Die Hard for the Holidays
A seasonal playlist and move primer
Illustrations by Steve Hill
So, you’re hosting a holiday gathering? Maybe it’s a cocktail party, small get-together, office party or a family dinner. Since I’m not a foodie, I’m not going to cover hors d’oeuvres or meatless entrees. But aside from food and drink and perfect seasonal décor, what do you need to complete a party? Music!
Look at your budget. You can consider hiring a house DJ or a famous rapper … or you can find an old guy with a huge vinyl collection, but there’s only about three of us left in this town. So you should consider something that will cost you next to nothing, except a little time and imagination.
There once was a time when most people had a respectable music collection, with a sampling of Christmas favorites, or they knew somebody who did. Those days are long gone. People stopped “owning” music when they started thinking about how neat it would be to live in a tiny home. In 2001, more than 712 million compact discs were sold. Last year, only 89 million. In 2013, there were more than 1.3 billion song downloads. Last year, 555 million. Music streaming now dominates the market, with more than 618 billion songs streamed per year. With that in mind, there’s no reason to borrow your uncle’s record collection. You can assemble an awesome party playlist through your smartphone.
Santa Gets His Groove Back
There are a variety of easy-to-use, and mostly free, streaming apps and services available now. A lot of people already have iTunes, so Apple Music is a convenient choice. If you listen to music and podcasts in the car, Sirius XM is pretty popular. But if you’re a novice and you just want to put together a fun, two-hour party mix, you can’t go wrong with Spotify.
Spotify is a multi-platform, music streaming service at Spotify.com or through the app store on your smart phone. I still prefer to work from a desktop (for stability and large monitor), but you can easily transfer your music to your mobile app later. The other cool thing about Spotify is that you can connect with friends online, so if you know someone who has already made a badass playlist, you can find them through the program.
Opening a Spotify account is easy — there’s a free version whose home screen is nice and clean and not intimidating. You can start with a search for “Christmas” or “Christmas Classics.” The latter is a playlist that Spotify assembled that’s nearly three hours long (about party length), and features 59 songs, from Brenda Lee to Mariah Carey. That’s almost too convenient. If it’s a special occasion, you can create your own list: from contemporary hits such as Ariana Grande’s “Christmas and Chill” to “Christmas in Hollywood” by the Hollywood Undead. Spotify is almost like making a digital mix tape. You can search for songs, and save them to your lists for the big event.
The Not-So-Silent Night
Now, it’s time to party! If you are using a streaming program, I’m assuming that you are not an audiophile. That’s okay: sound quality is not that important as long as it’s loud. Amplifying your party music is easier than ever, but you have to know the limitations of your electronics. Always make sure that your phone has plenty of memory and is plugged in; you don’t want to lose power when Santa’s on the dance floor. Wireless speakers, such as Amazon’s Echo Dot, are great and convenient, but there can sometimes be a millisecond delay in sound transfer, which creates an effect equivalent to digital “skipping.”
Finally, with any party, remember the words of musician Andrew W.K. — “It’s usually better to focus on partying and let the other stuff take care of itself.”
Christmas Movies … From a Dude’s Perspective
I’m a 52-year-old, single, white, straight man. I write this because I know that this magazine’s readership demographics lean heavily toward women. But my editor asked me to put together a list of classic and not-so-classic movies for the holidays, and I had to put it in my perspective. So here goes!
Die Hard — Of course this is a Christmas movie! The 1988 film has held up well over the last 30 years. The signs of Christmas play out in important scenes throughout the movie: Hans Gruber and his crew barge in on the Nakatomi office Christmas party. Run D.M.C.’s “Christmas in Hollis,” likely the first-ever Christmas rap anthem, plays loudly in Argyle’s limo. And when John McClane surrenders to Gruber, he cleverly tapes a gun to his back using Christmas-patterned tape that he found at the party. The movie even ends with “Let It Snow!”
The Family Man — Before he started making direct-to-digital movies, Nicolas Cage was a bankable, dependable and prolific star. This 2000 movie stars Cage as Jack Campbell, a super-rich investment banker with a fancy Ferrari and posh Manhattan apartment. An incident at a bodega on Christmas Eve opens a gateway to the life he would’ve been living as a minivan-driving family man working at a tire store. Jack gets to traverse both worlds briefly, but he ultimately has to make a choice. While this movie is rife with clichés, such as the streetwise guardian angel, Cage and co-star Téa Leoni’s characters are empathetic and likable.
Rocky IV — Believe it or not, this is Lady Gaga’s favorite movie. Made at the apex of the Cold War in 1985, our hero Rocky Balboa ends up extracting revenge for his mentor Apollo Creed’s death (spoiler) at the hands of Russian War Machine Ivan Drago. Traveling to a remote log cabin, hounded by the watchful eyes of Russian security, Balboa goes old-school and trains by chopping wood and running through waist-high snow. Why is this a Christmas movie? Because Balboa beats Drago in Russia on Christmas night, flipping the adulation of the crowd to the Western hero, while the entire world watches — bringing peace on Earth, and goodwill to men.