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No offense to crooners, but this millennial music professor wants to redefine Christmas nostalgia

 The Andy Williams Christmas Album was an instant hit when it came out in 1963.
The Andy Williams Christmas Album was an instant hit when it came out in 1963.

Even though I’m a card-carrying millennial, I — like every generation since the baby boom — grew up constantly hearing the croons of Andy Williams and Rosemary Clooney during the holiday season.

The sounds of '50s and '60s American soft pop are lodged as deep in my Christmas sensibilities as the smell of gingerbread and eggnog.

When artists make new Christmas music, they often use this older sound. Think ofMegan Trainor’s 2020 pop holiday album that’s heaped with the doo-wop sounds of my grandparents’ generation.

Or contemporary artists will completely abandon their own sound in their Christmas music and adopt a mid-century style. The hip-hop artist Doja Cat slips into a metaphorical Marilyn Monroe costume for her cover of "Santa Baby."

While I love the sentimentality of these throwback sounds, there’s a special place in my heart for artists whose Christmas music embraces newer styles.

Like ugly, loud Christmas sweaters, these tunes can infuse the holiday spirit with pop-y irreverence. They’re tacky — and really fun. New Kids On The Block’s cringy holiday banger “Funky Funky Christmas” sounds nothing like traditional Christmas music.

This stuff is awesome.

But what I really love are contemporary Christmas songs that don’t sound like they were made today, but also don’t sound like a '60s Christmas record. The overproduced vocals and lush synthesizers in Cher's new Christmas album transport me back to my '90s childhood living room.

And, as a millennial, I eat this up.

Songs like this nudge nostalgia towards the '80s and '90s rather than the Boomer aesthetic of the '50s and '60s.

I bet, as my generation ages, the nostalgic sounds of our childhood will become as central to our holiday traditions as gingerbread and eggnog.

Chris White teaches music theory at UMass Amherst. His book is titled "The Music in The Data" He lives in western Massachusetts with his husband and son. An earlier version of this piece appeared in The Daily Beast.

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