-pop song ever committed – was ringing in my semi-conscious loud enough to jolt me out of sleep one night last week (I summoned to mind “Night In Tunisia,” trying to recall ever kink in Charlie Parker’s famous alto break, to dispell it). “Little Drummer Boy,” “Silent Night,” Gene Autry’s original version of “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” and James Taylor singing “Go Tell It On The Mountain” — does it really have an extended chorus for recorder ensemble? — assault me at the grocery store (the butcher behind the deli counter fights it with a salsa radio station on high volume). “Jingle Bell Rock” is the best of the bunch — at least Bobby Helms swings and the guitar twangs. Must we suffer this cloying drivel every winter holiday?
The grocery’s manager directed that the Xmas tape be played LOUD! starting the day after Thanksgiving, and the clerks — Brooklynites apparently out of Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, serving customers from points including Russia, Syria, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Manhattan — have gone nuts, bombarded by this stuff on every shift. Last night I shopped in Soho clothing boutiques with my teenage daughter and endured shamelessly glitzy renditions of clichés — er, “classics” — that should have been buried decades back by the big stars of pop now, Beyoncé among others I’ve blanked on in defense. There is perhaps one handful of moderately acceptable tunes, relatively literate lyrics and decent voices (perhaps “Chestnuts Roasting,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Let It Snow”) and maybe one seasonal delight (“Baby It’s Cold Outside,” Ray Charles & Betty Carter still the best), but all are rendered obnoxious by six weeks of ceaseless repetition.