The holidays are the season for giving.
Unfortunately, they are also the season for recieving unwanted Christmas songs. These jaunty dirges are hammered into our brain every December, and they mostly sound like a civilization dying. The only way to escape them is to sequester yourself for a couple of months in a nuclear bunker.
We're not talking about Ye Olde Yuletide Carols of yore. At the very least, those are at least still good for guzzling mead and cracking greedy old miser's hard hearts.
No, we're talking about a commercial trend crafted by 20th century record companies and their songwriting cronies to make some scratch off of a public increasingly desperate for a little holiday joy.
But the following 10 holiday classics go beyond cynical and enter the realm of the truly dumb.
1. Do They Know It's Christmas? – Band Aid
Could this be the dumbest holiday song ever? Let’s consult our “Earnest 1980s Charity Song” checklist. Lurid, bash-you-over-the-head lyrics? Check. The vocal talents of Boy George and Phil Collins? Got it. Deafening wash of tubular bells and synthesized drums? Done. This 1984 single was meant to highlight hunger in Ethiopia – where the lyrics claim “the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears” – and happily it raised over $100 million for famine relief there. But to today’s ears the lyrics represent heights of pampered rock star cluelessness only eclipsed by Band Aid’s next hit single: We are the World.
2. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer - Elmo & Patsy
It’s time to permanently retire this novelty one-off about a terrible family tragedy. Unless you think there’s something inherently hilarious about a lonely alcoholic grandmother, neglected by her family on Christmas Eve, stumbling off alone into the woods only to be fatally mowed down by a hundred tons of venison on the hoof. Dear old Grandpa then celebrates her death on his recliner while the family contemplates raiding her gifts. Good old-fashioned fun, this “holiday classic”.
3. A Wonderful Christmas Time – Paul McCartney & Wings
The only explanation for what is surely the laziest, most dispirited, and ugliest-sounding Christmas song ever committed to tape: Sir Paul must have lost a bet with Ringo. Now the world should rise up and demand an explanation for why every soft-rock station in the country plays this joyless piece of crap at least once an hour throughout December.
4. I Believe in Father Christmas – Greg Lake
The holidays are here. So just kick back by the fire with a flagon of eggnog, forget your troubles, flip on the old stereo – and treat yourself to an insufferably whiny, self-righteous political diatribe masquerading as a Christmas song. As if the finger-pointing at all us consumerist saps (and the onslaught of Moog synthesizers) weren’t enough, we also get dark sarcasm and blood-curdling images of war and death. Merry Christmas, baby-killers!
5. The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late) – Alvin and the Chipmunks
This unaccountably popular holiday ditty was originally performed in 1958 by a rodent boy band whose talents were exploited by a wily producer. Can you say animal abuse? But sell records – and “h-u-u-u-la h-o-o-o-ps” – it surely did. A pop-punk update, featured on the recent Chipmunks animated movie, is even more annoying than the original, if possible.
6. Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley
The dumb holiday message of this song: forget about all that spirit of giving stuff and appreciating the company of friends and family. Instead, wallow in self-pity and mope about the girl who ran out on you. I can’t imagine why she’d want to leave such a bundle of joy.
7. A Spaceman Came Travelling - Chris de Burgh
This Nativity song for the New Age crowd re-imagines the angel Gabriel as a wise alien from another world who appears to Mary and her saintly tot on an interstellar mission of peace. In de Burgh’s version, which he supposedly penned after reading Erich Von Daniken’s UFO- religion staple Chariots of the Gods?, the star of Bethlehem is actually the alien’s ship hovering above the manger. ‘Nuff said.
8. Any recording where dogs/cats are barking/meowing to Jingle Bells
This needs to end, once and for all. If Congress is forced to amend the Bill of Rights to allow an exception to free speech protections, so be it. Until that glorious day, please: I am begging you. Stop sampling dogs and cats and inserting their yowls into Christmas songs. You may think it is “cute.” You are unequivocally wrong.
9. Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt
This nauseatingly graphic come-on to everyone's favorite fat jolly old elf is quite possibly the creepiest, most lecherous popular Christmas song ever, reinforced by the original Catwoman's coy vocals. Let’s hope the narrator never got her claws into dear Santa – where is Mrs. Claus anyway? – and that she got some help for her sex addiction.
10. Please, Daddy (Don't Get Drunk this Christmas) – John Denver
The late, great John Denver must have been (Rocky Mountain) high when he dropped this miserable honky-tonk track lamenting alcoholic dysfunction at the holidays. Of course, the golden-voiced Denver couldn’t have sounded melancholic if he tried, so the whole affair ends up a queasy mismatch between his sunny, swelling vocals and his unimaginably dark material. Nonetheless, the song inspired even more spirit-crushing covers by the likes of Alan Jackson and the Decemberists.