The holidays are certainly a time for warmth, celebration, eating and drinking, but it is also a time when Mariah Carey inspires homicidal rage.
Let me explain.
I have seven years of experience working in retail, and I’m no stranger to the chaos of Christmas shopping. I’ve been yelled at by the likes of everyone, from grandmas looking for $200 throws to children sticking artisan wooden Christmas toys in their mouths. And yet, with every glimpse of humanity, the spirit of the season had a way of setting me free.
My first retail Christmas was like entering a Katy Perry video on shrooms–”Christmas”-scented diffusers turned asthma into a yuletide wheeze, fake snow topped shelves as if by the deft hand of Tony Montana, and gift wrappers were hired to do a better job than I have ever been able to do in my entire life. And the cherry on top of this festive sundae was the soundtrack, a non-stop holiday playlist with all of the favourites, including Mariah Carey’s classic, “All I Want For Christmas is You.”
It was blissful, and I was ignorant. Sure, the picturesque landscape of a retail store gone Christmas sounds like a wintry dream, but once you get to the fifth consecutive day of a store-curated soundtrack, you begin to wonder if Christmas is actually hell. What’s more, you start to hope that Santa is just around the corner to stuff you in his sack to take you away to eternal darkness, where sound no longer exists.
I was young, joyful and I loved Mariah Carey (still do, mostly). But in my days of retail, I had heard “All I Want for Christmas is You” a total of 40,000 times. Christmas, for me, became a Stanley Kubrick movie. It is only now that I am able to listen to those high notes and sort of enjoy them–for years, they conjured up images of chubby puppies walking single-file off a cliff, swimming in a vat of honey and my parents having sex. Truly uncomfortable stuff. Knowing that I am not an exception to a rule, I talked to some other ex-retailers, and their stories create another soundtrack: the retail songs that ruined Christmas.
Do They Know It’s Christmas?
Even a good-natured Christmas anthem can have a shelf-life.
“”Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid is insufferable pablum, not to mention horribly patronizing, and it should be banned. I can’t believe they remade it. What is wrong with people? Why do they keep playing this song every Christmas?” – Stephanie Sernoskie
Back Door Santa (Bon Jovi cover)
Sometimes, covering a song is a bad idea, because people have to hear it.
“In 1987, I had just begun a far too long, non-illustrious career in record store retail. A&A Records in Peterborough Square, to be specific. This year, the first (and best) of the 10 volumes of the Very Special Christmas series was released in support of the Special Olympics. The collection is actually pretty great and was very popular, selling millions of copies. We played the tape (yes, cassette tape) all the time. If I ever hear Bon Jovi’s cover of ‘Back Door Santa’ it will be too soon. A terrible song performed by a mediocre band–over and over and over again. By Christmas Eve, I was ready to track Mr. Bon Jovi down and do grave bodily harm. At some point, pressing of the album saw this track replaced with the band covering ‘I Wish Every Day Could Be Like Christmas.’ I wonder why?” – Alasdair Hooper
The Christmas Shoes
Sad songs can take away the sparkle, even from the Christmas-obsessed.
“Oddly enough, Christmas music was the only kind of music not ruined by working in retail back in my college days. I am that annoying, cheerful, Christmas-loving friend that begins playing Mariah’s All I Want for Christmas in September, so it’s kind of my thing. I love a song on repeat. I will say that although sweet, The Christmas Shoes is a very sad song and hearing it multiple times in a five-hour shift while shilling angora sweaters and sparkly frocks is an easy way to squash my difficult-to-defeat holiday spirit.” – Ashley Bartlett
Mister Heat Miser
Ah, remember the swing music revival? Some people are trying to forget.
“I worked at a very popular store for a few years that sold body care and home fragrance. Every year they really embrace the holiday spirit–music starts trickling into the mix on November 1, and by December 1 it’s 100 per cent Christmas music.
Ever heard of the Christmas special, The Year Without a Santa Claus? It’s one of the beloved classics, up there with Rudolph and Santa Claus is Coming To Town and has a great little soundtrack. At this store, The “Mister Heat Miser” song would play all the time–but not the original. It was some cover by a swing revival band called Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (weird, right?). I feel like I’ve heard that version at least 1000 times in my life now. I don’t think the original ever played.
Now, whenever I hear it, visions of candles crashing to the ground, the many smells of all the lotions and shower gels and memories of customers who split their purchases to triple up on coupons come back to me and I cringe.” – Morgan Cadenhead