Voices

On my radar: The most wonderful time of the year?

2018-12-02 18:36

Boney M is synonymous with the festive season, especially in South Africa.

Their 1981 Christmas Album, featuring their 1978 earworm, Mary’s Boy Child, was followed up with a second Christmas album in 1984, called Christmas with Boney M.

However, the album was aborted, turned into a compilation and then exclusively released in South Africa, where, contrary to the rest of the world, the group’s popularity still raged on.

Now you know why Boney M is the festive season muzak of choice in our shopping malls and supermarkets. South Africans have a deep affinity to Boney M.

This year, there seems to be a more deadly Christmas earworm than Mary’s Boy Child – if that’s possible.

For the past two weeks I’ve had the line: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” bouncing, as if in a cul-de-sac, in my head. It has been torture.

This sugary Christmas ditty was written for Andy Williams in 1963 for that year’s The Andy Williams Christmas Album.

Columbia records decided not to release the song as a promotional Christmas release and instead pushed out Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, which went on to become a hit and another Christmas staple.

Nevertheless, the alchemy behind It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year proved to be potent. Williams subsequently recorded seven more Christmas albums, with the song appearing on every one of them.

As an enduring festive season staple, the song has been covered by a number of artists for their own Christmas albums, including Johnny Mathis, Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Garth Brooks, Paul Anka, and Harry Connick Jr.

Not to be outdone, Williams re-recorded the song as a duet with contemporary Christian music singer Kathy Troccoli in 1999.

It’s a credit to the songwriters that the song has resurfaced every year for the past five decades, but it’s also the reason why it can induce subconscious teeth grinding when you hear it every year.

I realise that it has replaced Boney M as a festive season earworm because I no longer venture into shopping malls, so ironically I have online shopping to thank for that small mercy.

I do, however, still watch commercial TV and this is where the song has been used to advertise Christmas specials ad nauseam (note to self: increase my Netflix binge-watching habit throughout December).

I hate to be the Grinch that swears at the TV screen every time an advert using this jingle is played, but this year has been somewhat punishing.

When your temperament is a hair’s breadth away from ogre, flinging the sugar-coated idea that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” is dangerous.

Recently, I unearthed the reason we’re all so very, very tired and stressed this year, more so than last year.

There’s a new phenomenon called bombardment stress and, like the words indicate, it really is unrelenting.

Think about the state of the world.

There are Trump’s trade wars; Brexit is looming; religious extremism and global terrorism is increasing; there are more frequent natural disasters, increased xenophobia, unheard of human displacement, confusing identity politics, fake news and our privacy being eroded further with facial recognition technologies.

All this before we even begin to add our unique and ever complex South African problems, which makes for an even longer and more depressing list.

So not only are our concerns, and therefore stress levels, mounting, but we receive it 27/4 via our black mirrors, an addiction that we’ve now discovered has been cunningly engineered.

Even if we try to relax, by delving into social media, there are new digital ailments rearing their virtual heads, such as “Snapchat dysmorphia”... Don’t ask, it’s getting complicated. Bombardment stress is the reality of our times.

When describing the exponential technological change we’re going through, the catch phrase “What a time to be alive” is regularly used, but like that other double-edged saying: “May you live in interesting times,” it can also be a curse.

I’m already tracking trends that will unfold next year and its adding to my bombardment stress.

I haven’t been this happy to see the end of the year for many years and I know I’m not alone.

This year has been brutal. It’s been productive in many ways, but no one quite expected the cost to be this high.

Taking a break from the madness is what we all need – a slower news cycle, a political truce, less road rage and more lethargic trolling on Twitter.

This is a time for a digital detox (yeah, right) and a time to connect with family (although that comes with a different type of stress).

It’s time to decompress. Don’t hold back on that festive feast and take that indulgent afternoon nap.

If we can just slow down, it would then be “the most wonderful time of the year”.

I’d take that indulgent nap, if only I could get rid of this earworm.

Chang is the founder of Flux Trends. For more trends, visit fluxtrends.com

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December 9 2018