Yesterday Bonnie and I tackled the 15 best Christmas songs (secular division), and now that we’ve done our good deed, it’s time to get down and dirty with the songs we hate. Once again, we’re judging the song by itself and staying away from specific versions. There’s probably a recording somewhere of Rebecca Black singing “White Christmas,” and it’s probably the worst thing that’s ever happened, but that’s not our purpose here. We’re getting to the heart of the music and figuring out which songs are rotten to their cloying holiday core.
Let’s do it! Counting down from no. 15 all the way to the worst:
Shane: This one is on the list purely for peer pressure reasons. Everyone I talked to, online and in person, at least mentioned this song, and some were adamant that it needed to make the cut. It’s like the reverse of “White Christmas”—people are very passionate, but in a hateful way. Personally, I like the high-pitched harmonies, and I appreciate that the writers and singers spent a lot of time figuring out exactly how chipmunks sound when they sing, and duplicating it exactly.
Bonnie: I actually don’t mind this song—at first. I like the way Alvin sings “me, I want a HUUUUULA hoop,” and I like that this song is the first thing we hear in Almost Famous, but I reach my saturation point after one listen. Anything beyond that, and this song has the potential to get stuck in my head forever. Those high-pitched harmonies start to sound a little demonic after a while, too. I’m surprised no horror-movie directors have gotten wise to this song yet; I’m picturing a deranged killer sitting in a white room with a straitjacket on, with this playing on a constant loop. SORRY, CHRISTMAS IS RUINED FOREVER.
Shane: Wasn’t Alvin and the Chipmunks a horror movie?
Shane: This song has Bono encouraging us to be glad that we’re not poor people from a third-world country. I mean, sure, I am grateful, but it seems like bad form to state it so explicitly. This is the classic example of activist musicians meaning well, but delivering their message in a very awkward way.
Bonnie: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” has good intentions, but it’s also an extremely condescending question, one that paints the poverty-stricken children of the third world as bizarre Others. Like, c’mon guys. As of 2010, 48 percent of Africa’s 1 billion inhabitants were Christian. They know it’s Christmas.
Bonnie: Like a lot of the worst Christmas songs, this one’s repetitive nature allows for Maximum Annoyance. Also, where is this Santa Claus Lane? The North Pole? Does Santa live on a street he named after himself? What a narcissist.
Shane: Not to mention the sweat-shop conditions where he makes his elves work. But you’re right, this sounds like some kind of propaganda song for a self-obsessed dictator. Replace “Santa Claus” with “Stalin” and it would probably fit right in in the Soviet Union.
Shane: Santa knows when I’m sleeping, and I’m not okay with that.
Bonnie: Shane fought for this song’s inclusion, but I’m actually fine with it. I love the Jackson 5 version, but no one else can touch it. I think it’s because no adult can get away with singing “rooty-toot-toot and rumpa-tum-tum.”
Bonnie: Fun fact: there are actually four verses to this song, all set to the same exact melody as the first one. Mercifully, most of these get left out. I almost prefer the “Batman smells, Robin laid an egg” version.
Shane: I’ve never heard this song, but based on the title and the artist, I feel confident that it deserves to be here. In fact, I’m probably being generous placing it at No. 10. Bonnie, you should probably listen, if only for the integrity of the list.
Bonnie: Oh sure, give me all the dirty work. This song includes the phrase, “Yo, MC Santa, you didn’t know my boy Donnie could play percussion, did you?” That’s Donnie Wahlberg, of course, who penned this trainwreck. I keep waiting for this song to actually…I don’t know, get going, but it’s basically the New Kids chattering stuff like “Are you ready, guys??” and “You know Joey Joe’s ready!” in between repeats of the dull chorus—which is literally just “have a funky, funky Christmas.”
Bonnie: A childhood injury and an irrational fear of the dentist add up to a weird thing about any kind of mouth-related gore for me, so the idea of combining Christmas (which is great) and missing teeth (which are horrific) is a pretty awful one in my mind. But beyond that, this is a song that is typically sung by a child putting on an obnoxious fake lisp. “Ho ho ho, speech impediments are hilarious!”
Shane: I also injured my two front teeth as a youngster when my grandfather slammed the other end of the teeter-totter too hard and I went head-first into the center bar. Periodically, the chip that fell out 25 years ago will break, and I’ll have to get it fixed, and this will probably continue throughout my life. In other words, SCREW THIS SONG.
Shane: Guys, here’s the gimmick—the mommy is kissing Santa Claus because Santa Claus isn’t real, and it’s actually the kid’s father, so everything is on the up and up. But the kid thinks he just witnessed his mom committing adultery, and in the forgotten fourth verse of the song, he murders the Santa Claus to avenge his dad. Irony! It’s the dark first half of a modern Oedipus tale. (Also, the kid’s voice is the worst.)
Bonnie: When I was a little kid and still believed in Santa Claus, this song used to really bum me out because I initially did think it was about some poor kid whose mom was having an affair with Santa. Then when I was old enough to “get” it, it would remind me of when I was young and naive and I’d worry about getting old and cynical and get bummed out all over again. [Note: in retrospect, this makes me sound like a really intense, neurotic Charlie Brown character, but I promise I was actually a happy, well-adjusted child.]
Shane: [Note: Bonnie believed in Santa Claus until she was 19.]
Bonnie: I’m sure there are a few adult artists who have recorded this song, but whenever I think of it, I immediately picture a bunch of kids screaming “CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!” out of tune at some holiday pageant.
Shane: I still don’t know exactly what they’re talking about when they say “who wouldn’t go?” Go where?
Bonnie: I was all set to call you out on having the lyrics wrong and insist they’re saying “who wouldn’t know?” (as in, “duh, it’s Santa, who wouldn’t be able to figure that out?”), not “go.” But I looked up the lyrics and polled the office, and it turns out I’m the one who’s been hearing this song incorrectly for 25 years. I don’t even know who I am anymore. [Sidenote: in polling the office, I discovered I’m not the only one who had it wrong; one person thought it was “who do you know?” which makes it seem like The Housetop is a really exclusive club you need the right connections to get into.]
Shane: Some of these songs, like the No. 1 on the list, were amusing to me for a short time when I was very young. This is not one of those songs. “Nuttin’ For Christmas” was immediately annoying to me, based on the kid’s grating voice and the fact that adults all made the same joke (“that song’s about you!”). This song should be banned from American airwaves.
Bonnie: Who’s the target audience supposed to be here, exactly? Is it supposed to be a cautionary tale for kids? A wink at adults who are stuck with bratty children? Because even when I was young, I’m pretty sure my reaction to this was something along the lines of “good, I’m glad you’re not getting anything for Christmas. You sound awful.” or “Shoulda thought about the consequences before you put a frog in your sister’s bed, ya jerk.”
Shane: Not only is this song incredibly superficial, but the lyrics are lazy: “There’ll be scary ghost stories/And tales of the glories of/Christmases long, long ago.” Really? You’re going to tell ghost stories on Christmas? That’s not a thing, dude or lady who wrote this.
Bonnie: Ever heard of the Ghost of Christmas Past, Shane? Brush up on your Dickens! (But seriously, I can’t hear this song without picturing Will Ferrell projectile vomiting on SNL.)
Bonnie: What kind of cold-hearted monster dumps someone the day after Christmas? But the narrator’s no saint here, either. He’s says he’s going to spend this Christmas with “someone special,” but he’s obviously just using some poor girl to make his ex jealous as he admits, “once bitten and twice shy, I keep my distance, but you still catch my eye.” Nothing says “the holidays” like taking advantage of someone to spite a former lover!
Shane: Definitely sounds like the singer is still obsessed with the original girl, and that he’ll never be able to enjoy Boxing Day again.
Shane: I refuse to listen to check this out, but if my memory serves me correctly, the only lyrics in this song are, “simply having a wonderful Christmastime,” and they’re repeated over and over for 16 minutes.
Bonnie: There are other lyrics, but not many. And I refuse to listen again to see what they are because I already heard this song once this year and it got stuck in my head for over an hour. That “SIIIIIIIIMPLY HAAAAAAAAAAVING” part is an earworm in the worst possible sense. An ear parasite, even.
Shane: I feel like I might take some flack for this, because if I heard the song for the first time today, I might be like, “oh, hey, that’s not a bad tune.” But somehow this has become the most ubiquitous, overplayed Christmas song in America, and every December I go to bed with that nightmarish chorus in my head. “I WANT TO WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS!” scream my demons, as I thrash about in a cold sweat.
Bonnie: I don’t have as much of a problem with this one as you do, Shane, but I do agree it gets overplayed, and like all the worst Christmas songs, once it’s in your head, it’s impossible to shake it. This one’s also prone to awful, grating American bastardizations of its Spanish lyrics. I have a sneaking suspicion that’s why the English chorus got slipped in there in the first place.
Bonnie: “HAHAHA, our elderly relative got drunk, forgot her medication and wandered outside on Christmas Eve, where she was trampled by a two-ton beast! Let’s write a hokey novelty song about it!” Shouldn’t there be, I don’t know, a little more concern for Grandma here? Her body was found with “hoof prints on her forehead and incriminating claws marks on her back.” Sounds like a pretty grisly scene to me.
Shane: I think the singer killed his own grandmother and tried to frame a reindeer. And that crime was still not as bad as writing this song.