(Editor’s note: in all the hoopla of the changing year, plus the rush of activity here at the Los Angeles Post-Examiner, we missed this important New Year’s Eve message. Thankfully, it’s message isn’t really for the holiday just past, but a request for the next New Year’s Eve. So, the L.A. Post-Examiner is pleased to end our celebration of the Old and New Years with this request from one of our music critics, Dan MacIntosh and we think it’s a pretty reasonable suggestion. — The LAPE editorial staff)
When it comes to New Year’s Eve music, there just isn’t a whole lot of holiday-specific music for this, the last date of the calendar year. That’s kind of a shame because it is also the biggest party night of the year.
Christmas music is an industry unto itself, however, and although there are many Christmas parties (or to be more politically correct, holiday parties), it really isn’t a party night. Perhaps its religious affiliation holds many back from partying just a little too hearty in their red Santa hats. Nevertheless, there is no shortage of Christmas music. In fact, many feel there is a glut of Christmas sounds flooding the airwaves with songs about red-nosed reindeer and Santa, the grandma slayer.
“Auld Lang Syne” is the best known New Year’s Eve song, and man, it’s a real downer! It’s played slowly and sadly and – let’s face it – most of us have no idea what it means. It comes off much like a drinking song, as everybody sways when they sing it. Not coincidentally, many have already imbibed heavily by the time the clock strikes midnight, so it all fits together nicely.
The words to this annual favorite were penned by Robert Burns, way back in the 1700’s. The story goes that bandleader Guy Lombardo popularized the song when he played it between two live radio performances. And wouldn’t you know it, this performance happened just after the stroke of midnight. So there at New York’s Roosevelt Hotel, “Auld Lang Syne” was born as the New Year’s Eve standard.
Its title translates to “time goes by,” and, though not intended as a New Year’s Eve remembrance, it is all about fondly remembering friends over the years and never forgetting them. It may be just one song, when contrasted with countless Christmas tunes, but at least its message – about friendship – is far better than all the materialistic, gimme, gimme, gimme songs associated with so many other December 25 numbers.
Even a dance song, like Prince’s “1999,” is not nearly as fun as its groove may lead you to believe. Yes, the song extols the pleasures of partying, but Prince also reminds us, “Everybody’s got a bomb/We could all die here today,” which is sobering, indeed. It’s believed Prince wrote the lyric to protest the Reagan administration’s foreign policies with regard to the USSR, which Reagan termed an “evil empire.”
With so little to choose from when it comes to New Year’s Eve music, my challenge for 2014 is: Somebody please write a happy, apolitical December 31st song! It must be upbeat, but without references to nuclear apocalypse. It can also praise friendship, without making us depressed at the same time.
Is this really too much to ask? I’m not looking for a full repertoire to go New Year’s Eve caroling with; I just want a song I can look forward to singing every December at year’s end. New Year’s Eve, after all, is about new beginnings, so later this year when I write this column, I fully expect to be praising the new New Year’s Eve standard.
Dan MacIntosh has been a professional music journalist for 30 years and his work has regularly appeared in many local and national publications, including Inland Empire Weekly, CCM, CMJ, Paste, Mean Street, Chord, HM, Christian Retailing, Amplifier, Inspirational Giftware, Stereo Subversion, Indie-Music, Soul–Audio, Roughstock.com, Country Standard Time and Spin.com.