What Are Your Favorite (Unexpected) Holiday Tracks?

Themes and variation

It’s here again. That time of year when the charm and nostalgia of our favorite holiday songs have just about worn off even though the lights are still twinkling brightly and at least a few gifts have yet to be wrapped. It’s hard to appreciate the comfortable familiarity of a wintry carol when it’s been worming its way into your ears for weeks.

Fortunately, the newest episode of our podcast, “Themes and Variation,” is here to shake us out of the musical monotony that typically is the holiday season.

And this time around the tree, our panel includes the ever-astute and equally entertaining, Zoë Young, as well as my colleague and collaborator in both business and married life, Mahea Lee. Together, we attempt to make sense of three incredibly… unexpected holiday tracks: a possible (?) parody by a popular band, a lesser-known ditty from a popular parody band, and an emotionally profound piece I would never have considered part of the holiday canon until now.

PS, for more unexpectedly raunchy holiday songs, you can check out our revue of “7 Offbeat Holiday Songs to Shake Up Your Pandemic Blues,” right here on Flypaper.

You can listen to “Themes and Variation” Episode 10 in its entirety right here in the player above, or click over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or anywhere else you get your podcasts to subscribe and download. *Bonus points if you want to hit us with a five star rating on Apple!

If you’re enjoying this episode, and you’d like to learn more about some of the musical topics we touched on, go ahead and visit Soundfly’s free companion course for songwriting prompts and additional resources. From scale modes to melody-writing and even audio production tips and tricks, we’ve curated some extra resources for listeners who want to go the extra creative mile and put stuff from the episode into action.

Episode 10 Highlights

1. Spinal Tap and the black album

Carter: “So the album of course, This Is Spinal Tap, ‘none more black,’ it’s just the pitch black record. In the movie it was called “Smell The Glove” and was just completely black, which foreshadowed some actual albums. Metallica’s Black Album, David Bowie’s Blackstar did that, so many did. If a record came out right now and it was just totally pitch black, I think we’d think ‘that is sick, that is amazing, that’s like a brilliant marketing play.’”

2.  The connotative power of using Christmas in a song

Zoe¨: “Christmas has the connotation of excitement, there’s all this child-like wonder, there’s all this levity, all leading up to a specific day. And then that day happens, and that specific excitement and levity are over. You start thinking about getting back to real life, maybe in turns into going out shopping on boxing day, or eating leftovers, but whatever, that moment of excitement and magic has a hard end. Connect that to where the two characters are in the song and in their relationship. Their young, their in high school, you imagine they’ve been going through that all-consuming excitement of an early relationship when you’re young and just like that stomach in your throat stuff. And then wham, they get hit hard by the real world.”

3.  Mahea did indeed pick a Christmas song, kind of

Mahea: “So, this is the hidden track on it, It is essentially a theremin playing something resembling “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” You get a little bit of a rhythmic figure from “Jingle Bells” on a percussion instrument as well. The lore around it is that, listeners were supposed to at a certain moment in the song, speed their record players up from 33 to 45 (rpm).”

Collaborative Playlist

Just like we do every time we launch a new episode, we’ve created a collaborative Spotify playlist in order to share every song mentioned in this episode and explore many others that fit the topic. We need your help, we want your help, and we can’t wait to hear what strange, lovable holiday tracks you’re into!

Feel free to add your favorite songs from your parents record collection. 

Note: Please don’t just add your own songs that don’t match the theme. While we love hearing your music, this is not a playlist for self-promotions, and we will remove them. 

We’ll see you in two weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a line at [email protected]!

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