Ah, Christmas. It’s a time of love and joy. It’s a time of peace and warmth. It’s a time when, during every trip to the grocery store, you risk hearing one of your least favorite songs of all time blasted over the speaker system in all of its holiday cheer.
Let’s face it: Most Christmas music can be hit and miss. And a lot of it is really, really weird if you stop to think about it. While some corny holiday songs have a special place in my heart and others I like despite myself, there are a few that get worse and worse and worse with every listen. And worse and worse and worse.
Here’s my definitive list of Christmas songs I never want to hear again, accompanied by a mini-rant about each one.
“Santa Baby” by Madonna
The original version of “Santa Baby” is pretty great. Recorded in 1953 by singer and comedian Eartha Kitt, the song is a tongue-in-cheek plea to Santa to bring Kitt an increasingly hilarious list of holiday gifts (from a convertible to a platinum mine), ostensibly in exchange for some female attention. Kitt does a perfect job of delivering the song in a perfect tone, right down to asking Santa for “duplex and checks,” followed by a ring — yes, she wants Santa forever, all to herself.
But, oh God, the 1980s version of the song, covered by Madonna in her heyday, ruins anything redeemable about the original. Madonna begins her ruination of the classic by singing in a cutesy Betty Boop voice that not only destroys the tone of the lyrics but is also just plain unpleasant to listen to. She also absolutely devastates the humor in the song, turning it into something like “Material Girl” Part II instead of what it is supposed to be: a funny joke. The only thing I want from Santa this year is for this song to be forgotten by society — and I’m willing to do anything to Santa that you can think of to get it.
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid
I understand that this song was written, recorded and distributed with good intentions. Unfortunately, everything else about it is absolutely terrible.
In case you aren’t familiar, this song was recorded in 1984 to aid the famine in Ethiopia. It starred a number of pop icons of the time, most notably Bono, Phil Collins, Sting, George Michael, Chris Cross, Bananarama and Duran Duran. It’s also been re-recorded, just as painfully, three other times since the original.
There is so much bad stuff going on in this song that we’re just going to move to bullet format for a minute:
- Um, it is not really about Christmas.
- Yes, people in Africa probably know it’s Christmas, no matter their current situation. Because about 45 percent of Africans are Christian and probably know about the major holiday, and another 40 percent are Muslim and don’t really celebrate the holiday.
- The lyrics are so terrible, in that they are both culturally offensive and poetically offensive. My least favorite lines: “Where a kiss of love can kill you, and there’s death in every tear / And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom.” Yikes!
- The charity drive didn’t even work. While the song has raised millions of dollars, the effort to get food to Ethiopia was a disaster in which much of the food rotted and warlords profited.
- The charities picked since the original have just been super ignorant. For example, in 2014, the re-recording was to raise money to fight Ebola, even though an aid worker pointed out that many, many more thousands of people in Africa die from diarrhea. Of course, no one wants to sing for diarrhea relief — yucky!
- Even Bob Geldof, who wrote the song, hates it and cringes every time he hears it. He openly admits that he’s responsible for writing two of the worst songs ever written: “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and “We Are the World.”
This song is such a shining example of charity (and music) gone terribly wrong. Please stop.
“Little Drummer Boy”
Pah-rum-pum-pum-pum: are these the dumbest sounds ever uttered? I think so. This Christmas staple emerged from the depths of hell (we assume) in 1941 and rose to popularity (somehow) when it was recorded by the Trapp Family Singers in 1951. Since then, this garbage tune has been covered by a dizzying array of pop singers, including but not limited to Bing Cosby, the Supremes, Joan Baez, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, the Jackson 5, Ray Charles, the Temptations, Bob Seger, New Kids on the Block, ABBA, Neil Diamond, RuPaul, Kenny G, Alicia Keys, Whitney Houston, Ringo Starr, Tori Amos, Bright Eyes, Jessica Simpson, Justin Bieber and the Wiggles. I can only assume it’s a music industry inside joke played on the entire world.
What is so terrible about this song? I think the No. 1 problem is the tempo, which is so slow that, let’s face it, we are not on the little drummer boy’s side by the end of the song. Secondly, Mary has a baby, and the first thing you do is bang your drum around it? That baby needs to sleep, and we’re guessing that Mary does not want to hear your noise. You should have given the baby a gift the family could really use, like a gift certificate to some restaurant that does delivery.
This song is so bad that there is actually a game in which the participants try to make it as far as possible into the holiday season without hearing it. It’s a noble but usually impossible pursuit.
“Christmas Tree” by Lady Gaga
I love Lady Gaga. I think she’s probably the most talented pop star working today and that everything she does is gold, from her early singles to her stunning latest album, Joanne. I have been with Lady Gaga through every controversy and rift and downturn and meat dress, at her side always. But: she is responsible for one of the worst Christmas song ever recorded: “Christmas Tree.”
You would think that, since the song is just two minutes long, you could get through it without being scarred for life, but you would be wrong. The train wreck of terrible music and terrible lyrics will have you wanting to live inside a soundproof box for the rest of your life. I think the song is supposed to be kind of sexy and filled with double entendres — and it’s ostensibly just about having sex around the holidays? I really don’t know, but “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” was bad enough. We really don’t need an R-rated version of it. Worst line: “Here here here / The best time of the year / I’m taking off my stockings / And spreading Christmas cheer.”
If I had a time machine, I’d go back and assassinate Hitler. But also I’d go back to 2010 and warn Lady Gaga not to record this song.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
This is the worst Christmas song ever written and recorded. Why? Because the main thrust of the song is about a woman trying to leave a man’s apartment, but he protests like a million times, arguing that she should stay the night (for sex) because of the weather. No. No. No.
There’s been a new hot take this year claiming that this song is not as terrible and offensive as we’ve recently realized, what with our growing awareness of sexual assault by acquaintances and the importance of consent. This hot take says that the song, at the time, was more about how the woman would be judged for not going home and how she really does want to stay. It’s actually pretty feminist in context, they say.
My response to that is: Sorry, but when you listen to the song, in the present day, it still sounds like a man not listening to what a woman is saying and pressuring her into doing something physical she doesn’t want to do. In fact, he tries to argue her out of it 31 times over the course of a couple of minutes. In the #metoo world of 2017, we do not need a song that repeatedly doesn’t take a woman’s protests seriously, even if, in the context of 1944, it went over a bit differently. Honestly, I’d rather listen to every cover of “Little Drummer Boy” ever recorded.