One of the greatest things about the Christmas season is the music. In our house, we have a hard and fast rule that no holiday tunes may be played until after we finish the Thanksgiving meal.
If you put on the right song, it can lift your spirits, put a spring in your step, and make wrapping gifts tolerable.
But the wrong song can send you in to an emotional spiral causing you to regret your life choices and wish for Boxing Day to arrive so you can just be past it all.
Last year, I got a lot of kudos — and even more gruff — for my list of the definitive recordings of the 35 best Christmas carols. It truly was a perfect list, despite the claims from naysayers.
Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment. This year, at the risk of being labeled a Grinch, I’ve compiled the 10 worst Christmas songs of all time. And because I play fair, you can listen to each song below so that you, too, can judge each song for yourself … and then acknowledge my obvious correctness about the awfulness of each.
Just don’t let it ruin your Christmas.
#1: LAST CHRISTMAS — Wham!
This song is just objectively bad and an obvious first choice. There is not an American alive with two working ears and any sort of taste in music who would disagree that this is the world’s worst Christmas tune.
It’s everything that is wrong with ’80s music — from the bad vocals, obnoxious keyboards, sulky attitude, and goofy lyrics. And as if the song wasn’t bad enough, Wham! thought it would be a good idea to create this video to go with it.
#2: MERRY CHRISTMAS, DARLING — The Carpenters
I post this one at great personal risk. There are friends who will leave me and family members who will disown me for this, but honestly, the only redeeming quality for this Carpenters disaster is that it isn’t “Last Christmas” by Wham!
Sentimental Carpenters fans who long for Karen’s resurrection need to understand that there are not enough Christmas miracles in the world to keep this song from its placement at No. 2 on the all-time list of terrible songs. From dreaming of “Christmassing with you” to being filled with desire based on seeing logs on a fire, there is no saving this song from the weight of its own silliness — and lousy instrumentation and background vocals.
#3: WONDERFUL CHRISTMASTIME — Paul McCartney and Wings
C’mon, Paul. You’re better than this. You’re a Beatle for crying out loud.
Yes, I know it charted bigly. Yes, I know lots people have covered it. No, that does not make it a good song. As Craig Outhier wrote for the Phoenix New Times in his list of the worst Paul McCartney songs, this tune “torments” the public, and its chorus likely “is at least partially responsible for the yearly spike in holiday suicide rates.”
#4: THE CHRISTMAS SHOES — NewSong
I’m probably going straight to Hell for this one. But it had to be included.
Though it has a nice message about a boy buying fancy shoes for his dying mother and a stranger paying for the footwear when the young lad winds up not having enough money, it’s a depressing song that has no business being in anyone’s holiday playlist. All of that, combined with the sappy vocals, super-awkward video, and the fact that it is overplayed on Christian radio and 24-hour Christmas stations, make this song nausea-inducing and obnoxious.
#5: MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS — NSYNC
Justin Timberlake is one of the greatest entertainers of our generation: He can write, sing, act, and do comedy. Surely if there are any regrets he has in his career, this song has to be near the top of his list.
The song is like a poorly conceived musical number for a sub-par network holiday special. Speaking of sub-par, the video, featuring “Diff’rent Strokes” star Gary Coleman, is really … something.
#6: DOMINICK THE DONKEY — Lou Monte
Dominick is supposed to be the hero of the song, having saved Christmas by helping Santa because the reindeer can’t climb the hills of Italy. Instead, this silly song attempts a “Funiculi Funicula” vibe, but even for a novelty song — a genre that is typically given a lot of leeway when it comes to criticism — it is just painful.
Hee haw. Hee awful.
#7: HAPPY XMAS (WAR IS OVER) — John Lennon
It’s a sad day when two songs written by Beatles make a “worst songs” list, but such is life. You write a bad song, it doesn’t matter who you are, you’re going to get called out.
I know I’ll get raked over the coals by Beatles fans who feel Lennon could do no wrong, but this is a terrible Christmas song. The music is well done and everyone knows Lennon was a peacenik, but this tune has no business invading the joy of the holiday.
#8: A HAND FOR MRS. CLAUS — Idina Menzel & Ariana Grande
You know who the real hero of the North Pole — and therefore Christmas — really is? No, not St. Nick. Nope, not the elves or Rudolph.
The real hero is Santa’s ball-and-chain. She does all the real work up north — and Idina Menzel and Ariana Grande really want you to understand that in this badly written, poorly performed (particularly Ariana’s portion), and inferiorly produced pile of feminist nonsense.
#9: DO THEY KNOW IT’S CHRISTMAS? — Band Aid
This song was created with the most talented artists alive in 1984, and that stable of amazing musicians makes this a tough one. And anyone with a soul can appreciate their efforts to help the people suffering in Ethiopia.
But that does not make it a good Christmas song. Despite the talent involved, the tune is mediocre at best — some took to calling the supergroup “Bland Aid” after the record’s release. And the words, again, do not capture the joy and magic of Christmas — which is what holiday songs are supposed to be about. When the song came out, NME called it a “turkey” and ripped the song as “Millions of Dead Stars write and perform rotten record for the right reasons” — which, honestly, was a pretty generous review.
#10: WARM AND FUZZY — Billy Gilman
Yes, only a monster would mock a record cut by a kid, and this is probably enough to get me labeled Mr. Potter reincarnated, but seriously …
This song serves no purpose, tells no story, and contains zero originality. It isn’t even cute. There’s nothing about this song that should give it any acclaim, yet here it is — every stinking year.
There are some songs that are pretty ridiculous or silly or just downright dumb. But unlike the songs listed above, they do bring some joy to the season.
I couldn’t bring myself to list them as terrible, but their questionableness should at least be noted.
- “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” — Elmo & Patsy
- “Blue Christmas” — Elvis Presley
- “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” — Gayla Peevey
- “Christmas Wrapping” — The Waitresses
- “Feliz Navidad” — Jose Feliciano
- “Marshmallow World” — Dean Martin
- “Santa Baby” — Eartha Kitt
- “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” — Jackson 5