At the risk of hinting at my age, I admit I did not know some of the performers at this year’s broadcast of Christmas at Rockefeller Center on NBC. Of course, the whole world recognized Neil Diamond, Dolly Parton, Sarah McLachlin, and that classic crooner from my daddy’s era, Tony Bennett, but who the heck are Tori Kelly, Pentatonix, and Anthony Hamilton and the Hamiltones? Even though I was unfamiliar with these artists, I watched their performances; it’s good to be exposed to new things. Right? Wrong! I didn’t care for any of them. In fact, in this case, I will gladly fall into line with the cliched older generation who turns a deaf ear to the younger set. As I listened to the music, I wondered why it was necessary to take something as simple and traditional as Christmas and attempt to turn it into something hip and “cool”.
Tori Kelly, whoever she is, looked lovely as she sang “O, Holy Night”, but she spoiled her performance for me at the end when she belted out what was intended to be a classy, high note, but was perceived (at least by me) as a screech similar to all the other glass-shattering shrieks from Whitney Houston wannabes on American Idol. A little advice to contemporary singers: not every song, and especially not “O, Holy Night”, requires a climactic scream. If you feel rather than wail, the audience will feel with you rather than cringe.
And Pentatonix. Oh, dear! Pentatonix! What can I say about the ensemble I had never heard of before the Rockefeller Center tree lighting? They had their five tones in there, but for me their performance was the worst of the night. In fact, it was Pentatonix’s arrangement of “O, Come, All Ye Faithful” that left me scratching my head. With all due respect to their fans, I thought Pentatonix was laughable. Transforming a beloved Christmas hymn into contemporary music might be thinking outside the traditional box, but it’s akin to giving the National Anthem a disco beat. Pentatonix looked silly trying to dance and inject “coolness” into a traditional Christmas song. Last but not least, the Hamiltons were a disappointment. While they did not look silly, they should have known you don’t mess with a John Lennon classic. Nobody can sing “And So This Is Christmas” except Lennon; thus, for my generation, Anthony Hamilton and his crew failed right out of the gate.
Admittedly, my assessment of NBC’s presentation this year probably leaves me in the minority; nevertheless, I pose the question: at some point, do we all become “too uncool” for Christmas? After all, things like Christmas caroling, secret Santas, and giving without receiving are not too popular these days. I’m well aware that a Norman Rockwell-like Christmas only exists in Hallmark holiday movies, but the old fashioned, Catholic school girl in me will likely never boogie to the Christmas hymns we sang in church nor scream out “O, Holy Night”. However, despite my affinity for the traditional, I am not too “uncool” for Christmas. When the anticipated tree lighting occurred, I oohed and aahed along with everyone else.
Bottom line: nobody is too “uncool” for Christmas; we each just make a different joyful noise.