New Year's music is far better than Christmas music
|Happy New Year from First Aid Kit!|
What came in ensuing years is more complex. Now, we not only have to forget the shitty year that we just experienced, but also an even shittier collection of wall-to-wall saccharine Christmas music. So, the end of one year and the beginning of another has its perks. It's a brief window of time when countless serious songwriters put down their sidecars, nog, and newborn babies, and pick up a pen.
New Year's is loaded with the stuff songwriters ache for -- reflection, redemption, introspection, apologies, resolutions, and, naturally, mournful chord progressions. Sapped of the wild commercial potential of a season just finished, these are songs mostly tucked into albums released throughout the year that are about things bigger than just a gift-giving season. (Although Prince and U2 turned these sentiments into massive hits.) They hint at the concentrated power of a 48-hour period -- concentrated even further into a couple of minutes.
Oh, but there are exceptions. Frank Loesser's 1947 song "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" has come the closest to being grandfathered into the Christmas music canon. It's an innocuous melody with words that can either take on an offhand quality or a massively insecure one -- depending on how badly we believe the singer needs a date. Very firmly in the latter category there is Sonny Til and the Orioles, who first popularized the tune.
And then versions by Nancy Wilson, Johnny Mathis, Donny Osmond, and umpteen others gurgle this thing out predictably. Because of the overly time-specific subject matter, the playability of this song is limited. After Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt -- a couple people who are ensured to be surrounded by mirth and tinsel and argyle sweater vests tonight -- it's time to scream out "Give me fucking mid-July already!"
So, after a song that does absolutely nothing to encapsulate what's good (or horrible) about exiting 2012 and entering 2013, let's quickly away to the myriad more artful approaches.
New Year's is about turning over a new leaf in love
Apologies flow faster than champagne on New Year's. "How can our love go wrong if we start the new year right?" Frank Sinatra asks. And certainly if there's a time for admitting one's misdeeds and plans for a year with no personal dalliances, it's when everyone's already swaying and misty-eyed. If we can avoid the worst day to break up for good, as detailed succintly in the Walkmen's "New Year's Eve," things could be fruitful for the coming year -- or at least the next four hours.
Otis Redding and Carla Thomas come together on "New Year's Resolution," and don't have time for your cynicism. They're going to try it again and see how happy they can be. Period.