My Favourite/Least Favourite Christmas Songs
Hello! I didn’t do any posts in November and yet I had a very reader friendly month with the most visits and views I have ever had which is not bad considering I don’t advertise this or anything. To be honest, a lot of those views came from people googling ‘Sexy Chica Five Night’s a Freddy’s’ or ‘Naked Chica’ or in one rather disturbing case ‘Disney Robin Hood Friar Tuck Porn’ but y’know…Rule 34. Judge not lest ye be judged.
You are welcome…?
But one or two people stumbled across this blog and then subsequently sat and read all my posts which frankly makes me so very happy. So whether I know you, I don’t, if you have read lots or left right away: thanks to you all. Even if you left disappointed with the lack of Disney/Five Nights at Freddys porn. Sorry about that.
So with the increased readership in mind, I wanted to give a quick update:
Due to various life events I have not been writing much but I have a schedule in mind that means I will be focusing on Disney Reviews for the next couple of months. If you are here for Girls Aloud, Beatles, Musicals, Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 (I can’t get past Night 6 right now…) or other things don’t worry: I’m in this for keeps and am always working on completing those posts when the time is right. But in order to get to a certain film in time for a personally important anniversary, my eye is on the Mouse.
So expect a lot of Disney reviews in the coming weeks, but right now I give you a little Holiday Special…
Towards the end of November I was walking through a cold and busy shopping centre when I heard it…No…It couldn’t be…Already? Yep. A terrible, terrible version of ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’ And immediately the flashbacks began…
My name is Cokieblume. And I used to work in retail at Christmas time.
One of these used to sit in the shop and people would press it…Until very sadly something terrible happened to it…It got thrown out of a window…totally by accident.
In one particular shop I worked extra long ‘holiday’ hours and was forced to listen to the same 4 Christmas CDs all day, every day for 3 months solid. As a result, any fondness I had for Christmas music went right out the window along with my seasonal spirit and the Will to live.
I got through it by freaking out customers with my weirdly specific knowledge of when these very old recordings were going to jump due to a scratch on the disc. One woman actually left the shop after my emotionless retention of ‘Last Christmas’ complete with a three second head start on George Michael: ‘Once bitten, twice shy-sh-sh-sh-sh-‘ I think she saw the dark look in my eyes and assumed I had broken the CD with my mind.
What I have discovered in the last few years is that I don’t hate all Christmas music. Not even close actually. But I still have mixed feelings about them. They remind me of those singing Christmas trees: They are generally a garish novelty, so gimmicky, so awful, so transparently designed to cash in by manipulating your worst impulses. But like so many other ‘traditions’ in society it is hard not get sucked in by it…Despite the fact these songs are only really welcome a few weeks out of the year there is something about them that means most of them endure. They DO make money. Seriously. You want to get rich? Write a catchy Christmas hit and you will be set for life. People do want to hear them. Even me.
Just not all of them…So here I present my Top 10 Favourite Christmas Songs and my Top 5 Worst Christmas Songs. My favourites are songs I would actually listen to out of season if I wasn’t so worried what the neighbours would think and the least favourite actually make me want to rip my fingernails off just to give a physical action to my emotional pain. Enjoy! (Warning: This is all my personal preferences and not actually definitive lists of the best and worst Christmas Songs. Don’t get mad, bro)
First some honourable mentions in both categories~
Honourable Mentions for my Favourites:
1. Blue Christmas (Elvis Presley)
The King does his thang.
2. Merry Christmas Everyone (Shakin’ Stevens)
I used to roll my eyes at this but you know what? It wore me down…It is so awful it became great great…oh the key change gets me every time.
3. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Annie Lennox)
I love me some Annie and this is pretty epic.
4. Please Come Home for Christmas (Charles Brown)
Another blues song. Pattern forming here…
5. White Christmas (Bing Crosby)
I know it is corny but…Shucks. I like it anyways.
6. Carol of the Bells (John Williams and an epic Choir)
This is so epic…It only just missed my top list because it is kind of over as soon as it begins. But it always makes me want to go and set up some traps to defend my house against burglers…
7. The Perfect Year (Dina Carroll)
And finally, this cheesy song which is more about New Year than Christmas but deserves a mention because it was on one of the CD’s I had to listen to in the shop I worked at and was a much contested subject between me and a colleague about what it was actually about: I said a ‘crowded ballroom’ (clearly right) and she insisted a ‘crowded bar room’ So every time it came on I would call across the shop: ‘What’s a bar room anyway?!’ Our friendship survived this intense argument and today I count her as one of my favourite people in all the world. But I KNEW I was right…
Honourable Mentions for my Least Favourite:
1. All I Want for Christmas is You (Mariah Carey)
See, when I decided to do this list I assumed this would top my list of least favourite songs, but you know what? I don’t think it is that bad anymore, and I see why it is a Christmas favourite with so many people. But back in that shop…A former colleague loved it so much she would repeat it over and over and over again RIGHT AFTER IT HAD FINISHED and it just made me want to snap her spine. But with a bit of distance I can say I merely dislike this song rather than scream in horror when I hear it. But be left in no doubt: I can’t stand Mariah and I will never voluntary listen to her. So there.
2. Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time (Paul McCartney)
This is just so…belgh. Just…ugh. It just sounds so desperate to be a Christmas classic and it fails so miserably for me. So phoned in…It just doesn’t deserve to sit alongside fun, inventive festive tunes.
3. Christmas Time (Don’t let the Bells End) (The Darkness)
This song was inescapable when it was released and I just couldn’t stand this watered down Queen tribute band…They were clearly novelty bullshit but some people were acting like they had come to save ‘proper’ music. That guy was no Freddie.
4. Frosty the Snowman (The Jackson 5)
Not even Michael could save this for me…Whenever that intro came on when I was unpacking deliveries and I would look at the clock and it was only 11am…It was just soul destroying. Plus the song is creepy…Just go fuck yourself Frosty!
5. Mistletoe and Wine (Cliff Richard)
6. A Spaceman Came Travelling (Chris de Burgh)
It is a shame, because this is so bombastic and made of actual cheese that I nearly love it but the charisma free de Burgh ruins any chance it has of being properly enjoyable.
7. All Smurf Christmas Songs (The Smurfs)
And finally…One of the CDs that was on rotation was a collection of Smurf Christmas songs. Yeah. The minimum wage wasn’t insulting enough. I can’t begin to pick apart how obnoxious this record was, plus I never had to hear this again once I left so I had to stick them in the honourable mentions instead of letting them take up the whole list.
My Top 10 Favourite Christmas Songs
10. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Judy Garland)
Fuck me, this song is depressing. I remember singing it when I was part of a Saturday drama group and always getting bummed out…I was a kid! And it was Christmas! I was going to get stuff! Why did this damn song have to ruin my mood? But now I am a bit older and I know it is ok to be sad sometimes. And this song captures the melancholy of muddling through somehow. And Garland has such a vulnerable quality to her vocal that even if it was the cheeriest song in the world it would still sound pretty gloomy. All in all, it is still a beautiful song.
9. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee)
I love Lee’s effortless vocal, the ‘deck’ emphasis, the sax solo and that truly awesome ending…And then there is the Home Alone association again meaning that I find myself thinking about Michael Jordon when it comes on. But this song may not have made the list if it weren’t for the fact that when I was a kid I somehow thought it was ‘walkin’ around the Christmas tree’ I STILL call it that and I even wrote it that way while composing the list. So when I hear it, I always imagine a family walking around their Christmas tree in what would be the most boring party game of all time…
‘Why are we doing this?’
‘Shut up…Just keep walking!’
8. Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy (David Bowie & Bing Crosby)
Remember earlier when I said a former colleague would repeat ‘All I want for Christmas is You’ over and over? Well she also would skip this song on the same CD cause she didn’t like it. You can see how the spine severing fantasies began no? But I have to admit, this version of a Christmas classic is beyond cheesy…It is beyond corny…It is…Cheesorny.
But as a young slip of a thing, I was devoted to Bowie and really liked ‘High Society’ so this duet was ideal and it does sound pretty. And I still wave my arms back and forth to it. And it is all warm and fuzzy…I can’t help it, I still like it. Though I couldn’t bring myself to include the video with the extended intro where Bowie and Crosby enjoy some awkward scripted banter. I would look it up yourself though. It is gloriously unnecessary. How did these two meet anyway?! I bet cocaine was involved…Merry Christmas!
7. What’s This? (Danny Elfman)
Before people everywhere had all the merchandise on all their stuff, I was a ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ fan. I had it on VHS and was young enough to find it both exhilarating and terrifying. I am not trying to say I have more claim to this song or the movie. Far from it: I am delighted it has been recognised as a classic and fully embraced as a Halloween/Christmas film for the ages. All I am trying to say is my fondness for this film goes back a long way…All the way back to a Disney special my Dad had taped off the TV for me. It included this song. And I was instantly mesmerised…The beautiful animation didn’t hurt of course, but it was also the overwhelmingly infectious excitement of the music, the speed of it, the frenzy.
Free from context, the song becomes a lot more sinister as it is not clear if Jack and indeed Christmas Town is a friendly place. I was intrigued. So I asked for the film for Christmas. And Santa obliged. So I fell in love. Not enough to Google Jack Skellington porn mind you, but man, did I/do I love this movie.
I still love ‘What’s This?’ for the same reasons I did as a child: It is a classic musical song. The protagonist is singing his thoughts out loud, the world is accommodating his spontaneous choreography and it is magnificent. In fact I hope that one day they adapt the film for the stage…It is just begging for it. Danny Elfman gets a lot of stick these days for his tunes being somewhat repetitive, but as composer and singer he knocks this one out of the park.
6. I Wish it could be Christmas Everyday (Wizzard)
This song…I should hate it. I mean, of course I don’t want it to be Christmas everyday. That would be terrible in countless ways. The whole production is naff but…just look at it. It is the weirdest thing I have ever seen. The video with all the tiny children, who clearly have no idea what is going on, failing to sing along when the stoned bearded Glitter Monster demands it, just cries: ‘It was a different time! Don’t worry about it!’ It is soooo awkward.
And that is this weirdo holiday to me…It is not all fun and games and presents. It is strange silences, odd moments of reflections and people you don’t want to see at any other time of year showing up and loudly demanding your attention. Eat dry food! Put on hats! Have fun! Sit on the strange man and he will give you a gift!!!!
I think the reason I like this song so much can be largely summarised when the whole tone shifts at the end as he begs: ‘Why don’t you give your love for Christmas???’ Whoa, whoa, whoa, Roy…Put the sherry down man, you’re drunk…All in all Glam Rock at its most stupid and wonderful.
5. Merry Xmas Everybody (Slade)
Well they had to go together didn’t they? Poor Wizzard. They are always kept off the top spot by this song…But then Slade kinda nailed it. Again, the overexposure to this song at this time of year would be too much if it weren’t for the strange moments in it that set it apart from other songs trying to capitalise on this great holiday…There’s the very drunken British shout along chorus, the bitching guitar refrain, the odd little ‘what did your Daddy do…’ aside and the slightly forced cheeriness of ‘EVERYBODY’S having fun!’ and the inexplicably threatening: ‘It’s only just begun…’
It is bonkers and infectious and you just have to throw your hands up and go with it…Plus Noddy’s battle cry of: ‘It’s CHHHHHHHHRRRRIIIIIIIIISSSSSSSSSTTTTTTTTTMMMMMMMAAAAAASSS’ still sends shivers down my back.
4. Walking in the Air (Peter Auty)
Like a lot of people, I could hardly bear to watch this beautifully drawn story unfold as a child…Because I knew where it was going. Clearly, ‘The Snowman’ was made to teach excited and happy children that nothing lasts forever and you should cherish what you love while you have it because it WILL DIE.
This dog? Died while you were reading this. Deal with it.
But leaving aside whether Christmas is the time of year to learn such a lesson, this song never fails to make my arm hairs stand up. It is so beautiful and so, so sad that I can hardly handle it. Even when you take the dead Snowman out of the equation (do you think he took his coal mouth apart when he realised what was happening so he wouldn’t scream and wake his friend? Just saying…) the track is simultaneously magic and ominous. It makes me feel both safe and uncertain that the safety will last… And I wouldn’t change that. It is truthful, wintry, and makes the world a little bit better. Oh and I am not one to get all weepy at a lovely little choir boy vocal but my God does Auty sound amazing.
On the other hand, I think it is important to remember that Aled Jones did this…For some reason: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEWcOcX_AHQ
3. Stop the Cavalry (Jona Lewie)
Is this one cheating? Jona Lewie has said this wasn’t intended to be a Christmas song but a protest song. Can’t it be both? Even taking out the line ‘wish I was at home for Christmas’ the arrangement is so evocative of old town Salvation Army bands, while chestnuts roast on an open fire and snow and lights…A kind of Christmas I’m not sure I ever had but sure as Hell wanted.
Lyrically of course, it is not a fun Christmas story. It has a sting in the tale, but all the best ones do (see my top 4 for clarification) It is being sung from the perspective of some kind of eternal soldier complaining about how cold it is in the trenches. But unlike so many Christmas songs (we will get to those…) this song isn’t emotionally manipulating me into feeling guilty for having a nice time while somewhere in the world soldiers are fighting on for freedom…It is very matter of fact. Very real. Very thought provoking without shoving it down my throat. Nice melody too. ‘If I get elected I will stop-I will stop the cavalry’ I wish.
2. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (Darlene Love)
I first heard this song in ‘Goodfellas’ and it stuck with me ever since. Darlene Love’s vocal is phenomenal and shows tremendous power without over egging every possible note (Hi Mariah!) and it is a wonderful, desperate dramatic tragedy of a song that just happens to have some bored sounding back up singers murmuring about Christmas in the background. I think for me the line ‘They’re singing deck the halls…but it’s not like Christmas at all’ is just a wonderful lyric: It captures that feeling when it seems like everyone else is enjoying a party that you have not been invited to. I always have to listen to it more than once. Hats off to Darlene and the almost violent passion she injects into the track…Beautiful.
1. Fairytale of New York (The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl)
Well what else was it going to be?
Nothing, but nothing, says Christmas quite like this story of a sad, lonely couple who can’t live with or without each other. Nothing says ‘season’s greetings!’ like: ‘You scumbag! You maggot! You cheap lousy faggot!’ Yes: This song is not only my favourite Christmas song but one of my favourite songs. It tells a story as old as time, as bitter and cold as the unforgiving winter months themselves and it is so fucking sad that all you can do is laugh uncomfortably and join in.
Of the two people in that duet, you might be surprised which one keeps on truckin’ to this day and which one is no longer with us. While Kirsty’s tragic early death is horribly sad, I hope her family take a small crumb of comfort (a documentary about this song leads me to believe they do) that she will live on forever by giving one of the most beautiful and powerful performances in any song ever. Hell, she earns her spot in music history solely due to her reading of ‘Well so could anyone!’ Utterly poignant and heartbreaking while still being so real.
And Shane MacGowan is no slouch either with his heartbreaking response: ‘Can’t make it all alone, I’ve built my dreams around you’ I’m getting misty just thinking about it…Bonnie music, unconditional love when it is least deserved, dancing in the snow as your heart sinks right to the floor…This is as close to fairytale that could ever really be.
And now negativity!
My Top 5 Least Favourite Christmas Songs
5. Santa Clause got Stuck in my Chimney (Ella Fitzgerald)
There are a lot of creepy vintage Christmas songs available (Santa Baby anyone? Baby It’s Cold Outside? I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause? Wow there really is too many…) but none give me the icks quite so much as this one. When I worked in retail (did I mention I worked in retail?) this song used to grate on me more than most plies of crooning old fashioned stale awfulness: I think it is the never ending list of innuendos that cause my eyes to nearly disappear into my head.
‘When he CAME last year…’ (Clever. Like jizz.)
‘There he was…not quite UP and not quite DOWN…’ (Like an erection. I get it)
‘Daddy made a brand new chimney just for you this year…’ (Ok I’m not touching that one…)
I think what I object to most though is the idea that Ella Fitzgerald is supposed to be a little girl…She’s really not. What, am I supposed to find that annoying male chorus calling her a little girl sexy? Charming? Both? Either way, I’m out.
4. The Millennium Prayer (Cliff Richard)
I used to go round to my friend’s house to watch Top of the Pops when I was a little girl. It was a Friday night tradition. For any non-Brits, let me put down my tea and explain: TOTP was a music chart show that would play videos or shows performances of what was popular. I remember shaking my head in disgust when it topped the charts. I was 11 years old and I was all: ‘He just put the words to the Lord’s Prayer to the bastardised tune of Auld Lang Syne! I could have thought of that!’ I shouted this quite loud. My friend’s Mother, also one of my teachers, didn’t take kindly to this annoying brat bellowing in her house and calmly pointed out: ‘But you didn’t think of it he did…So be quiet!’ So I was forced to sit and fume that Richard had somehow claimed the top spot in the 90’s of all decades with this trite, empty, uninventive crap.
I really do still hate the idea of putting these two things together. I have also never been a fan of Richard being under 65 and owning a working pair of ears. The only reason this ‘Prayer’ not number 1 on my list, is because it has more or less slipped out of consciousness now so very few places/people make me listen to it. I just stuck it on and it is even hammier and more awful than I remembered. I suppose I can comfort myself in that it didn’t get the Christmas Number 1 that year…Yeah…It got beaten by my arch nemesis Westlife. Wow the world might as well have ended at midnight that year huh?
3. Naughty Christmas Goblin in the Office (Fat Les)
What happens when you put Alex James of BritPop sensation Blur, actor Keith Allen and artist Damien Hirst in a room together? This bollocks apparently. The problem, is you will be singing that ‘Naughty naughty woman’ refrain against your will. I am so, so sorry. This is horrendous shit that never should have seen the light of day but it is catchy.
Like Slade on the other list, this song is very British but in all the bad ways…It tries to be ‘cheeky’ and just ends up head splittingly annoying. It makes me want to take a shower it is so grimy…I hate anything that pertains to having a ‘larf’ Just an excuse to make crap innit? Anyway this track is not even a proper song and very nearly not even a Christmas song and everyone involved needs to fuck off.
2. The Christmas Shoes (Newsong)
WARNING: Don’t listen to this if you don’t fancy a nice cleansing vomit:
If ‘Naughty Christmas Goblin…’ is the worst of British, then this is the worst of America. The fact that there are people in the world who can take the kind of unearned sentimentality seriously is proof that we are all very different creatures trying to muddle along in our own way in this crazy universe. Listen to that insipid music…Gaze upon the superfluous band members…Hark at the innocent ‘child’ vocal at the end…Draw back in alarm when you realise how straight EVERYONE involved is playing it…Although the aforementioned superfluous band members do look kind of mortified…
Nobody can see us, right Bob?
I would keep going but to be honest Patton Oswalt did this riff better than I ever could so I will pass it over to him:
In case you don’t have time to listen to it I will summarise: What kind of fucked up God would KILL a young Mother to make a point to some grumpy asshole about the spirit of Christmas??? It is everything that is wrong with the ‘everything happens for a reason’ school of logic and has no place in the world let alone in my record collection.
Oh and yes there is a film based on the song. And no. No I won’t. I can hardly get through the 5 minute song.
So what could possibly beat that? Well…#3 and #2 are awful but I can laugh at them in their dreadfulness. But my personal #1 Worst Christmas Song makes me physically angry in ways I can hardly explain. Like ‘Christmas Shoes’ it is full of earnest, laughable, bullshit but it seems to think it is better than it actually is and therefore it makes me soooo mad….
1. Do they know it’s Christmas? Band Aid 1984/1985/2004/214 (Bob Geldof/Midge Ure and Many More)
Ok…It is hard to type right now…I can hardly handle this…I hate this song SO SO SO SO much. I just…It is so hard to be coherent. I just…Oh God…
Me: Around the point where I am asked to consider how sad it is that there are no rivers in AFRICA…
Many people have written many think pieces on why this song is patronising.
Many people have written detailed critiques on why this kind of charity drive doesn’t work or have any long term benefit to anyone.
And many more have written comical blogs on why the lyrics are stupid.
So I am not going to add my voice to the many, many others who have come before me. I just want you to see what goes on in my brain whenever any version of this…this… “song” comes on my poor soon to be destroyed radio (yes I know I could just turn it off, just shut up):
Fine Bob you win. I will always know it is Christmas. Every God damn time. I throw my hands up. Have all my money: Build a mansion made of alligator hide or whatever it is rich people who demand charity money by writing awful, awful songs do: Do what you want with it. Just stop this from being near my ears. Please. It is all I want…
If every reader just pledges just £1, Cokieblume can afford the solid gold hot needle needed to pierce their eardrums so this can never, ever, ever happen again. Please. And tonight thank God it’s me instead of yooooooooooooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuu….
So what are your favourite/least favourite Christmas songs? Tell me! Or don’t!
MERRY SODDING CHRISTMAS!