A Grinch’s Review
Christmas songs from worst to worst
By: Callum Leemkuil-Schuerman
Christmas music is, by and large, terrible. If it’s not overly sentimental, it’s obnoxiously cute. Far too much of it is just a naked ploy for money. Underlying almost all of it is a nostalgia for an imaginary non-racist version of the 1950s—a callback to a fake “simpler time” when “Christmas was really Christmas.” Worst of all, from mid-November to the end of December, it is nearly impossible to avoid being continuously bombarded by quavering voices and jingling bells. So, in the spirit of the season, The Wake has exhaustively researched and prepared a list of the five worst Christmas songs of all time. Pour yourself a glass of eggnog, sit down in front of a crackling fire, and do whatever other cliched things you can think of because it’s time to get listening.
“Christmas Shoes” is, in many ways, the perfect terrible Christmas song. Its narrative—an adult observes a kid trying to buy shoes for his terminally ill mother—is about as cartoonish and emotionally manipulative as can be imagined, complete with maudlin pop-Christianity: “I want her to look beautiful / if mama meets Jesus tonight.” All of this is delivered by a vocalist singing in the classic early-2000s, post-grunge style favored by bands like Creed and Daughtry. The song also has some of the most idiosyncratically banal lyrics I’ve ever heard, like describing the child as “pacin’ around like little boys do,” and it tops off the emotional manipulation with a flourish by having children sing the final, climactic chorus. Finally, it suggests that God has caused all of the horrible things to happen to this family to remind the narrator of the true meaning of Christmas: “I knew that God had sent that little boy / to remind me what Christmas was all about.” It’s a frankly horrifying vision of the world.
This one is a bit of a deep cut. In the 1960s, during the early days of the British TV show, “Doctor Who,” there was a brief and massive fad surrounding the Daleks—malevolent robots that look like pepper shakers. “I’m Gonna Spend My Christmas With a Dalek” is a particularly egregious attempt at a double-cash-in on both the Daleks and Christmas. As a song, it’s almost unbearable; although the generic rock and roll backing track is inoffensive, the vocals come from two characters: a child played by an adult and a Dalek. The child has a cutesy speech impediment and sings phrases like “Mewwy Chwistmas,” while the Dalek speaks in a monotonous robot voice, shouting things like, “Please may I have some more plum pud-ding and cus-tard.” It’s a truly bizarre experience.
Michael Bublé sounds like a cyborg replica of Frank Sinatra and has apparently made it his mission to drain the life out of every single Christmas standard. Theoretically, this slot could have gone to any one of Bublé’s performances, but this one is special. The song itself is intensely creepy—a man pressuring a woman into staying over later, very literally cutting her off at the end of her lines. It’s a deeply uncomfortable listen when performed by anybody, but Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé add a level of unreality to it through their inability to express any emotions other than “perky.”
This is certainly one of the most obnoxious things ever put to tape. Tight barbershop harmonies but pitched up to be even more irritating, singing an incredibly cloying song about Christmas presents. It’s truly a product of the hyper-commercial media of the 1950s—a song designed to do two things: sell hula hoops (the hot new toy of 1958) and launch a terrible children’s cartoon. The chipmunks are designed so specifically to be loved that I cannot help but be consumed with hate for them.
There are not sufficient words in the English language to express how much I despise our number one pick. “Wonderful Christmastime” is incredibly vapid, repetitive, ugly, tacky, and insincere. Paul McCartney, sometimes capable of actually writing good songs, here gives over to his worst instincts: gross sentimentality and horrifically sugary melodies. The jingling bells round off the whole thing, giving the song an incredibly plain rhythm that makes the song feel stagnant. Even more galling, the song is estimated to make McCartney $400,000 per year, thus surpassing the median American income by about six times.