It’s Black Friday, so in lieu of waiting in line outside Best Buy for six hours, I thought I’d post my annual list of Worst Christmas Songs.
It’s not really an annual list, but I made a similar post a couple years ago before losing all my website’s content due to installing a WordPress plugin that messed up the database.
Anyway, now that it’s officially acceptable to listen to Christmas music (and, therefore, we must all be subjected to it non-stop from now until Christmas Day), I thought I’d highlight a few of the songs that irritate me the most, for one reason or another.
Hopefully it’s a little unexpected and not just the same 10 songs that everyone hates.
10. Rogers and Hammerstein - My Favorite Things
This song mentions “brown paper packages tied up with strings” and general things about winter. It also mentions getting bitten by a dog and stung by a bee, so I’m not sure how it made it into the pantheon of Christmas songs that get played every year.
It is not a Christmas song. It’s a song about trying to cheer yourself up when you’re depressed. It’s not a bad song, it just doesn’t belong in the Christmas playlist.
9. John Lennon - Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
Another one that is not a bad song, but not really a Christmas song. It’s a song about the year ending and taking stock of what you’ve done and looking ahead to the next year.
The lyric “Another year over, a new one just begun” implies that it’s actually New Years Day at the earliest, so it doesn’t make sense for this to be in heavy rotation a month before Christmas.
8. 'N Sync - Under My Tree
This one is, mercifully, not in heavy rotation anymore, but anyone who lived through the nineties has certainly heard it a few times. It’s basically a song about how all five members of ‘N Sync want to mack on you under their (shared?) Christmas tree, and they want Santa to watch.
“When the party is over / The night’s just begun” and “Two become one / That’s what we’ve waited all day for” are actual lyrics from the song, along with “I’ll show you how good it could be / I wish that Santa could be here to see.”
‘N Sync also tells you to “relax and enjoy the view,” which I would assume means staring directly at the floor, if you are laying underneath a Christmas tree.
7. Frank Loesser - Baby It's Cold Outside
I actually kind of like the Leon Redbone version from the Elf soundtrack, but that’s more because Leon Redbone’s ridiculous voice is fun to listen to than anything about this song in particular.
This is basically a song about a dude roofie-ing a woman, if you listen to the words (“Say, what’s in this drink?”). Gross.
6. Wham! - Last Christmas
First of all, what the crap is the deal with this song? The lyrics are a weird combination of “won’t get fooled again” and “yes I will definitely get fooled again.”
The chorus is all about how the singer is going to give his heart to someone else this year because last year “you” gave it away, causing him tears. However, the first verse contains the lines “Now I know what a fool I’ve been / But if you kissed me now / I know you’d fool me again,” but later he sings “Now I found a real love you’ll never fool me again,” so this one’s all over the map. Also, that second line has about 400 too many syllables to fit in the allotted space in the song.
Its incredibly repetitive and full of cornball 80s synth. As far as I can tell, no actual instruments were physically touched in the production of this song.
5. Donny Hathaway - This Christmas (Gloria Estefan Version)
I’m not sure if this song is a sequel to “Last Christmas” from above (or perhaps that one is a prequel to this), but the Gloria Estefan version shares that song’s lack of any discernible instrumentation that is not played by a MIDI sequencer. It’s also hard to divine any actual sentiment that would set “this” Christmas apart from any other year.
Why is this Christmas special? The only thing the narrator notes that is might be unique to “this” Christmas is that “My world is filled with cheer, and you” and “Your eyes outshine the town.” She then goes on to sing about how the fireside is blazing bright and how it’s going to be “very special” and she’s going to “get to know you better,” complete with funky porno-style wah-wah guitar.
Then a children’s chorus kicks in, singing about hanging “all the mistletoe” and apparently they’re also going to “get to know you better” too.
Nope! Don’t have a childrens choir sing about doin’ it at Christmas. Go to jail.
4. Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers - A Christmas to Remember
Originally part of a weird, “funny” Christmas special (having trouble getting your boot off equals comedy) that was appropriately filmed in 1984. This is another one with beyond-corny production and is another song about doin’ it at Christmas time. “Change the radio and I’ll turn the lights down dimmer”? I’ll do the first thing, whenever this song comes on the radio. Thanks for the suggestion, Kenny.
“Strangers when we met / Lovers as we leave / Christmas to remember / Too good to believe” and “Though it’s cold outside we’ll just stroke the burning embers” are just a couple more lines that we didn’t need to hear about how much Parton and Kenny Rogers enjoy doin’ it in a ski chalet in Tahoe.
And yes, they say “stroke” in the last line, not “stoke,” like a human would say.
3. Katherine Kennicott Davis - Little Drummer Boy (Trapp Singers version)
- The Bible makes no mention of a "drummer boy" being present at the nativity scene
- According to The Bible, by the time the Magi visited the baby Jesus he would have actually been about 2 years old
- Little red snare drums with drumsticks did not exist in the year zero
- Newborn babies do not enjoy having drums played in their faces
- Mothers who have just given birth do not enjoy having drums played in their faces
- Oxen and lambs do not "keep time."
- Also why would they need to keep time because that's precisely what drums are for?
- This song is a bunch of "Precious Moments"-esque revisionist malarkey
- As comedian Kyle Kinane recently noted on The A.V. Club, why do so many versions have an actual drum playing when there is already a vocal part mimicking the drum?
2. Mykola Leontovych - Carol of the Bells
This song, particularly the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s arrangement of it, is pretty much the exact opposite of my idea of Christmassy. Bombastic electric guitars and squealing solos make this sound like a crappy band trying way, way too hard to be Led Zeppelin and not like anything a sane person would associate with Christmas.
No matter the version of the song though, it just sets my teeth on edge and makes me feel like I’m about to get attacked by a Balrog. It’s one of those songs where the words are all about singing gaily and having good cheer but the pounding rhythm and super-accentuated first syllable of each line make it sound more like a war song that should be sung by a Samoan mens choir during a siege scene in a Lord of the Rings movie.
1. Newsong - The Christmas Shoes
This song is hilariously awful and full of such false emotion and a fake “lesson” to be learned that Slant magazine said “It’s not just the worst Christmas song ever, it’s one of the worst songs ever recorded.” Check out Patton Oswalt’s hilarious takedown of this song (contains swears, so headphones up).
Bonus - A Good Song!
I’ve seen this one included in a lot of “worst of” lists, but dammit, it’s fun and catchy and the video is basically people running around in the snow looking infectiously happy. It’s Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime and if you don’t like it you are wrong.