Look, I love the holidays as much as anyone. In fact, I actually enjoy a large selection of the standard tunes we will no doubt begin to hear non stop over the next month. But some Christmas music is so bad that no one should be subjugated to it, no matter the time of year.
The following is my definitive list of the Top 10 worst Christmas songs of all time. We pretty much stayed away from bad covers (since that’s far too easy), although a song’s propensity to be covered badly certainly factored in some of the decisions…
…and no, Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas is You’ is not on the list, primarily because it’s wonderful. Fight me.
10. ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ by Paul McCartney
Never mind the fact that “Christmas Time” is actually two words–or that the song was written by someone (Paul McCartney) who is an otherwise fantastic musician/songwriter. ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ is the aural equivalent of water torture.
All pop songs are going to be repetitive to some degree, but the synthesized instrumentals and grating chorus take the repetition to such a level (“Simply having a wonderful Christmas time” is repeated fourteen times) that you’ll swear someone put this one on repeat. Unfortunately, it’s only been played once, and we’re just getting started…
9. ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ by John Lennon
Look, I’m okay with sad songs at Christmas time. The holidays aren’t easy for everyone. Sometimes hearing a melancholy tune can provide a bit of comfort. But John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s ‘Happy Xmas’ takes what initially feels like balm for your soul and slowly twists it into a feeling much like alcohol being poured over an open wound.
For starters, it’s guaranteed to be playing in the pharmacy or grocery store when you can’t find something, adding greatly to your frustration. And like ‘Wonderful Christmastime,’ the lyrics and chorus are painfully repetitive even by modern pop music standards. You’d think having the Harlem Community Choir backing things up would’ve helped. Instead, the children’s angelic voices somehow make the song even more unbearable. Maybe it’s because they can’t quite drown out Yoko all the way.
8. ‘Santa Baby’ by Eartha Kitt
Nothing says Christmas cheer like a song that features a pulsing undercurrent of sex. Aside from the fact that ‘Santa Baby’ causes things to feel really uncomfortable when it plays in a room full of family members, the singer makes some fairly extravagant financial demands of her beau. Her wish list starts with a fur coat and a 1954 convertible before quickly careening off the rails. After explaining that a yacht doesn’t seem like too much to ask, she proceeds to request the deed to a platinum mine and an entire residential duplex. She de-escalates things a bit after that, but only slightly, asking for Christmas decorations courtesy of Tiffany’s, a diamond ring, and “checks,” which one assumes would be simultaneously blank and signed.
Whoever this women is, she better be singing to the real Santa or Elon Musk. Otherwise, going into default will be the least of the poor fella’s worries for this relationship.
Now in defense of Eartha Kitt, who sang the original version (and is a fantastic vocalist), her rendition is exponentially more subtle than later versions of the lusty holiday classic. From Madonna to Gwen Stefani, ‘Santa Baby’ has gotten progressively more aggressive to the point that we now have a version featuring the Pussycat Dolls and Carmen Electra gyrating on stage in front of a mostly male audience who are (understandably) losing their damn minds. Thankfully, there are a few versions still out there that retain some of Kitt’s understated sexuality–or at least wink along with us at what the song has become, like the version Allison Brie did. You guys go on to the next song without me. I need to check and make sure that last link is still working…
7. ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham
Look, I like Wham! and George Michael as much as the next 1980s kid, but this song drives me nuts. To be fair, though, it isn’t necessarily all that terrible on its own.
Yes, the droning instrumentals grate on me a bit. As mind numbing as the synth backing is, though, the intermittent keyboard solos are piercing enough to make your headphones feel like they might rupture right along with your ear drums.
And sure, the song uses the holidays to bitterly complain about an ex from a year ago (who dumped the poor guy on December 26), but that’s something I can absolutely respect at this point in my life.
What I absolutely cannot handle, however, is the massive amount of times ‘Last Christmas’ has been covered, which all but ensures that you can’t escape it. Even if you don’t purposefully add the Spotify channel that only plays various iterations of the tune, you’re unlikely to escape them all, especially the one that features Taylor Swift jumping at the opportunity to complain in song about another one of her exes.
6. ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ by Frank Loesser
Yeah, yeah, yeah…I can already hear those of you who claim reading the song’s lyrics as an example of date rape is a stretch at best. But whether you’re a staunch feminist or someone who considers Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh to be your personal heroes, there are portions of the song’s lyrics that anyone can (and should) recognize as at least a bit unsettling.
Say, what’s in this drink? (No cabs to be had out there)
The woman questions what was put in her drink while the man gleefully informs her that no cabs are available, which also implies that he will not be galant enough to offer her a ride himself. Real nice, jackass.
I ought to say no, no, no sir (Mind if move in closer?)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried (What’s the sense of hurtin’ my pride?)
For those of you who struggle with the idea of a woman giving consent, put your sister/daughter in the position of the woman singing the song. Then tell me with a straight face that you wouldn’t want to punch the douche canoe she’s trapped with in the throat.
5. ‘The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)’ by Alvin and the Chipmunks
First off, Christmas can’t be late. It happens when it happens at the same time every year. I shouldn’t have to explain this to anthropomorphic woodland creatures, much less humans of any age.
Also, I don’t care if it’s supposed to be a children’s song, mostly because adults have no qualms about singing along with what sounds like a bunch of drunk guys who just sucked an alarming amount of helium.
The tune is bad enough on its own, but there’s always at least one jagoff who will yell “ALVIN” along with David Seville at the top of this lungs. And speaking of Alvin, will someone please get the mischievous little rodent a damn hula hoop so we can stop hearing people sing along with that part of the song, too?
4. ‘Feliz Navidad’ by José Feliciano
Much like the previous entry, ‘Feliz Navidad’ is a painfully monotonous song made infinitely worse by the people who will no doubt attempt to sing along with it.
Don’t believe me? If you live in the south, go to a crowded Waffle House around 10:00 PM and select this one on the jukebox. In addition to infuriating the kitchen/wait staff, you are guaranteed to cause the following to occur:
1. Aside from its title and chorus refrains, the rest of the song is sung in the Spanish. If you’ve watched what happens when white people attempt to sing along with ‘Despacito,’ then you already know what’s going to happen here.
2. But oh, how you’ll wish for you had earplugs the first time José Feliciano expresses in English that he wants to wish you a Merry Christmas.
3. ‘The Christmas Shoes’ by NewSong
You knew this one was coming. The reasons for this song’s awfulness have already been perfectly detailed in a popular rant by Patton Oswalt, although many of my fellow Christians dismiss his most salient points due to Oswalt’s prolific use of profanity and sacrilegious humor. They also claim that the people who hate ‘Christmas Shoes’ do so simply because their Godless hearts repel anything that resides in the cradle of sentimentality and holiness.
Well, as a Christian myself, allow me to state for the record that yes, this song is objectively all types of terrible.
Never mind that the lead singer for NewSong (who is normally a pretty a decent band) decided to morph his voice into what would happen if Nickelback and Creed had an illegitimate child together. The message–along with its execution–is so bad it would give the Westboro Baptist Church pause.
First off, it’s an urban legend based on an internet chain letter, so it’s probably safe to assume that the events being sung about never actually happened. Second, let’s peel away the obvious message of witnessing God’s love through the the little boy’s love for his mother. What about the cashier at the store who tells the boy he’s a few dollars short? He’s either the most heartless bastard in history or an employee being put in an impossible position which could very well be a scam.
But then we come back to the lead singer, who takes the little boy’s heart wrenching plight and manages to make it all about him. Yes, I realize the song isn’t implying that God made the boy’s mom sick to show him the meaning of Christmas. But it’s still pretty ballsy (and callous) to turn what should have been a small act of kindness into the main theme of a message God wanted to send you about why you shouldn’t be grumpy during the holidays.
Yes, I do believe that God can multi-task and branch His message of love and goodwill from one person to multiple people. I just don’t think Discount Scott Stapp’s epiphany was as worthy of song as he did.
2. ‘All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth’ by Spike Jones & His City Slickers
Just a cute, holiday novelity song for kids, right? Well, if you’ve only ever heard this song performed by adorable children, and not the original 1948 version by Spike Jones, then consider yourself extremely lucky.
Having a grown man sing in a high pitched voice reminiscent of Herbert the Pervert from Family Guy is unsettling enough on its own. But Jones really goes for it on the double front tooth gap lisp, resulting in every ‘s‘ he pronounces knifing through your ear like a super-heated machete. He also does a piercingly loud lisp whistle at random intervals throughout the song, making this holiday classic a truly uncomfortable listening experience.
But even if you listen to the good versions of this song–like the one by Nat King Cole–then the lyrics still open up a host of questions. After the singer laments their inability to whistle (fair enough), he/she follows up by explaining that their missing teeth will prohibit them from wishing their loved ones Merry Christmas.
Really? I mean, I can totally understand a kid being embarrassed by a newly formed lisp, but that never stopped me from spreading Christmas cheer when my two front teeth were missing when I was a kid.
Also, I was happy when my “grown up teeth” finally came in, but I certainly wasn’t hoping Santa would bring them for Christmas. Kids wishing for teeth is weird…and a little creepy.
1. ‘Nuttin’ for Christmas’ by Art Mooney and His Orchestra
I don’t care how cute Barry Gordon (original vocalist) or Shirley Temple sounded when they were singing this. The kid they are portraying in song is a stone cold sociopath.
Yeah, maybe his parents were a bit harsh being mad at him for things like tearing his pants or spilling milk on the rug. But aside from those, the singer’s transgressions range from maddening to downright terrifying.
- Broke a doll on Kenny’s head (clear anger issues)
- Did a dance on Grandma’s plants (lack of impulse control)
- Bought some gum with a penny slug (propensity for theft)
- Hid a frog in sister’s bed (gross)
- Filled a sugar bowl with ants (GROSS)
- Put a tack on teacher’s chair (little a-----e)
But it’s these last two that really stick out to me:
“I tied a knot in Sarah’s hair.”
Either he/she did this with an incredible level of stealth, or he/she had to hold poor Sarah down while executing what was surely a painful procedure.
“I made Ronny eat a bug.”
He/she made a kid EAT A FRIGGIN’ BUG. I mean, what the hell type of psycho behavior is that? Even the bully who tormented me and my entire third grade class had the decency never to shove an insect (or any other living creature) down our throats while he was pummeling us.
Also, note how the singer never truly has any remorse for their actions. Instead, they constantly refer back to the fact that someone “snitched” on them, resulting in him/her not getting any presents this year. This clearly is a greater concern to them than any of the pain they inflicted upon their victims during the last year.
You can say I’m overanalyzing this all you want. I won’t say “I told you so” when this kid turns into an adult who makes necklaces out of their victim’s bones (or runs for political office).
If you appreciate Nick’s disdain for terrible holiday music, you can pre-order his new horror novel Snipe Hunt for only $10.
If you’d prefer to tell him why his opinions are wrong–or hear is impassioned defense of Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas is You’–you can find him on Twitter.