Bless me internet, for I have sinned. I have been listening to Pentatonix’s Christmas music again this year and, for shame, I have enjoyed it. I know it is the empty calories of music. I know that it is about as artistically significant as a Hallmark Christmas movie. I am aware that it serves the same function as that peppermint mocha with an extra shot that I buy from Starbucks to get me through my trips to the mall because I waited too long to shop on Amazon like a reasonable person. And yet, and yet, and yet . . . I cannot resist it. In the same plaintive voice that any of your friends have used to respond to criticism of their sad musical choices, all I can muster is “It’s catchy” and “They have nice voices.” And, in the year of our lord 2018, that seems to be enough.
Pentatonix, that vocal quintet of musical glee, has totally enraptured my soul. I should hate it. I should resent it. I mean, the title of their newest album alone, Christmas Is Here, should make it clear how arrogant they are. They know they don’t need to try to entice you. They know they have you at hello. They know that simply saying their new album “is here” will probably sell better than the longer but more accurate title: “Hey, you sad sack of human angst racing around in gray, slushy weather to find gifts (last minute) for people who you may or may not like, here is some catchy, listenable music from people who can sing to keep your darker thoughts about the season at bay.” In other words, Pentatonix knows in their cynical brilliance that if they build it, indeed, you will come.
This album provides the perfect mix of peace, joy, and self-loathing. As I listen to it, tapping my fingers on the dash of my car and perhaps even (what may pass for) dancing, the Wednesday Adams part of my brain thinks “How did I fall so far?” The Daria voice that is my inner dialogue tells me “You’re basic.” I have no argument and no defense, but also I don’t care.
I’m well aware that Pentatonix, like a melodic Cersei Lannister, pulls many dirty tricks to get their way. Their latest album opens with “What Christmas Means to Me,” which is the lowest of the low hanging fruit of all Christmas songs. It is a song so fun and happy that any person with a heartbeat could do a cover that that would end up sounding vaguely soulful. When people who can actually sing in harmony (harmony!) do it, it’s a wash. It also includes a cover of “Making Christmas” from the Nightmare Before Christmas, as if to say, “Hey, Millennials, you may remember this one.” *Wink wink. Nudge Nudge* It’s a tasteless display. It really is. And I’ve only listened to it about 500 times starting a few weeks before Thanksgiving. I don’t even want to think of what my total tally will be by the time Christmas rolls around.
In short, if you like Pentatonix, you aren’t wrong. Listening to it is like eating cake for breakfast. Nobody who really knows about the issue (read: a doctor) will tell you it’s a healthy decision, but nobody who has done it will tell you it’s not awesome. It is the antidote to RBF. It is catchy and fun and meaningless. It is sometimes a little annoying since their cover of “Jingle Bells”, which my 2-year-old sadly loves and requests often, is so frenetic it makes me tired. But what else does the holiday season mean except that we all try to be cheerful in the face of persistent RBF and a series of minor annoyances?
As Pentatonix says, Christmas is here. Try not to overthink it and you may just enjoy yourself.