Where I spray-paint my thoughts…

Eight Songs A-Sucking


Here at Hypergraffiti, Christmas will be brought to you by … reruns. My Christmas posts are some of my favourite, whether they’re serious, silly, or sarcastic. Today I’m resurrecting my most-popular blog post ever, from a couple of years ago. The subject never gets old …


While we’re on the topic of Christmas … in fact, while we’re on the topic of bad taste for Christmas, let’s throw open the topic of Christmas music. Or, to be more precise, Christmas Muzak.

Don’t get me wrong; I love Christmas, and I love much of the music of Christmas. I’m not a snooty highbrow who only likes 18th century carols sung by prepubescent boys in drafty cathedrals. I like lots of popular Christmas music, both religious and secular. But there are some … well, no, there are a lot of Christmas songs that get played on the radio this year that make my ears bleed. They make me want to rip off Rudolph’s red nose and shove it down Frosty’s throat.

I’m not sure what makes or breaks a song for me. I know that anything that’s sort of lushly and orchestrally produced, with a really smooth, mellow, kind of glitzy sound (the type of song best parodied by Monty Python’s Christmas in Heaven … if you’ve never seen this, check it out — the song start about 3:40 into the clip) is sure to drive the Spirit of Christmas right out of me. Several of the songs on this list are in that category. Others … well, I can’t always tell why they irritate me; I just know they do.

I’m sure you have your own worst-of list, and I’d love to hear some of your nominations in the comments (Please! I love comments!!). Here, in no particular order except as they occur to me, are my nominations for the Most Unbearable Christmas Songs Ever:

1. Simply Having (A Wonderful Christmastime). Dear sweet Mary, mother of our Lord, would you have said “Yes” to the angel if you had known this would be the result? When you look up “inane” in the dictionary, this song should begin playing as you open the page. However, as I mentioned awhile back, I was immensely cheered by the discovery that the words “Simply Having A Frontal Lobotomy” could be substituted without any damage to the metre.

2. Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. I have no problem with rockin’ Christmas songs — in fact, when I get less cranky and post a list of my favourite Christmas songs, there will be at least two real rockers on the list. But this? Not only does it annoy me, but it contains the line, “Giddy-up, jingle horse, kick up your feet.” What the heck is a jingle horse? Give me a break. (NOTE: After reading Sherry’s comment below I realized the “jingle horse” line is NOT in “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” but in “Jingle Bell Rock.”  I think that says it all about how interchangeable these songs are, and I am considering them a two-for-one item on this list).

3. Santa Baby. OK, I’ve read the lyrics and I know it doesn’t actually say this, but the whole tone of the song really sounds like this girl wants to … do unspeakable things to the jolly old elf. This song sullies Santa Claus for me. Not only are his clothes all tarnished with ashes and soot, but his reputation is a little tarnished too now. And for all those who say, “Oh, no, you have to hear _____’s version of it” … I’ve heard all the versions. They’re all bad.

4. Silver Bells. The carol of shopping. The hymn to commercialism. ‘Nuff said.

5. The Holly and The Ivy. Remember what I said about snooty people who think their high-church taste in Christmas music is better than everyone else’s? Ths song epitomizes that attitude. Whenever I hear it, no matter who’s singing it, I have a mental image of a huge-bosomed soprano with her hands clasped in front of her, singing in an icy cold church and thinking how vastly superior she is to me and, well, everybody.

6. It’s a Marshmallow World in the Winter. Schmaltzy and syrupy like many of my other worsts, but this one adds a special layer. Bad enough that we have snow in winter — I don’t particularly like winter weather — but to imagine that the world is actually covered with marshmallows??? That’s the only white thing I can think of that would be worse than snow. Can you imagine having to shovel a driveway full of marshmallows? Cause that’s how I feel when I hear this song. Sticky, gooey, overly sweet — and it feels like it will never end.

7. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. Just another “Christmas in Heaven” type song — a celebration of everything that is banal about Christmas.

8. Handel’s entire Messiah, except for the Hallelujah Chorus. OK, I know, I lost you there. The Messiah is sacrosanct and everybody loves the Messiah and it’s not really Christmas till you’ve heard a performance of the Messiah and … yeah. The first time I ever went to hear it, it was in college and all my highbrow musical friends had told me what an amazing experience this would be. The performance was the night after our last exam, and I had been up most of the night before studying for that exam. The church was crowded and hot, and all my friends piled their coats and the end of the pew where I was sitting. So I kinda sorta … fell asleep. I woke up everytime the sopranos hit a high note. But it really didn’t grip me, you know? The HC is very catchy, but the rest of it … mmm, boring. I’ve heard it a few times since in better circumstances and, I’m sorry, I’m still a philistine. But I can’t possibly put it as well as a young lady of my acquaintance who said, “So mom and Aunt Jan dragged me off to hear this Messiah thing, and I sat down and looked at the program and I thought, No problem! It’s only short, we’ll be outa here in half an hour. Nobody told me they were going to sing EVERY LINE sixteen times!!!!”

So, confess. What music brings out your inner Scrooge?


45 thoughts on “Eight Songs A-Sucking

  1. There’s that horrible, horrible “Christmas Shoes” song about the little boy and his dying momma – or is the little boy dying? I can’t remember. All I know is that it’s really, really bad.

  2. I’m with ya on “Santa baby!”

    I also don’t know what a “Jingle Horse” is, but I think “Rockin Around The Christmas Tree” is essential for Cheerleaders at Christmas parades. I can see the Gonzaga gals now!

  3. I’m with Bubandpie with the Christmas Shoes. I cannot believe it didn’t make your list. It would have been numbers one through three for me.

  4. Sherry, I made a terrible mistake. The song I meant to complain about is NOT “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” It’s “Jingle Bell Rock.” Although I think I can be forgiven for confusing the two as they are VERY similar. I’ll have to edit this entry when I get a chance.

    Sharon and bubandpie … I don’t think I know the “Christmas Shoes” song. And the worst part is that now I will feel kind of obligated to check it out, and I’m sure that will be a horrible experience.

  5. You stole my blog. I’d have written something similar myself if I’d had a moment to spare. I bought Lisa the new Jars of Clay Christmas album earlier this week, and when I heard “Wonderful Christmastime” playing from our kitchen I cried out, “Please tell me that’s not Jars of Clay!”

    Only Messiah album I’ve ever gotten into is “Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration.” What really irks me, though, is how the Christmas songs on the radio seem to be the same 50-year-old numbers over and over, when I find more recent interpretations far more satisfying.

  6. Sweet Mother of Mary, four on your hated list are on my favorites list, including the entire Handel’s Messiah (How Beautiful are the Feet and other rarely heard numbers included).

    Maybe I’m showing my age …

  7. Tompaul, glad to have spared you the trouble of writing a blog about bad Christmas songs. It is indeed a travesty for Jars to have recorded “Frontal Lobotomy.”

    Aunt Ruth, I don’t think it’s a generational thing … it’s just that we all have our own quirks for what pushes our buttons. There are some real oldies on my favourites list too … and I do realize that not liking the Messiah says more about me than it does about Handel.

    The worst thing about having posted this list is that many of the songs on this list have been running through my head all day now. Christmas earworms. I have to hurry up and post my “best of Christmas” list so I can fill my head with songs I actually like!

  8. “Little Drummer Boy” — definitely that one. All I need to hear is “brummm . . . brummm . . . brum, brum, brum” and I immediately begin to think that the Jehovah’s Witnesses may be on to something when it comes to Christmas.

    As for Handel’s Messiah — once you’ve heard it 25 times or so, it begins to grow on you.

  9. And I would have thought the line would be “Giddy-up, horse, jingle, kick up your feet.” Because if he kicks up his feet they will jingle the bells on him.
    Here is a YouTube link ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNsvE33pRSw ) for the Christmas Shoes song. But you must imagine that the Christian Radio Station in Your Area has decided to play Christmas music from two weeks BEFORE American Thanksgiving until New Years…and this song in on the playlist at least five or six time in a twelve hour period.
    At least the radio station learned their lesson. One of the personalities said “Based on email response to the Christmas music….umm….uhhh….we won’t be doing that again. Let’s just leave it at that.”


  10. LOL … Sherry, I hope you’re paying attention, just in case this one creeps onto your playlist (if it’s not already…)

  11. “It’s A Marshmallow World In The Winter”? I’m offering up a fervent, silent prayer right this second that I’ve never heard it. Even the title makes me throw up a little bit.

  12. Actually, there’s at least one radio station in Portland that started playing Christmas music the day before Halloween.

    Even the most obnoxious song, however, becomes adorable when it is performed by your very own child during a Christmas program.

  13. If Santa Baby sullies the ol’ elf for you, try Cyndi Lauper’s
    Minnie and Santa
    ; about a woman whose plan for Christmas Eve is to be “lying in wait on a bear skin rug, where her cookies and milk could be seen”. I’ll admit, I love the song, though, however sullied it makes ol’ Santa Claus.

    As a big Lauper fan, I was pretty disappointed to see how she managed to destroy “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” which is a song I DO like by almost anyone else (especially Ronnie Spector and Darlene Love from “A Very Special Christmas 2”).

    Along the lines of favourite artists of mine doing decidedly ‘unfavourite’ songs, I have to agree that “Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time” never needed to be made. I love McCartney, I really do…and not just because he’s a Beatle. But that song was more than just unnecessary.

    I’ve always liked Little Drummer Boy, but I mention it because everytime I hear it, sometime during the song I find myself thinking about how much my dad hated every rendition of it. He didn’t know why, he just knew he hated it.

  14. We start Christmas music on Dec 1st, and don’t play “all” Christmas, until Christmas week.

    We don’t play the “Christmas Shoes” and have taken flack for it. It’s a widely popular song, that went to the top of the charts, both Christian and secular, but it’s not on our playlist.

    My favorite is Steven Curtis Chapman…”Christmas Is All In The Heart.” I’ve got a soft spot for “Mr. Dove Award!” 🙂

  15. I couldn’t bear to actually listen to the “Christmas Shoes” link but I did read the lyrics and I can see why you don’t play it, Sherry. I didn’t realize it was a Bob Carlisle song — obviously it has the same love-it-or-hate-it polarizing tendencies as “Butterfly Kisses.”

    Unfortunately, I read the lyrics out to Jason and now he’s lying in bed composing (in the most awful nasal-country-singer voice) an SDA-doctrinally-correct song called “Mama Don’t Need No Shoes To Go Meet Jesus.”

  16. oohhh, I’d love to hear that. I could play it as an antidote to the Christmas Shoes song.

  17. Sharon, I think it would be one of those cases where the cure is worse than the disease.

  18. Oh my goodness!!!! I read the first half thinking “oh, I so agree with you, I can’t WAIT to see that list!”

    But then…

    But then.

    You took out “The Christmas Song” and “The Messiah.”

    My two favorites.

    What are we going to do??


  19. As Dorothy Parker would have pointed out, “Simply having a frontal lobotomy” could be sung as “Simply having a bottle in front of me.”

    Change the tune to a minor key, add appropriate lyrics viz. a pick-up truck and “my baby done left me,” and you’ve just created the next great C&W Christmas song!

  20. Hahahahaha!! Pastor greg is a riot! 🙂

  21. Release it as a single with Jason’s “Mama Don’t Need No Shoes To Go Meet Jesus” on the B-side!

    Single? B-side? Look who’s showing her age…

  22. Personally, I think you have to *sing* The Messiah to really experience it. For listening, I’d recommend the first of the “Young Messiah” collections, with the stunning version of “How Beautiful Are the Feet” by somebody-or-other (can’t find my CD right now).

    I DESPISE “Little Drummer Boy.” And your title perfectly fits that particular song, IMHO.

    I shudder to hear “Feliz Navidad.”

    I’m sure there are others I’ll think of later.

  23. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” *shudder*

  24. I second “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” though that’s not necessarily a winter song. Somehow a song about a man trying to pressure a woman into drunken s*x fails to put me in the Christmas spirit.

    Do intentionally bad songs count? If so, I would add “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and anything sung by Alvin and the Chipmunks.

  25. The Christmas Shoes song pisses me off because it is a blatant attempt to wring tears from people. It’s oversentamentalization to the extreme, making “Chicken Soup for the Soul” look like tough love. Besides, why is this child being left to wander aimlessly through the mall without adult supervision? And why doesn’t the store clerk just let him have the freaking shoes?

    I have to admit a deep seated dislike of …Rudolph AND Frosty. Just annoying. And I have trouble with Santa allowing the bullying of Rudolph by the other reindeer. It makes me thing all is not jolly at the North Pole.

    The music of Handel’s Messiah is beautiful, but I think sitting down on hard church pews for three hours is not the best way to experience it. I agree that singing it in a choir is fantastic.

    I also love Santa baby, maybe because I like the parody aspect. We’re all whoring it for the big guy, aren’t we? (Just kidding!)

    The BEST Christmas song? “My Grown Up Christmas List” sung by Amy Grant. This is what the holidays should be about.

  26. Well, as far as the Rudolph thing goes, you know it was all Olive’s fault. She’s got Santa wrapped around her little finger.

  27. Do They Know It’s Christmas gets me, as do many others mentioned here. I mean that song makes me feel bad every time I hear it. It is 23 years now, people. I gave then. Stop making me feel guilty!

  28. But they’re still starving, Tina… 😦

  29. I’m loving the number of comments this post has drawn. Can we shoot for 30?

  30. Thirty comments, why not. I’m a Messiah fan, but I agree with Katrina, it’s a whole lot better to sing than to listen to. (The Anglican Cathedral hosts a public sing in the spring.) I brought my musical ten-year-old this year, but she was underwhelmed… I may not, again, unless she asks.

    My run-screaming Christmas song? “An Old Christmas Card.” Yeesh.

    And a comment on lyrics from the Savage Chickens:

  31. Heather, I had completely forgotten “An Old Christmas Card.” I think that song was the “Christmas Shoes” of its day. The sound of — who was that? Jim Nabors? — crooning that song over the speakers at Ayres (who remembers Ayres in the mall?) was part of the Christmas background of my childhood. Not one of the good parts, though.

    If the only way to appreciate the Messiah is to sing it, I’ll be doomed to be a philistine forever!!

    By the way, getting over 30 comments on this post (even though some of them were my own replies) is awesome. This makes this my second-most-commented post ever — first place being my thoughtful theological meditation on the humanity of Christ (only because it was part of a blog series and a ton of other people linked to it), and second place being this one on sucky Christmas songs. There’s just no telling what will capture the fancy of my public.

  32. Thirty-two!

    And just to justify that otherwise meaningless attempt to string out the comments on this post, may I point out that Paul’s song takes on a certain, melancholy charm when you make the few, simple changes I suggested earlier.

    The mood is [wrong],
    The [times are rough.]
    [But I’m] here tonight
    And that’s enough
    Simply having a bottle in front of me.
    Simply having a bottle in front of me.

    The party’s on
    The feelings here
    It’s all because
    This time of year
    Simply having a bottle in front of me.
    Simply having a bottle in front of me.

    Don’t cry poor children, sing this song
    Ding, dong, ding, dong,
    Ding, dong, ding.

    The word is out
    About the town
    So lift your glass
    And don’t look down
    Simply having a bottle in front of me.
    Simply having a bottle in front of me.

  33. I really like Santa, Baby, because I always thought she was talking to her own personal Santa, not the magical being.

    And I thought the key to Baby, It’s Cold Outside was that it was a couple’s joke – she’s pretending she wants to leave, and he’s pulling out all the stops to get her to stay.

    But I can see how the other interpretations of both are kind of creepy.

    I like most Christmas songs, depending on my mood when I hear them, but as usual with me, I have so many interpretations and linked memories to each song that my feelings often have little to do with the song itself.

  34. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by Barry Manilow and K.T. Oslin…

    …It’s brilliant. Seriously. Who woulda thunk?

  35. I’m kind of glad I found this post so late because it was really fun reading all your responses!

    This has been a joyous season for me, so everything appeals to me in the way of Christmas songs. There have been other years when songs that I normally love make me gag.

    (Although I never seem to tire of Santa baby.) 🙂

  36. Pingback: Actors, Movies, and Songs » Eight Songs A-Sucking Hypergraffiti

  37. Trudy, I have no idea how I missed this blog entry last year, but it proved to be the perfect post-Xmas antidote to all the schmaltz I’ve been forced to endure for the past 4 weeks in 2008. I laughed with sympathetic understanding for the most part, but I have to disagree about …..
    (1) The Holly and the Ivy – somehow this has always felt like a beautiful folksy song that’s been taken over by fusty academics. To me, it should be quick, upbeat, and sung as a group. It seems that it has been relegated to the “cathedral music” genre and I find that quite sad.
    (2) The Messiah – from the age of about 10 I have been moved by it’s majesty. My dad used to play a record (yes, a black shiny disc on a turntable!) of the Messiah throughout the year, but it was played more often at Christmastime. My high school choir sang pieces from the Messiah, and I went to my first full performance in my second year of university. All the pieces are beautiful, and it never fails to lift my heart.
    At this point I wish to nominate a song for your list: Last Christmas (I gave you my heart) – the very next day you gave it away. Never mind the saccharine content of the actual score, this song always makes me wonder: who was your heart passed on to, and when did they kindly return it, because now you’re saying that this year you’ll give it to someone special! Aargh.
    Enough already, I have some leftovers to eat!

  38. I know there would not be space enough on your blog to list all the bad Christmas songs. “Grandma got run over by a reindeer.” *gag* Others in the same vein. Maybe you don’t live close enough to RidgeRunner Country to have heard any of these? Lucky you.

  39. I cringe with every word, every line;
    I’m driven sorta mental round this time…

    With apologies to the memory of the late Jim Reeves, I like a lot of his stuff, but this one grates on my nerves somewhat.

    Thank God for the gift of parody.

  40. Oh my word. I have laughed til I’ve cried. What a hilarious post! Most of your most detested songs were on my list…someone mentioned The Little Drummer Boy – always hated it til Josh Groban – only artist on the planet that can get away with pa-rump-a-pum-pum!
    I once heard a travesty of Christmas in a store – the lyrics were “Roll back the rug so we can two-step round the Christmas tree” – it’s a REAL winner!
    Have to disagree about The Messiah. The more I listen to it (every year at least once from start to finish) the more I am moved by the scriptures set to beautiful melodies. I have learned something about classical music – you have to get acquainted with a piece. This requires repeated listenings! Also, I think the scriptures themselves take on more meaning all the time, increasing my appreciation for the music and how the scriptures are juxtaposed.
    …and I think “The Christmas Shoes” should be banned as one of the stupidest songs ever written.
    I never much cared for “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” but Andrea Bocelli does such a fabulous job of it that I have to listen to it!

  41. I love the *choruses* of Handel’s Messiah. Most of the recitive solos don’t thrill me. (There are exceptions.)

    I don’t like “Little Drummer Boy”, or “Frosty”.

  42. The little drummer boy – the most depressing god awful song ever, if I hear it playing in a store I will down tools and walk out leaving my shopping behind. Please managers or whoever is in charge of music, stop torturing me , it does you no good, I walk out of your stores.

  43. I second previous nominations for “Last Christmas” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” and nominate “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth,” “I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ for Christmas,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and yes – I said it – “Jingle Bells.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s