It’s Christmas! And with Christmas comes Christmas music. Here’s the worst of it.
First published December 2017.
It’s that time of year when we gather to celebrate with those we are closest to, those we love and depend on, those who make us feel sure of who and what we are together. Shame the soundtrack is such shite. There’s nothing even remotely cool about a Christmas song. It is the musical equivalent of a balloon animal. The place where hyper-consumerism meets pop desperation. The very spot where musical integrity has crawled off to die. With all that said, please join me for a selection of the most atrocious seasonal song turkeys ever unleashed on the unsuspecting public.
In the category of: MOST MAWKISH
‘The Christmas Shoes’ by NewSong
American Christian rock band Newsong is to blame for this swamp of maudlin cack. A poor kid stands in line at a department store on Christmas Eve to buy his dying mother a fancy pair of shoes so she can look fresh when she “meets Jesus tonight”. It is sung from the point of view of the surly guy behind him in the queue. When the kid doesn’t have enough cash, the grouch ends up shelling out for the shoes, thereby learning the true meaning of Christmas. Engorged with layers of strings and angelic children singing, this track will soon have you reaching for a bucket. If, however, you find yourself reaching for a tissue, that’s okay too. There’s a book and a made-for-TV movie of it. Just for you.
Demerit points: Rhyming ‘shoes’ with ‘please’
Sample lyric: ‘Could you hurry sir, Daddy says there’s not much time’
In the category of: MOST PATRONISING
‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ by Band Aid
While I do realise that Sir Bob and the gang meant well and did raise a swag of cash, their approach left something to be desired. A classic case of right-on, rich white folks getting it horribly wrong. Going the full David Brent, they take turns to remind us how lucky we are not to be poor in a third world country, earnestly delivering lines like “no rain or river flows”. But … isn’t the Nile the second longest river in the world? Never mind. Broad strokes here. As for that title – the African continent has 500 million inhabitants who identify as Christian. I’m guessing they probably do know it’s Christmas.
Demerit points: The lumbering weight of ego involved.
Sample lyric: ‘There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime’
In the category of: HORNY FOR CHRISTMAS
‘Have A Cheeky Christmas’ by The Cheeky Girls
Twin Romanian pop tarts Gabriela and Monica Irimia look great in shorts. They took the precaution of wearing them when they appeared on British TV’s Popstars and were immediately catapulted to fame. Their first single ‘The Cheeky Song (Touch My Bum)’ sold over 1.2 million copies worldwide. It was written by their mum, who was also their manager. Sample lyric: “Touch my bum, this is life”. This track is their first seasonal offering. Over a stodgy disco beat, the twins shout things like “Chreeeeeeesssmaaaaas” and “Ooooooh Baby Baby” in accents strong enough to open oysters. Even their shiny gold hotpants can’t save this one. NB: Check out the eyes of the reindeer in the clip to see what sheer terror looks like.
Demerit points: Reindeer abuse.
Sample lyric: “Getting sexy in the snow”
‘Back-Door Santa’ by Bon Jovi
Often referred to as the poor man’s Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi fronts this ill-advised cover of a 1968 track by Clarence Carter. Screeching sexual innuendo over a horrible synth riff and squally guitar, this track has all the subtlety of a sixth form poet. A bilious Christmas package of bloated stadium rock. Even worse, it has nothing to do with Christmas. At all.
Demerit points: Gratuitous guitar strangling
Sample lyric: “I make all the little girls happy”
In the category of: INAPPROPRIATE SUBJECT MATTER
‘Please Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas’ by John Denver
Confronting dad’s drinking problem on Christmas Eve was always going to be a buzzkill. Atop homey piano tinklings and acoustic guitar, an eight year old boy begs his father not to get shit-faced, collapse and make his mother cry like he did last year. Rich pickings for a country tune any other time of year, it’s just not what we need to kick off the holiday season. This song would drive anyone to the bottle.
Merit points: Not singing it in the voice of a pleading child
Sample lyric: “You came home at a quarter past eleven and fell down underneath our Christmas tree”
‘Santa Claus Has Got the Aids’ by Tiny Tim
Best described as “a lonely outcast intoxicated by fame”, American novelty singer Tiny Tim (aka Herbert Buckingham Khaury) is responsible for this abomination. No-one I spoke to believed this song existed until I showed them the clip. There is no explanation for it, unless he’d just suffered a bad fall, was drinking heavily at the time, or both. On a bed of cheesy Casiotone blips, Tiny sings – though not in his trademark falsetto/vibrato and with no ukulele in sight. He apparently wrote this song before mainstream America realised how serious the Aids epidemic was. The lyrics seem to suggest that the virus was equivalent to a bad dose of flu and could be cured with bed rest. This track rightfully belongs in the dumpster of pop-trash history. On fire.
Double demerit points: Sheer offensiveness.
Sample lyric: “The nurses all look sad, ‘cause Santa’s got it bad”
In the category of: VAPID AS
‘Wonderful Christmas Time’ by Paul McCartney
Someone got a Mellotron in his Christmas stocking, didn’t they Paul? Then they fell in love with it and a monstrosity was born. This synth-laden pile of dreck will chafe away at your will to live. It makes ‘Silly Love Songs’ look like a masterpiece. I’m convinced Sir Paul knocked this one out on a tea break – we’re talking potato-quality songwriting here. It has been suggested before today that this track could have used more LSD. The longer I listen, the more I’m inclined to agree.
Demerit points: The half a million bucks McCartney earns from this song annually for covers and repeat plays.
Sample lyric: “Ding dong, ding dong, oo-oo-oo, doo-doo-doo”
‘Christmas Wrapping’ by Spice Girls
Many a heinous crime can be laid at the Spice Girls’ door – that movie for starters. I’m adding this to their charge sheet. A flimsy, plastic version of a track by The Waitresses, this is four minutes of solid moaning about how they can’t be arsed with all the ruckus of Christmas. It’s like a PSA for iron deficiency. Over an automated disco backing track they whine “No thanks, no party lads, gonna relax”. Yet despite their fatigue, they’ve somehow managed to ram 50,000 words into this song, turning every line into a sorry, scrambled mess.
Merit points: Soldiering on, despite the anaemia.
Sample lyric: “Don’t think I have the energy”
In the category of: CREEPY AF
‘I’m Gonna Put Some Glue Round The Christmas Tree So Santa Claus Will Stick Around All Year’ by Joel Grey
Sadistic kid (possibly budding serial killer) plans to trap Santa with the cunning use of glue and hold him prisoner for the rest of the year. If that wasn’t creepy enough, the track is performed by a fully grown man singing as a petulant child. The psycho spoken-word rant in the middle belongs in a slasher movie and the icing on the cake is the treacly Shirley Temple show tune arrangement. A truly menacing seasonal misstep.
Demerit points: A dopey plan which totally wouldn’t even work.
Sample lyric: “I’ll catch him like a fly and I’ll have him for Easter and the Fourth of July”
In the category of: SLAUGHTERING A CLASSIC
‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ by Jillian Hall
The Ring is a horror movie about a videotape which will destroy anyone who watches it within seven days. The tagline is ‘Before you die, you see …’ God help me, I may have just discovered the aural equivalent: Jillian Hall covering a Bing Crosby classic. I’m sorry. I had no idea. But now that I’ve heard it I must pass it on to you, in order to save myself. In the late ‘90s, Jillian was better known as a WWE wrestling champion from Ashland, Kentucky. At some point in her career she developed an in-ring persona as a tone-deaf singer and in 2007 released an album featuring five covers of trad Christmas tracks, including this gem. I will confirm that she is deliberately singing as badly as she possibly can. While I’m not sure if this makes it better or worse, the fact remains that she sounds like a cracked hillbilly with a mouthful of rubber bands. That zany nasal twang will haunt you long after you’ve shut off the sound or run screaming into the night. Before you die, you hear …
Demerit points: Outright vandalism.
Sample lyric: Can’t fault the lyrics, her delivery is solely to blame.
We’re all going to need some healing time now, especially after that last one. But in the spirit of peace and goodwill and to prove there are exceptions to every rule – I will concede that good Christmas tunes do exist. I even have proof. But that’s another story.