Listening to Christmas or miscellaneous holiday music is something all of us do, even if it’s inadvertent. For some of us, it’s a borderline pathological ritual. Everyone has their own personal standards about when it’s appropriate to fire up the Christmas tunes. Some purists (like me) have blanket-bans on all Christmas music until after Thanksgiving (or even the beginning of December, for extremists), while others start earlier, on days in July when they feel like it, say.
I’ve been known to pump the Christmas tunes as background music on a daily basis during my designated time window. I have a specially tailored playlist of Christmas tunes from the likes of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and a Christmas Pandora station I’ve spent four years carefully cultivating to my taste. Some, like my brother, have a casual disliking of Christmas music full-stop. But whether you love or hate the genre, there are always a few tunes that grate on your ear and transform the jolliest of elves into the surliest of Grinches.
Here’s my list of Christmas and holiday-oriented songs that have struck me with their festive awesomeness or crapitude this season. These picks will refer to the songs as essential entities, not specific versions, unless otherwise specified:
Bring out the Who Hash & Roast Beast: Songs Trending Up
This already jaunt-sodden medieval tune has been heated up and supersaturated with jaunt. The lyrics are about drinking and doing questionable stuff in public, so this is truly an everyman’s tune. It’s actually dangerous to listen to this track when you’re over-caffeinated or already in a cheery mood, because it will raise your jaunty levels to critical mass. That’s what this song is bringing to the table: it’s like snorting a line of pure, uncut Christmas jaunt.
Pretty vanilla choice, hmm? This song is insidious. It’s mellow, almost soporific vibe and minor-key tonality lull the listener to sleep. But there’s more. The lyrics of this song are just raw. They read like Black Sabbath’s eponymous track or something from Slayer. The gist is that a mother is trying to lull her baby son to sleep as well as tell him goodbye because he’s about to be killed along with all other male children in Bethlehem on the orders of Herod. If The Gloucestershire Wassail had a polar opposite, it would be this. Raw.
3. Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel (warning: metal version)
There is one simple reason I’m big on this song this season: the lyrics. They satisfy 2 critical thematic affinities of mine: allusions to the “Rod of Jesse” and persistent references to the devil. Moreover, the actual writing is just gorgeous. Take for example this verse:
O come, O come, Thou Lord of Might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.
My Heart Shrank Three Sizes: Trending Down
1. Hey Santa
This song makes me want to pour acid in my ears and never celebrate Christmas again. Its chotchy, saccharine, and repetitive drone is everything that’s wrong with generic, overproduced Christmas pop. Whoever wrote this song should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. Apparently, the fault belongs with the spawn of Beachboy Brian Wilson.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this song. In some ways, it’s catchy and enjoyable. The problem is, it’s perfect for being re-recorded endlessly as overwrought duets ranging from the insufferable (Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson) to the slightly creepy (Norah Jones and Willy Nelson) to the inexplicable (Bette Midler and James Caan) to the simply repugnant (Glee - no, not because it’s two dudes, that’s commendably original. Because it’s Glee).
This song is the perpetual #1 awfulest dross in the Christmas universe. The concept of “pandering” was a hollow, empty husk of its present self until someone wrote this song a few years back. It’s like it was specially engineered by quantum physicists in a laboratory in hell. It’s not that I mind the idea of re-emphasizing the presence of Christ in Christmas, it’s just that this song is a nauseatingly hamfisted attempt (acknowledging the attempt may be too far) at doing that. I could do 2,000 words about why, but the simplest way of putting it is that the point of Jesus-centered celebration at Christmas is to emphasize charitable themes versus empty commercialism, not to focus on a shabbily reductive version of a birthday celebration that the historical Jesus certainly never had and that the spiritual Jesus wouldn’t have wanted. That is all. Ban this song.
Which songs are on your trending report this year? Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, folks.