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Jingle Bell Pop

Written by: John Seabrook
Narrated by: Erin Moon
Length: 1 hr and 14 mins

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Publisher's Summary

It seems like every year, the holiday season arrives earlier and earlier. Before Halloween’s ghosts and ghouls have even had their chance to come out of the shadows, sleigh bells and ribbons begin to materialize at the mall and towering tinsel-tinged trees appear in our living rooms. But the most telltale sign of the arrival of yuletide festivities is the unceasingly merry melody of the seasonal songbook, from "Silent Night" to "Santa Baby." Love them or loathe them, these holiday earworms are here to stay. But how do these songs endure for decades? And why are there so few contemporary Christmas carols?

In this holly jolly Audible Original, New York Times bestselling author and New Yorker columnist John Seabrook uncovers the mysteries of the holiday music machine, exploring how these hits were made and why they’ve dominated the soundwaves each and every winter. From the mid-century reign of songwriter Johnny Marks ("Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer") to the manufactured musical nostalgia of modern holiday hits like "All I Want for Christmas Is You," Seabrook, alongside a cast of singers, songwriters, and producers, reveals the untold stories behind the songs that have us rockin’ around the Christmas tree year after year.

©2018 Audible Originals, LLC (P)2018 Audible Originals, LLC.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kingsley
  • 07-12-18

Making of a Christmas Hit

What makes a Christmas or Holiday song? Why do so many song writers attempt it? Part history, part musical analysis, that is what that audio production tries to answer.

'Jingle Bell Pop' focuses on the 'Christmas Canon', the most popular Christmas and holiday songs that we hear over and over again every year. It looks at the history of them, who created them and why they have stuck around.

There is discussion on how the 'canon' is effectively closed, with no holiday songs with sticking power having been created for a few decades. It discussed how Christmas songs/albums were once in vogue, then fell out and became the thing for artists well past their prime, and it's eventual return to being a 'must have' in many artists catalog.

It looks at the different types of songs such as traditional carols with Christian themes, holiday songs with no Christmas references (just winter/snowy imagery type stuff), WW2 era songs with their dour approach, right up to 'modern' classics.

It discusses the styles (the use of sleigh bells, janglely pianos etc; how often even the newer songs use elements to sound like older songs and invoke nostalgia) and writers (a surprising number are Jewish - mostly writing 'holiday' songs rather than 'Christmas' songs) and much more.

One of the most interesting, yet obvious in hindsight, things in this is the discussion on how writing a Christmas song that comes back every year can truly make an artist rich. You write a #1 pop song, and it sits in the chart for a dozen weeks and you make some quick cash. You make a Christmas song that sticks (either an original or a version that people will play again and again), and it comes back for six weeks every year for the next 50 years. Paying royalties to the artist or their estate for long into the future. A good Christmas/holiday song is a golden ticket.

Erin Moon is good as a main narrator. Clear, well paced and engaging. There is lots of interview snippets throughout, with music experts and historians, but Moon is the vast majority of the audio.

For a audio product about music there is not a huge amount in here. There is snippets of songs every now and again (for example 10 seconds of 'Santa Baby' during the discussion of that song's history) and there is some light instrumental music in the background, but generally the use of music within his is fairly well constrained. It's not over bearing or over used. There are dozens (hundreds) of songs mentioned in passing that no musical reference is made. If you know the song then you know it, if not you move on. There is no way they could have done a musical reference for every song mentioned. It would have been too much. A very good balance between reminding giving the listened a taste and overwhelming the listener is struck.

If you are interested at all in the pop culture history this is an extremely interesting audio documentary and worth listening to.

56 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • IreneMBBT
  • 10-12-18

Enjoyable Overview

This was an enjoyable time out regarding a topic very dear to my heart: Christmas Music. My family has made fun of my significant collection - let them. Nothing puts you in the spirit faster than music; notwithstanding mall muzak. I have my favorite few songs and albums that I start with every year; then it’s whichever I feel like playing next.
I found it interesting that they’re rarely immediate hits; mostly slow-burners that can take time to join the annual roster, and can provide life-long residuals for the writers. Who knew? I enjoyed hearing the back story for several songs, especially Santa Baby. I’m old enough to remember seeing Eartha Kitt on TV, and when Madonna released her cover.
Ok, sharing: favorite individual artist CDs are Tricia Yearwood The Sweetest Gift and Amy Grant Christmas to Remember. Fave compilations are Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1935-1954 and BGCH 1955-Present

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • R. MCRACKAN
  • 07-12-18

Tis the season

A deconstruction of popular Christmas music throughout modern history. Especially to answer the question: how can a song escape the death formula 'sentiment + cliche + nostalgia = schmaltz' to achieve cultural, and financial, success?

13 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Numba1mommy03
  • 09-12-18

short but sweet doc about Christmas songs

I enjoyed it. Informative, it was short but sweet listen about the history of some Christmas songs we've come to Love and hate lol

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Christine Carey
  • 11-12-18

Enh

I learned two interesting tidbits about "Silent Night"
1) It was originally written for tenor and bass
2) The priest who wrote the lyrics, Benjamin Moore, was an illegitimate child who never knew his parents and was raised by the Church

I learned those interesting tidbits in the first ten minutes, which earned this the 3 stars it got.

Sadly, the rest of this was a lot of interviewees bemoaning the fact that the last big Christmas song, "All I Want For Christmas Is You" is 24 years old. They all pretty much said that the heyday of Christmas songs is past, there is nothing new, and probably never will be. So 3 stars for the tidbits, but I can't really recommend this one to anyone.

27 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • yarngirl1952
  • 11-12-18

Short, interesting account of holiday song writing

The emphasis is on writing a new holiday hit rather than analyzing the existing favorites we hear each season. Silent Night, and O Little Town of Bethlehem are exceptions. Most of the more recent hits I had not heard of.
I would had liked a longer show highlighting more traditional songs. The political statement at the end should have been cut.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Steve
  • 11-12-18

Christmas music

Thought I would hear some of the actual music. Could have played in the background.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • nerdymko
  • 10-12-18

Learn a little about something you think you know all about!

well crafted audio feature with narrator , interviews, and musical examples make this a great pre-holiday mall muzak listen!

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • David Brown
  • 08-12-18

interesting concept

very interesting concept covered all the standards all the way up to the new ones. but the writer didn't listen to his own writing about longevity and added a political statement at the end. totally lost it at that point it didn't need to be there and it frustrated me because Christmas is supposed to be timeless

7 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Phil Gillette
  • 12-12-18

Seasonal fun!

I enjoyed the mix of background story with clips of actual songs and the people who wrote them. I also appreciated that it included some of the best of this year's Christmas music. The only reason it's not 5 stars is that the narrator struck me as a little too chirpy/snarky. Good program overall.

2 people found this helpful