Every year around Christmas time, websites, news outlets and blogs pile on poor Christmas music, mocking the Christmas music that the writer considers the worst. The dynamic usually feels like a return to high school, where the songs are deemed inferior for the listed reasons, but really, they’re shunned because they’re not cool enough. Is Christmas music really that uncool? Or are there cool Christmas songs? If there are, what makes them cool?
Tulane University professor Joel Dinerstein has made a study of cool, and he is my guest this week on “12 Songs.” In 2014, Dinerstein co-curated the “American Cool” photography and cultural history exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian, and he wrote three books on the subject, American Cool, Coach: A Study of New York Cool, and The Origins of Cool in Postwar America.
In our conversation, we talk about the Ray Conniff Singers, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, The Crystals, Dean Martin and more to discover that yes, some songs are cool, some are definitely uncool, and some become cool part way through.