So Aaron Armstrong posted recently about his picks for the best and worst Christmas songs, and that reminded me of some posts I wrote, years ago, on the same subject. So I decided I’d updated my list for this year. For the ones that are staying on my top and bottom five, I’ll just “re-appropriate” what I’ve written previously. And please post your favorites (and least-favorites) in the comments below!
Bah Humbug! The4thDave’s Least Favorite Christmas Songs!
These are the five songs that I avoid like the plague, every holiday season. Songs that make me turn the radio dial immediately, or off completely if they keep popping up. I’d rather listen to my van engine idle than sit through these things ever again. But maybe it’s just me–your mileage, as they say, may vary.
(Dis)Honorable Mention: “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano
I almost didn’t list this one, because really, it’s harmless. But the sad fact is that this song is the “Margaritaville” of Christmas carols–everyone knows the words, everyone sings along with the song, and then everyone is deeply embarrassed afterwards. No Christmas carol should cause this much shame. And honestly, the lyrics aren’t that inspiring. No magnificent angelic host, no inspiring star, no world laying pining in sin and error, no captive Israel. Just some dude saying Merry Christmas over and over and over. He doesn’t even wish us a prosperous New year “from the bottom of his heart.” What’s up, Jose? Did you run out of sincere sentiment halfway through?
5) “Santa Baby” by anyone who thinks it’s sexy
(It’s nearly impossible to find an appropriate video for this one. So you get LeAnn Rimes’ “NOW…” version with no pictures. I’m really doing you a favor.)
With this song, you get one or two possible outcomes: the singer comes off as trashy and/or just plain sad. Seriously, this is just painful. Memo to everyone singing this song ever: You are neither Cynthia Basinet nor Eartha Kitt. You will never sound like Cynthia Basinet or Eartha Kitt. Attempting to sing this song as if you were Cynthia Basinet or Eartha Kitt only demonstrates how ridiculous and incredibly annoying this song sounds. Plus, it makes you look sad and desperate. Please stop. For the love of Christmas, please stop.
4) “Last Christmas” by Wham!
(Not gonna make jokes about George Michael. Not gonna do it. Nope.)
So let’s just talk about the story of the song. Here’s the big problem: it’s not actually about Christmas. You can substitute any other season or month in place of the word “Christmas” and it doesn’t change the song. It’s a slam song about how a girl broke Georgie’s heart, so he’s going to give it to someone else. Someone who’s actually special. (Hey, girl from last year, you’re nothing to George now.) But he’s also leaving the door open to play with his emotions again.
The timing of this emotional manipulation is incidental. Think about it: “Last summer, I gave you my heart, but the very next day, you gave it away.” Still works, doesn’t it? For me, that’s a *Christmas* song FAIL.
3) “Merry Christmas, Darling” by the Carpenters
I don’t even know what to say about this, except that every time I hear the first few bars of this song, I change it immediately. In terms of songs about missing far-away loved ones, this one is too schmaltzy to be enjoyed. And some of the wording is just awkward. I can’t explain it. But this one just makes me feel weirdly icky.
2) “Happy Birthday Jesus” by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
Now at this point, you may be taken aback. “C’mon, Dave, really? You’re taking shots at a song sung by sweet little kids?” Yes I am, and I’ll explain why.
The main problem is the age paradox. This song could only be sung by small children, because the thought of adults singing it is ridiculous to the extreme. On the other hand, you suffer from the cloyingly sweet little girl’s voice, with the thlight lithp of mithing teeth–including one point when she ventures into “Junior-Asparagus” land. Then you have the sweeping orchestration over the children’s choir, repeating the EXACT SAME LINES before coming back down into the shaky-voiced (oh, i’m sorry, i meant tender) solo finale.
Obviously, if I were this child’s parent, I would be beaming with pride. But it’s hard to beam with pride at other people’s kids. Have you actually tried going to an elementary school Christmas production lately? It’s painful. You only care, you can only stand it, if you have a stake in the endeavour. I don’t know this little girl. I’m sure she’s a sweetheart. But just like I don’t make a habit of seeking out bootlegged soundtracks to every elementary-school Christmas production starring cherubic little tykes in construction paper and cotton ball costumes, I don’t want to listen to this dear little child sing a birthday song to Jee-ZAHS, makes no difference that the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir produced it.
I’m sorry, that’s just the way I feel.
1) “The Christmas Shoes” by Newsong
If there were ever a tune deserving of criminal prosecution, it’s this one–and I say this with absolutely no exaggeration. I can’t even express how much I loathe this song. Some of these tracks annoy me, or stick in my mind like a burr that I can’t remove. But this one makes me angry, to the point of minor violence. Why? Because it’s expressly created to make you cry. A little boy is buying new shoes for his mother, so she’ll be pretty when she dies and goes to Heaven tonight.
OH. MY. LANTA. And the kid can’t afford the shoes, and a stranger buys them for him. For his mom who’s dying of some unspecified disease. Because apparently Daddy can’t get his butt to the store with his young son to buy the blasted shoes.
The stage-whispery vocals. The telegraphed musical swells at the bridge. The INSUFFERABLE CHILDREN’S CHOIR SINGING THE CHORUS AFTER THE BRIDGE!
AAARRRRRGGGGGGHHH!!! MUST SMASH!!!! MUST SMASH!!!!!!!!
I still hate you, Newsong. I still hate you very very much.