It’s always dangerous to create a Letterman-esque “Top Ten” list that includes the word “ever” in the title. There may well be some even worse songs than the ones I picked for this list, but if there are, I haven’t heard them lately. (Thank the Lord!)
During Christmas time (which begins the day after Thanksgiving and stretches until New Year’s Eve, thank you very much) our family used to listen to the local radio station that switches to an all-holiday format sometime around Labor Day. But it got so we just couldn’t do this any more. Too many of the songs they play (over and over and over and over) are just pure dreck. They’re either just really bad songs, or they’re good songs butchered by so-called “artists” who have no business singing outside of their chosen genre.
So, without further ado, here is my list of songs I would gladly opt to never hear again as long as I live.
10. “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” by John Lennon and Yoko (1971)
Have you ever sat and watched helpless as somebody walked up to a chalkboard, doggedly preparing to scrape his or her fingers down it just to make you squirm? That’s what this song is like to me. After the oh-so-artsy whispered intro, “Happy Xmas” starts out with John singing the first refrains. And it’s not too bad. You to yourself, “Hey, I could survive this thing. This song isn’t so terrible.” Then he sings “The near and the dear ones, the old and the young,” and you just think to yourself, “Crap, here it comes.”
At this point Yoko enters the song with her paint-peeling, flower-wilting warble and you think, Holy hell, that woman has an awful voice. It’s a testament to how much John loved her that he allowed himself to be a laughingstock of the recording industry by making an album with her. Of course, the two hippies were so inseparable he basically wore her as a hat, so she would have been in the studio anyway, whether he wanted her there or not.
Then John and Yoko go off on their anti-war rant. All I can say is these two were OWS before OWS was cool … or something. Big “down twinkles” for this awful song (that somehow still gets plenty of air time every Christmas season).
9. “Christmastime” by The Smashing Pumpkins (1997)
It wouldn’t be Christmastime without a healthy dose of poser emo angst. If it weren’t for the singing, this really wouldn’t be a bad song. The product that results from Billy Corgan attempting a serious Christmas carol is about the same as what you’d get if Richard Simmons attempted to dance The Nutcracker. (There’s a joke in there, but I’ll leave it alone.)
Some performers should stick to more comfortable topics such as sex, drugs and neurotic self-mutilation instead of trying to tackle serious holiday nostalgia music.
8. “Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)” by John Denver (1975)
When Christmas rolls around, I’m sure our minds all turn to substance abuse and spousal battery. I know I do. I don’t know what Mr. Rocky Mountain High was high on when he recorded this one. Poking fun at alcoholics and dysfunctional families around the country … that seems like an odd choice for the clean-cut guy who based his career on being a nice-guy friend to muppets everywhere.
To make matters worse, I understand that Alan Jackson has recorded a cover version of this awful song. The circle is unbroken. Somebody … break it please!
7. “Millennium Prayer” by Cliff Richard (1999)
Set to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne,” this song is a stilted recasting of the Lord’s Prayer that (according to Wikipedia) Cliff Richards’ long-time label just didn’t want to release. Unfortunately, he managed to find someone else who would give it the green light. The song is big, it’s bold, and it’s awful. In my opinion, of course.
The video is equally awful, by the way. Think Greg Kinnear in his As Good As It Gets mode emulating a televangelist and you’ll get the general idea. Notice his self-righteous preening when he sings about “forgive our sins” while the screen behind him shows video of a nuclear explosion and World War II concentration camps. Apparently Richards missed the same memo that skipped John and Yoko and the “Band Aid” do-gooders. It’s just bad form to portray yourself in a Christmas song as some kind of “Santa Cause.”
6. “Jingle Bell Rock” by Billy Idol (2006)
There’s nothing more sad (or more common) than a washed-up 80’s “artist” trying to cash in on his or her name with a lousy Christmas album. In spite of copious makeup, Mr. Idol looks downright cadaverous in the video for this song. Since it was recorded in 2006, it’s important to note that AutoTune was available when this was recorded. Unfortunately (and you won’t hear me say this very often) it went sadly unused. It’s as if Billy told his producer, “No time for any engineering or any of that lot, mate. Wrap it up and release the bloody record–Daddy needs a few pounds for whiskey and cigarettes!”
I was an Idol fan as a kid, and he used to have a pretty good voice for a pop singer. Nowadays? Not so much.
5. “Christmas Conga” by Cyndi Lauper (2004)
Speaking of washed-up 80’s artists, here’s the Material Girl herself. No, wait, that was Madonna, wasn’t it? So this is the “So Unusual” Girl, I guess, doing what she always did best: making absolutely no sense at all.
I’m sure William Wordsworth and Dylan Thomas would be heartbroken to find that they both missed out on the monumental opportunity to tackle this important subject in verse. How can you argue with the aesthetic excellence of lyrics such as, “Bonga bonga bonga, do the Christmas conga”? Pure poetry.
4. “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by Band Aid (1984)
Show this to the kids and you’ll find out the longevity of most pop singers. They’ll watch it all the way through and won’t recognize a single person in there. The scary thing is, you’ll probably know most of them. “Man, Sting looks young! And there’s Boy George! Hey, it’s Simon Le Bon! Look–it’s that pervert from Wham!” Unfortunately , unlike Billy Idol’s masterpiece above, this song was recorded well before AutoTune was available in any recording studio. Missed it by a couple of decades.
The one good thing I can say about the video is that at least Bob Geldoff isn’t shaving off his nipples during this one. It’s a Festivus miracle!
3. “It Must Be Santa” by Bob Dylan (2009)
Now we’re getting down into the really rotten ones. It’s entirely possible that you’ve never heard this one before. If so, count your blessings and move on. If you’re a real masochist, through the magic of YouTube you too can marvel in its craptistic awesomeness. This song must be actually experienced to appreciate the true depth of its awfulicity. I won’t say anything more, because it’s already been thoroughly (and expertly) panned by the good folks at Hate By Numbers.
2. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” by Bruce Springsteen (1981)
Nothing quite says “Christmas” like testosterone-fueled vocal abuse. Springsteen’s brand of scream-singing might work just fine for “Born in the USA” or “Glory Days,” but there is no joy in the world or peace on earth when he’s shouting out this awful rendition.
I truly believe that the world would be a better place without Springsteen’s version of this song. All copies should be burned, all pirated audio files deleted. And that, my friends, is not a matter of opinion. It’s a fact.
1. “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney (1979)
This song has the dubious honor of being both the worst Paul McCartney and the worst Christmas song of all time. From its sappy, sophomoric intro to the most annoying refrain in recording history, this song is pure and unadulterated crap. (Actually, it might be adulterated crap, but you’d never be able to hear the truly adulterated parts over that awful synthesizer background.)
I just don’t get what happened to Paul McCartney after he left The Beatles. Maybe, like John, he can be excused because he was under the influence of a domineering, talentless woman. Whatever the reason, Western Civilization as we know it took a huge hit when Paul and Company recorded this song. For some reason, Christmas radio stations continue to play it — assumedly because it has the name of an ex-Beatle attached to it.
Follow the link and listen at your own peril. Once this song gets in your head, the only way to get it out is with a bullet.