YES! Weekly’s ten worst Christmas songs

by Jordan Green

“Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano

You can probably come up with your own list of worst Christmas songs. Just type the phrase into Google, and you’ll get dozens of ideas. So consider this a very incomplete effort at a meta-list. For starters, the blogger identified as Scott-O-Rama suggests “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano. The Puerto Rican-born guitarist may otherwise boast an impressive Latin music crossover career, but the squeaky voice and cornball sentiment of this number makes it a loser. Scott says he wards off insanity by substituting the words, “There’s fleas on my dog.”

“Jingle Bells, Batman Smells”

It’s unclear who came up with this childish “Jingle Bells” parody; there are probably dozens of variations and too many authors to count. The conceit is basically taking a jovial, secular standard and making it funny by substituting lyrics about superheroes and flatulence. Our marketing executive, Brad McCauley, nominated this one. “My kids love it,” he says. “I never could stand it. I’ve always hated it, even when I was a kid.”

“Last Christmas” by George Michael

The winter after I graduated from college I had the unfortunate experience of working in a toy store in a Cincinnati mall during the crazy season. Working retail in a costume store in the month leading up to Halloween was fun because we got to listen to songs like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins “I Put A Spell On You” and Redbone’s “Witch Queen from New Orleans,” but when Christmas rolled around, it was another story. The seasonal music compilation played on endless repeat, deadening our souls with its empty sentiment. And the most oppressive cut of all was George Michael’s “Last Christmas” with its cloying lyric: “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart/ But the very next day, you gave it away/ This year, to save me from tears/ I’ll give it to someone special’….” End our suffering now.

“Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney

Well, maybe there was one song on that compilation that was even worse. Released in 1979 before Paul broke up Wings and got busted with almost half a pound of pot at the Tokyo airport, the song features squiggly synthesizer flourishes that one amateur critic likens to the soundtrack of A Clockwork Orange. And the vocals, cheery but devoid of feeling, inspire existential angst. You’ve heard them: “The party’s on/ The feeling’s here/ That only comes/ Once a year’… Simply having a wonderful Christmastime’…”

“Happy Birthday Jesus” by Little Cindy

This cut was included in the 2004 album A John Waters Christmas, whose songs are described by the trashy Baltimore auteur as “so awful that they’re perfect.” One of the most impeccably terrible songs is the “found art” song “Happy Birthday Jesus.” “My imagination gets carried away, and I think of maybe like in the South somewhere in some pitiful little recording studio somewhere,” Waters told National Public Radio’s Terry Gross. “And Little Cindy may be the JonBenet of her community and has been forced to come in and sing’….” The performer gives a creepy recitation, praying about how her mama “‘splained how bad they hurt you, those awful naughty men/ She said you let them do it, for girls like me would sin.”

“Santa Claus Is A Black Man” by Akim & the Teddy Vann Production Company

This song, also from A John Waters Christmas, is actually great. A seasonal artifact of racial pride in the heady era when black cultural nationalism upended old assumptions, the song must have come off in its time as a brand new take on the wholesome familial drama of children unraveling the myth of the old man with the reindeer-drawn sleigh. In the song’s spoken exchange, young Akim tells his father that Santa Claus “looked a lot like you. He was handsome’…” – “I can dig it” – “He was black” – “Right on” – “He had an Afro; he was really outasight’…”

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” by the Oak Ridge Boys

The Oak Ridge Boys must have been anticipating some holiday-season financial distress or maybe they were getting too well acquainted with the IRS in 2005 because they seemed to dash this song, the lead track of their Christmas Cookies album, off with little forethought. Their deep, masculine voices are slightly slurred on the hymn. Add the requisite Nashville percussive click, a little fiddle, some piano and forgettable countrypolitan production – and voila.

“Please Daddy, Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas” by John Denver

Just for the title. Come on now, the sentiment is maudlin, overwrought and pathetic, and therefore both terrible and great. Mr. “Rocky Mountain High” sings, “You came home at a quarter past eleven and fell down underneath our Christmas tree’…. Then you laughed and hollered, ‘Merry Christmas’/ I turned around and saw my mother’s tears’….”

“The Christmas Shoes” by Newsong

This Georgia-based contemporary adult Christian group appears to have earned the ire of a critical mass of internet flamers for this earnest composition. In the song a holiday-weary consumer stands in line at a store as a Dickensian urchin paces in front of him. The jaded shopper is persuaded to help the boy pay for a pair of lady’s shoes. “Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there’s not much time,” the chorus goes. “You see she’s been sick quite a while/ And I know these shoes would make her smile/ And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight.”

“We Wish You a Merry Christmas” from A Dog’s Christmas

A programmed Casio accompanies dogs of various sizes and temperaments yapping, growling and whining as the melody requires. And there are 21 more tracks – all carols and hymns of the most traditional sort – where that came from. The CD may well be “the ultimate funny gag gift” at first, but after awhile the experience becomes merely painful.