Patterico's Pontifications


Christmas Tunes Revisited: Some Utterly Wretched Songs

Filed under: General — JVW @ 8:26 pm

[guest post by JVW]

One year (and one day) ago this evening I wrote a post covering some songs and albums which make my list for the best of Christmas music. Given my general grumpy disposition this Yuletide season, I thought it only appropriate that we discuss some of the more substandard, trite, grating, and annoying holiday carols known to man. Buckle up, friends: this may get contentious.

Now at the outset I want to say that I have zero interest in discussing novelty holiday songs — i.e., those which are designed to be intentionally offensive, eye-rollingly silly, or even moronically putrid. No, this post is reserved for songs which were actually designed to become Christmas classics, witless though they may be, and those which are somehow revered by hordes of our fellow human beings. The inspiration for this post was a back-and-forth which took place over at National Review Online earlier this month, in which some of the staff writers and a few guests took aim at various songs. It’s an entertaining debate, so allow me a moment to recap it here:

Back at the end of October, Kyle Smith Tweeted a funny picture taken of a jukebox at a Dallas bar, upon which was posted a notice explaining that the playing of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is forbidden prior to December 1, and rationed to only one time per day thereafter. The illustrious Ms. Carey herself replied in a round-about way to the Tweet.

After Mr. Smith wrote a post in the Corner recounting the event, without particularly passing judgement on the song itself, Kevin Williamson replied that he was neutral to Mr. Carey’s oft-played hit, but he held particular contempt for “Santa Baby” and “Little Saint Nick,” which strikes even me as undue curmudgeonry, even though the former is overrated and the latter is a thin rewrite of “Little Deuce Coupe” with seasonal lyrics.

This brought Dan McLaughlin into the debate. He agrees that “Santa Baby” — in which the songstress is trying to seduce Jolly Old St. Nicholas for cryin’ out loud! — is indeed perhaps the worst Christmas classic, but he brought to my attention a holiday song which I had not yet had the misfortune to hear, “The Christmas Shoes” by NewSong, a emotionally-manipulative Christian-oriented tune designed to make you feel really shitty about enjoying the Birth of the Savior while others get by on less, though the song’s narrator virtue-signals his way through the story. This abomination apparently came from a novel and was turned into a TV movie starring Rob Lowe and the ex-girlfriend of tennis great Pete Sampras.

Mark Kirkorian came to the defense of “All I Want for Christmas,” declaring it a great song, and instead proposed the vainglorious anthem from my youth which accelerated the notion of pop stars being fonts of altruism, 1984’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by a collection of pompous British and Irish musicians with nothing better to do than condescend to Africans and advance the notion that all of Africa was parched Saharan desert rather than some of the most fertile agriculture land in the world. As we all know, this effort would be matched on our side of the Atlantic, and the whole look-at-us-coked-up-pop-stars-doing-good genre would be upped several notches over the next few years. NRO editor Jack Butler reminded Mr. Kirkorian that he (Butler) had raked the song over the coals the previous year, gleefully relating Morrisey’s classic quote about the effort: “It wasn’t done shyly. It was the most self-righteous platform ever in the history of popular music.” This brought back in Dan McLaughlin to protest that the tune itself was pretty good, and its political vacuity was no worse than that of the execrable John Lennon and Yoko Ono abomination “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”

Then entering the fray was George Messenger, who confidently declared that Wham’s “Last Christmas” — another incessantly-played noël — was in fact the King of the Nativity Dung Hill, opining that its sheer (Ninteen-) Eightyness was akin to “being force-fed a Trapper Keeper.” Touché, Mr. Messenger! Alec Dent protested that though “Last Christmas” certainly isn’t for everyone, it isn’t the oblique and senseless narrative as charged by Mr. Messenger but rather a moving reminder of how the holiday season can turn one’s thoughts wistfully to loves lost, though stipulating that every single cover version of the song is awful. This final post brought the debate to an unresolved but nevertheless satisfying close.

But, dear Patterico’s Pontification reader, verily the worst Christmas song of all time is one that went nearly unmentioned (except for a brief acknowledgement in Dan McLaughlin’s first post): Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.” Let me acknowledge upfront that this particular artist is tied for last-place on my list of favorite Beatles, just after Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best. That said, I don’t entirely hate the guy. I’m actually for the most part a fan of the Wings Band on the Run album, and there are a handful of his other solo and band songs which I truly enjoy. However, Paul McCartney all too often unfortunately dishes up treacly tripe, and there is a certain amount of laziness in his output which suggests that he strives for ditties destined to receive radio play rather than satisfying standards which can stand the test of time.

I somehow doubt that anyone will be playing “Wonderful Christmastime” after the last fan with a living memory of Paul McCartney has shuffled off this mortal coil. It’s not going to be another “White Christmas” or “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” or — Lord, help us — “Santa Baby.” The hook itself is piffle: as Mr. McLaughlin aptly describes it, a sixty-second concept stretched by sheer banal repetition into a four-minute single. And frankly, I’m not sure that I would like the sixty-second version of the song all that much either. For some reason it is played rather frequently between Halloween and Epiphany, though fittingly one is most likely to encounter it being piped in over the sound system in some shopping plaza or else while trapped in an elevator. Though there are plenty of bad Christmas songs destined to bring out one’s inner Grinch (have I ever mentioned how much I loathe “Away in a Manger”?), I can’t imagine one that makes me want to reclaim Cindy Lou Who’s Christmas bounty any more than “Wonderful Christmastime,” truly the worst Christmas song of them all.

Now your turn: tell us which holiday classic really makes your skin crawl.


51 Responses to “Christmas Tunes Revisited: Some Utterly Wretched Songs”

  1. Here’s wishing everyone a very merry Christmas, in whatever manner in which you celebrate it (or not).

    JVW (30a532)

  2. Worst Christmas songs:

    1. The Little Drummer Boy by Johnny Cash. Don’t listen to this, just trust me
    2. Christmas Shoes. Because nothing says “holiday cheer” like a young mother dying on Christmas
    3. Santa Baby by Madonna. The Eartha Kitt version is good, but Madonna’s version is what makes people atheist.

    Voice In The Desert (6fff93)

  3. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

    By the way, JVW, did you know that Howard Stern called McCartney the greatest songwriter ever?

    norcal (3d2db9)


    ‘Meeee, I want a hula-hoop…’

    I hate this.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  5. The ba-ba-best:

    Smooth as 79 year old scotch.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  6. By the way, JVW, did you know that Howard Stern called McCartney the greatest songwriter ever?

    Howard Stern also still thinks Madonna is hot. He’s frankly a relic from 1993 and has been of zero use since then.

    JVW (30a532)

  7. DCSCA – I’ve always loathed the Chipmunk’s Christmas Album too, but I don’t really take it seriously because it’s just a novelty effort. And how could you not appreciate Shatner emoting over Billy Gibbons’ guitar licks? That’s probably novelty too, but I kind of appreciate it.

    norcal – It takes a man after my own heart to dislike “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I’m neutral towards the song, but I saw Gene Autry at an Anaheim Angels game near the end of his life and there’s a great story in my hometown about how he fell off his horse dead drunk during a parade the morning after some of the locals had taken him out for a late night and early morning of drinking, so I can’t find it in my heart to dislike anything about him.

    JVW (30a532)

  8. @8. JVW, Shatner “singing” simply ‘shatters’ me to my ‘bones’– just never has worked for me. At least Rex Harrison could talk a tune through and feign singing a few bars— Bill just doesn’t do it.

    But the silly sound of Seville’s Christmas Chipmunks just drives me nuts– and there are fewer and fewer of us left who actually know what a ‘hula-hoop’ was, let alone owned one!

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)


    A local TV anchor and/or ‘Jeopardy’ brought this up a few days ago– it began as an advertising gimmick for Montgomery Wards; Autry gave it life when he recorded it.

    But an ad gimmick– of all things. Go figure.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  10. Howard Stern also still thinks Madonna is hot. He’s frankly a relic from 1993 and has been of zero use since then.

    JVW (30a532) — 12/23/2021 @ 9:26 pm

    Ouch! Grumpy disposition indeed!

    norcal (3d2db9)

  11. A local TV anchor and/or ‘Jeopardy’ brought this up a few days ago– it began as an advertising gimmick for Montgomery Wards

    Monkey Wards is defunct. I suggest the same end for the song.

    norcal (3d2db9)

  12. Grinch. hands down.

    asset (2b21d4)

  13. So, I had the misfortune today to be in a dentist’s office waiting for the dreaded root canal, and the muzak was playing a poor version of “It’s beginning to look like Christmas”, over and over and over and over.

    Just as I was about to put spikes through my eardrums, it finally changed to Sinatra, singing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” Sinatra could sing anything and make you want to listen, but this was one of his best.

    Then the root canal.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  14. I want a hippopotamus for Christmas, has to be right at the top or close to it.

    mg (8cbc69)

  15. Corey Feldman’s version of Jingle Bell Rock

    Mattsky (55d339)

  16. Low-hanging fruit, JVW. Or is target-rich environment better? Both? Most Christmas songs are wretched, mawkish, cloying, and annoying, and not very good either. Like nine out of the rest of popular music.

    nk (1d9030)

  17. Am I right, mg?

    nk (1d9030)

  18. nine out of *ten of* the rest of popular music

    nk (1d9030)

  19. First, may I wish Patterico, JVW, and Dana a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

    And then, in the spirit, if not the letter, of the post, here’s my favorite Christmas joke:

    Bob is wondering why his friend, Bill, is so eager to get home for Christmas, given the travel difficulties, so he asks him: “Is it seeing your family?”

    “No, I see them regularly during the year.”

    “Is it the Christmas ceremonies, the gift exchanges, and so one?”

    “No, that hasn’t meant much to me since I was a kid.”

    “Then what is it?”

    “Well, you see that at Christmas time — and only at Christmas time — my mother makes this wonderful sauce, with lemon juice, and eggs, . . ”

    Bob interrupts: “I see. You want to be home for the Hollandaise.”

    (Best told after a certain Christmas song has been played.)

    Jim Miller (edcec1)

  20. #20 Sturgeon’s Law

    Jim Miller (edcec1)

  21. This from Scum Joe and Disturbed Dr. Biden.

    I’ll overlook the non-Christmasy description of our President and First Lady and report that yes, I did see that ridiculous display at the White House yesterday. I want to believe that so many of the singing nurses kept their masks on because they don’t know the words to the song and were merely lip-synching along, with the masks freeing them from the burden of doing even that in a competent manner. I guess that none of us can be too surprised that the Biden White House is like a really bad 1970s variety show: not quite Perry Como’s Christmas at Sea World, more like Christmas at Knott’s Berry Farm with the Village People.

    JVW (30a532)

  22. First, may I wish Patterico, JVW, and Dana a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

    Thanks Jim Miller, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours. I like your joke, and there’s at least a 60% chance I’m going to repeat it at some point over the next three days.

    JVW (30a532)

  23. Corey Feldman’s version of Jingle Bell Rock

    I cannot decide if that version is so bad that it’s awesome or if it’s so bad that it’s awful. Either way, I thank you and curse you for exposing me to it.

    JVW (30a532)

  24. So there’s an Israeli army patrol out on the Negev and they spot a man, a woman, and a donkey. The woman is very obviously in a family way and riding the donkey and the man is walking. The sergeant asks them who they are and why they are there. The man says, “Well, my name is Joseph and this is my wife, Mary. As you can see, she is almost ready to give birth, and we are going to Bethlehem where she can be with her family.” The Israelis look at each other, a little at a loss. Finally, the sergeant asks, “And I suppose you’re going to name the baby Jesus?” And the man looks at him and says, “What do we look like, a couple of Puerto Ricans?”

    nk (1d9030)

  25. You are correct, nk.

    mg (8cbc69)

  26. I did enjoy Bad Santa.

    mg (8cbc69)

  27. Figures.

    Rip Murdock (a9a78d)


    Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer


    I did enjoy Bad Santa.

    Meh. And ‘Die Hard’ brings joy to the world at the holidays, too. 😉

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  29. 😎

    mg (8cbc69)

  30. I submit “F**k Christmas” by Eric Idle (of Monty Python) and the Fear song of the same title (not a cover, completely different tune and lyrics). Although they are both more anti-Christmas songs than bad Christmas songs, so they may not count.

    kaf (83f7aa)

  31. I can’t comment right now because my wife is blasting a series of abominations and I’m supposed to keep smiling

    steveg (e81d76)

  32. Dad tells Biden, ‘Let’s go Brandon’ during Christmas Eve call — and Biden responds
    ‘Let’s go Brandon, I agree,’ Biden responded

    More proof of befuddlement.


    A hard freeze then ‘tanks for the memories…’

    … and Putin smiled.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  33. Here is a good one that was originally for kids

    And in my opinion, reggaeton Christmas songs, as a general rule, are an aqcuired taste

    steveg (e81d76)

  34. And now for an antidote for those of you who may have suffered by listening to some of the aforementioned music,

    and with great appreciation for our generous host

    you might consider listening to The Wexford Carol as performed by Alison Krauss and Yo Yo Ma

    Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for a healthy and peaceful New Year.


    John B Boddie (9efa1d)

  35. Best of the Day, John B Boddie.
    The Pipes get me, Thanks.

    mg (8cbc69)

  36. Here’s one of my offbeat favorites. The rhythms are mesmerizing.

    I also like thus energetic little number from the same album.

    What cued up next for me was this radically different take on the same song.

    Radegunda (484be8)

  37. But seriously, the best Christmas song of all is The Shepherds’ Farewell.

    Radegunda (484be8)

  38. And here’s a Christmas cartoon from the UK.

    Jim Miller (edcec1)

  39. #26 JVW – “there’s at least a 60% chance I’m going to repeat [that joke]” Please do.

    (In the last few years I have thought our country’s morale could be better, and so I have been telling jokes to those kind enough to listen to this old guy. And recently I have been adding that I hope my listeners pass the jokes on.)

    Jim Miller (edcec1)

  40. Some guys on a local sports radio show brought up Linda Bennett’s Old Fashioned Christmas:

    What can you expect from the same year that gave us Convoy and Run Joey Run?

    urbanleftbehind (bd454d)

  41. Somehow I missed it the first time around, so I just went back and read last year’s post. I have to respectfully, if adamantly disagree with your take on Mel Torme and The Christmas Song. Both are deservedly cultural icons. That said, while Torme both wrote and recorded it, the definitive version was obviously Nat King Cole’s.

    lurker (59504c)

  42. I did enjoy Bad Santa.

    mg (8cbc69) — 12/24/2021 @ 8:59 am

    Uh oh. That’s twice in one week.

    lurker (59504c)

  43. I did enjoy Basement Joe repeating what someone said, lurker.

    mg (8cbc69)

  44. EPWJ – Thanks.

    mg (8cbc69)

  45. Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You was judiciously banned at that Dallas bar. It’s an inauthentic, execrable, and overly produced piece of schlock. I only fear that the nostalgia will inevitably endear it to my children. My daughters delight in turning it up when it comes on in the car to watch me grimace.

    Golden Eagle (7c51fa)

  46. Nothing says non-RINO, true Republican, real conservative, patriotic, Christian, American like telling the President of the United States “F**k You!” when he calls to wish you Merry Christmas, and Trump-schnitzels are not the least bit unreconciled Soviet Commie Russian tools trying to bring down America’s institutions, nope, not the least bit, not at all.

    nk (1d9030)

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