As some of you may remember from last year, my brother Tom and I have an annual tradition of bashing bad Christmas carols*. Some people bake cookies together. Some make holiday crafts. Some volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen. Tom and I listen to horrible music and then spew bitter, holiday-themed invective on public blogs. This is probably a sad commentary on our states of mind, but there it is....
So, putting the fun in dysfunctional, as the saying goes, we present our 2009 edition of the Worst. Christmas Carols. EVAH.
TOM SAYS: Before I begin our annual tradition of bashing bad Christmas songs, I do need to dislocate my shoulder and pat myself on the back. As many of you know, a lot of my angst was derived from the fact that Sirius Satellite Radio (of which I have been a loyal subscriber since 2004) would play Christmas music starting around Thanksgiving and include some of the most God-awful tunes you have ever heard. And they would repeat them. Often. So, I began a letter-writing campaign every year.
TRACY SAYS: My brother the activist.
TOM SAYS: To my surprise, this year Sirius has created multiple holiday-themed channels, including a “Holiday Traditions” channel (channel 4) for someone like me who wants to hear the classic carols. They have also created a contemporary channel called “Holly,” which is channel 3. Let me be the first to draw a chalk line around this channel and put up police tape. This is where you will find some of the worst Christmas songs of all time!
This new arrangement makes me very happy. (And if you want to listen to Michael Bolton or Rod Stewart singlehandedly murder holiday song after holiday song, it will make you happy, too). Why, you ask? Because I am a big proponent of the idea that if you don’t like what you are watching or listening to, then change the channel. No need to ruin it for everyone else. Therefore, I do not have to listen because I have a choice—Channel 4! Although, for the purposes of this blog, I listened to Channel 3 for 15 minutes and had enough material for the next ten years!
So anyway, I am going to ask my Naval officer brother-in-law to get me a flight suit, an aircraft carrier, a jet to take me to the carrier, and a big “Mission Accomplished” sign celebrating the fact that I no longer have to listen to crap Christmas music!
TRACY SAYS: He says he’s working on it. Nicely done! Gandhi would be proud.
TOM SAYS: Next letter-writing campaign involves getting rid of Michael Bay from the Transformers movie franchise….
TRACY SAYS: I haven’t even watched the sequel yet. Guess I should skip it then….
Anyhoo, onward! My first pick is ::::drumroll::::
Anything by the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC.
(Where does that stupid asterisk go again? *NSYNC? N*SYNC? NSYNC*? Stupid inner copyeditor, making me care.)
I don't know what's up with Sirius these days, but channel 3 plays a "carol" (and I use that term loosely) by one of these two horrific boy bands at least once per hour. Which means that every time I get in the car, I have a roughly 50% chance of driving into a snowbank due to radio-induced road rage.
WHY? WHY? WHAT DID WE EVER DO TO YOU, SIRIUS?!?!
TOM SAYS: Quick Tracy! Get off of channel 3! Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
TRACY SAYS: I know, but sometimes, a girl just wants to hear a little Band-Aid.
I blame the merger with XM for this proliferation of boy band putrescence. Because otherwise, the world just doesn't make sense. Which reminds me:
Dear 30-something Sirius Christmas program director channeling her inner 12-year-old,
The Backstreet Boys and NSYNC are no longer hip. Take out your shoulder pads; straighten that perm; put away your fishnet, fingerless Madonna gloves; and let the holiday spirit move you to start a musical evolution inside yourself.
I suggest beginning with ‘90s alternative and moving on from there. Since flannel shirts are making a comeback, you’ll be in good company.
TOM SAYS: This pick goes along with the boy band theme.
“The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” by 98 Degrees.
I can cut to the chase pretty easy on this one—they suck. But here is what puts it over the top for me—the fact that they had to add “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” in parentheses. THAT IS NOT THE NAME OF THE SONG! If you are too dumb to know that, you cannot celebrate Christmas this year.
TRACY SAYS: Agreed! Adding insult to aural injury is …
“The Little Drummer Boy," also by 98 Degrees
Seriously??!?!?! I mean SERIOUSLY???? As if this song weren’t melodramatic enough (yeah, so I tear up every time I hear it. What of it?), someone needed to boy-band it to death?
Horrible. Just horrible. I can practically see them all stretching their hands out and reaching-for-but-not-quite-touching the listening audience, and then swiftly pulling those hands back into a clenched Fist O’ Pain and Suffering. And it makes me want to die of barfness.
The ONLY version of “Little Drummer Boy” that should be allowed on the radio is the one by Bing and Bowie. No one else needs to sing this song. No one.
Freaking boy bands.
TOM SAYS: My next pick is “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid.
TRACY: :::incredulous, google-eyed stare:::
TOM SAYS: Before my sister freaks out at me, I have to clarify that I hate the extended version of this song. The reason being is that they go into an extended interlude where a lot of the singers are wishing the people of Africa “Merry/Happy Christmas.”
TRACY SAYS: Okay, I’ll totally give you this one. Let it be written that spoken-word interludes in holiday carols are the devil.
TOM SAYS: The topper is Bob Geldof letting everyone in Africa know on the recording that he has been up all night and what day it is in London. LIKE THEY CARE! If anyone is in the middle of a famine, they are saying “Send me some food!” or “Can I sleep in your house?!”
TRACY SAYS: Exactly. I’m in the middle of a famine and a genocidal war, but gee, I’m so sad you bunch of bajillionaires had to stay up all night SINGING.
Oh, and by the way, Geldof, the ENTIRE CONTINENT OF AFRICA IS NOT A SALLY STRUTHERS PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT. Just saying.
TOM SAYS: For all of you wondering what I am talking about, here is a link to the extended mix of "Do They Know it's Christmas?"
Forward to about the 2:30 mark. First of all, the music here sounds absolutely frightening. Then, the holiday "greetings" to the people of Africa start:
First up, Bono: "Well, this is Bono here—the singer of U2." (Person listening thinking, "Oh thank God it is THAT Bono. I might have confused him with another Bono. He is just part of the biggest band currently. Oh well, by 1992, we won't even remember who this guy is.")
Next, Sir Paul McCartney. I now realize why fate sent him Heather Mills. "Hi, this is Paul McCartney. Sorry that I can't be with you." and he punctuates it with a "Suck on that, Africa. I am kickin' it in my mansion! All of these idiots listening can pay for food in Africa but I need to buy another Monet." :::evil laugh:::
TRACY SAYS: And you accuse me of having an exaggeration problem.
TOM SAYS: Then, we have to keep hearing, "Hi, this is Paul McCartney." over and over. Karma boomerang, Sir Paul!
Then, some dude from Frankie Goes to Hollywood comes up a little later. He didn't even have the effort to make it to the studio. Instead, he literally phones it in! Why bother? And he punctuates it with an even more evil laugh than Sir Paul! Let's see how Frankie Goes to Hollywood has done over the last 20 years.
Well, they did do a good job on my lawn.
Of course, there are many more who you can't even understand what they are saying! It might as well be "Hi, this is (insert British rocker name here). I am so blitzed from last night that I can barely talk. Eat something, Africa."
David Bowie then comes in, rather ominously. Mr. Bad News in this song. He has to give his greeting as creepily as possible. Very Orwellian.
To wrap it up, we get Bob Geldof. I still don't know why he is famous, and I do not want any of you telling me why. I don't need that information clogging up my brain. Anyway, he proceeds to tell us when the record was recorded and that they have been there for over 24 hours. Hey, it isn't my fault that he stayed there all night mixing. He could have wrapped it around midnight, got some sleep and come back refreshed the next morning to finish.
Anyway, when I hear this part, I think of the Christian Bale Terminator Rant and want to hear the part where Bale goes, "Ohhhhh good for you!" (Said rant is at 1:10 of this clip. WARNING: LOTS OF SWEAR WORDS IN THIS.)
TRACY SAYS: Okeedokee then.
My next one is:
Jessica Simpson, pretty much anything from her holiday album.
I know bashing Jessica Simpson has become sort of a national pastime (when did Ashlee become the cool one?), but girlfriend did herself no favors when she put out a Christmas album in 2004 called ReJoyce. My God.
The asthmatic babydoll delivery. The gasping, hiccupy breaths in between phrases. The weird, random vocal swoops every four words or so. It’s like she took a bite of Meg Ryan’s salad from When Harry Met Sally and then decided to channel all that energy into singing Christmas carols because her dad keeps chasing all her boyfriends away.
And don’t even get me started on the “chicken or fish” spelling of the record’s title. Please, Jessica, stop trying to make yourself happen and fade away with a little dignity. Somewhere far, far away from my car radio.
TOM SAYS: I have a specific Jessica Simpson pick—“I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” Again, horrible singer, horrible family, etc. etc. Here is why I hate this song though—her creepy dad— Papa Joe Simpson (with a nod to creepy Papa John Phillips). For those of you who don’t know about Papa Joe, here is a taste.
Anyway, this song really creeps me out when she sings it. Why? Because I get the thought of her singing about seeing mommy kissing Santa Claus and Papa Joe watching from a nearby closet. I will stop there.
TRACY SAYS: Thank you. My breakfast and I appreciate that.
How about …?
Christina Aguilera, "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing"
Hark, the herald angels are screaming in agony once again. Picking up where Carrie Underwood left off last year, Aguilera decimates one of my favorite classic carols by assaulting it with her special brand of finger-waving vocal gymnastics.
Girlfriend. The lyric is "Gloooooooooooooo-ooooooooooo-oooooooooooo-ooooooooooria."
Open your eyes, get your finger out of your ear, put down that other stupidly waving hand, and go get your throat checked. Obviously, something is lodged inside that caused this raging bout of vocal incontinence—hairball, maybe?
UGH! UGH to the Nth power!
TOM SAYS: I don’t think that the song is Dirrrrrty enough!
Time for another heart attack for my sister:
The entire “If on a Winter’s Night” album by Gordon Sumner (nee Sting).
TRACY SAYS: SHRIEK!!!!! :::thud::::
TOM SAYS: First of all, I like Sting, the Police, his music, etc. The music on this album doesn’t bother me either (except for “Soul Cake”—what the eff is that all about?).
TRACY SAYS: (“Soul Cake” is pretty! Sting is a musical genius!)
TOM SAYS: Here is what bothers me—Mr. Sumner having a hissy when someone calls this a “Holiday” album. He claims that it is a “Winter Album.” Well, excuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me, Gordo! Last time I checked, “Gabriel’s Message” (track 1), “Christmas at Sea” (track 5), “Lo how a Rose E’er Blooming” (track 6), “The Burning Babe” (track 8), “Lullaby for an Anxious Child” (track 13), “Bethlehem Down” (track 16), and the “Coventry Carol” (track 18) all seem like they have something to do with Christmas.
As far as I know, there was no Child/Baby nor a significant event in Bethlehem for Festivus. I could be wrong though.
TRACY SAYS: Hmmmm. “The Angel Gabriel from heaven came./ His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame. /“All hail,” said he, “thou lowly maiden Mary./ Most highly favored lady./Glooooooorrriiiaa.”
Yeah, okay, I’ll give you that the holiday vs. winter album thing is a bit ridiculous. He’s still a musical genius, though.
Moving on …
Lee Ann Rimes, "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree"
Listen up, you snaggle-toothed homewrecker. If you can't add ONE SINGLE NEW THING to Brenda Lee's classic version of this song, why bother inflicting it on us? Other than the occasional nasal country twang moment, every breath and inflection is Lee's, not yours. Which makes your "version" of this an egregious waste of petroleum-based resources and studio time that could have gone to someone with something new to sing, who didn't sleep with a married man with babies.
And no, Eddie Cibrian is not excused from my wrath, but is he out there trying to butcher beloved holiday music?
No, he is not.
TOM SAYS: They should make a video for this with Lee Ann playing the mom to Tiger Woods’ dad. Awesome.
TRACY SAYS: Now that the obligatory Tiger joke is out of the way....
Jimmy Buffett, “Christmas in the Caribbean”
If you’re there singing that awful song, I’ll stay up here and freeze, thank you.
(The Parrotheads are totally coming after me for that one. I love "Son of a Sailor," Parrotheads! Don't hurt me!)
TOM SAYS: For island warmth, substitute two helpings of Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalekimaka” instead!
TRACY SAYS: I’m not a big fan of that song, either. It’s whole message seems to be, “Hey, I’m spending Christmas somewhere amazing, and you’re in a frozen place that sucks!” Makes me want to punch someone in the face, and that’s not exactly showing the Christmas spirit.
Kimberley Locke, “Jingle Bells”
Kimberly Locke was on my list of best carols last year for her rousing rendition of “Frosty the Snowman,” but even then, I’d pointed out her disturbing tendency to sound like she’s going to kick your @$$ when she sings. As in, “You can be my 8th world wonder. And then I’ll kick your @$$!”
Frosty worked, for some reason, and gave me some respite from the charming but overplayed Jimmy Durante version, which my daughters made me queue up for them over and over and over again. And for that, Ms. Locke, I thank you.
This year, however, Sirius has put Locke’s “Jingle Bells” into heavy rotation, and she’s back to sounding mighty peeved. Which never works well in a Christmas carol.
“Jingle! Bells! Jingle! Bells! JINGLE THOSE G--DAMNED BELLS BEFORE I WRAP A STRING OF THEM AROUND YOUR NECK!!!!!!”
See? Totally doesn’t work.
TOM SAYS: Rob Thomas “A New York Christmas”
First of all, Rob Thomas’ vocalization just doesn’t fit Christmas. It is like he is putting in too much effort and trying to sound gritty. On to the song. He makes this song somehow convey two messages. The first is “Come to NYC. It rules here for Christmas.” Well, Rob, sorry that my Minneapolis/St. Paul Christmas doesn’t quite cut it for you. Do you know why the rest of the country hates New York? Because people always crow how great it is there. Nothing like cramming 8 million people into an 8 square mile area. That sounds like fun. And readers, spare me your bragging about the Yankees. Where are your Giants, Jets, and Knicks right now?
TRACY SAYS: (New York readers, please excuse him. He's REALLY bitter about the Yankees.)
TOM SAYS: The second message says, “New York is a pit right now. We need every single angel to come here and every single person to pray for New York.” I don’t feel bad. I could think of some other places that need help—Kandahar, Baghdad, and Cleveland. I don’t feel bad for you, New York City.
TRACY SAYS: I love NYC! (See the comments section for more on my apology to the entire city of New York.) But in keeping with the theme, here's one: The Radio City Rockettes, “White Christmas”
This one is so bad, I need to address my entire critique to the Rockettes directly, because girlfriends, I want you to take this personally.
Dear Radio City Rockettes,
Okay, so I get that you’re pretty much a New York City institution, and no amount of my inner feminist curling up in a ball and sobbing hysterically is going to make you take a flying leap off my universe. I get that. But did you really have to invade my holiday radio space?
I thought your job was to put on your pasties, smile big, and do some of those high-flying kicks that I’m sure you need a Ph.D. in physics to execute properly. I did not know that you actually think you can collectively sing.
I’m sure some of you who can carry a tune well enough. Hey, maybe there are even one or two belters in the group. But when all of you “sing” en barely clothed masse, it reminds me of those dubious ensemble “talent” numbers from the Miss America pageant. That is not a good thing.
If you insist on clinging to the scrap of nostalgia-driven relevance you still have, I would advise that you to cease and desist with all singing, immediately. You obviously expect audiences to pay to see you—or at the very least, large NYC event planners to pay to use you as a backdrop. Hold up your end of the fame bargain, close your mouths, and look pretty like you’re supposed to.
TOM SAYS: I didn’t even hear any sound coming out of their mouths. I just saw legs….
TRACY SAYS: Typical.
TOM SAYS: All-4-One “Silent Night”
How did these guys ever get popular? They sound like that local a capella group that your local news hired this holiday season to do their Christmas bumpers. You know what I am talking about: They sing bad and totally overdo their act on the commercial. On December 26th, they will go back to living in obscurity and no one will care.
This song really blows though. The harmonies (and the melody for that fact) are just plain bad. They sound like they are being created by an '80s synthesizer played through a bellows.
TRACY SAYS: Which brings me to ... REO Speedwagon, … ROFLMAO!!!!!!
Oh … my … God. … REO—(Can’t. Type. Laughing. Too. Hard.) REO Speedwagon put out a Christmas album this year?!?!
Tom, I can’t even bash it. Because I can’t stop laughing.
TOM SAYS: If they could just duet with Lita Ford!
TRACY SAYS: Genius!
Now, time for me to give Tom a heart attack …
Frank Sinatra, “We Wish You the Merriest”
A big pet peeve of mine is when people don't finish their sentences. My husband, bless his heart, is totally guilty of this. He'll be all, "Hey, Tracy, I was thinking we could--" And then he'll get distracted by something sparkly and wander off, leaving me trailing after him going, "What? What? You were wondering what?"
His standard response is generally, "I forgot." Or "Oh, never mind." Drives me bonkers!
I get that maddening feeling all over again whenever I listen to Frank Sinatra's "We Wish You the Merriest."
Now you know I loves me some Sinatra at Christmas. But this particular tune? It takes him the whole song to FINISH HIS FREAKING SENTENCE. Here's how a recent car trip of mine went:
FRANK: "We wish you the merriest, the merriest..."
TRACY: :::humming along::::
FRANK: "The merriest.
TRACY: "The merriest!"
FRANK: "Oh, the merriest."
TRACY: "OH! the merriest."
FRANK: "We wish you the merriest, the merriest..."
TRACY: :::Stops singing. Starts to get a bit disturbed.::::
FRANK: "...the merriest. Yes, the merriest."
TRACY: "Merriest what?"
FRANK: We wish you the merriest, the merriest..."
TRACY: "What?! What?! The merriest WHAT? You wish me the merriest WHAT?!"
FRANK: "...the merriest to you."
TRACY: "FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, THE MERRIEST WHAT?!?!?!?!"
FRANK: "We wish you the happiest, the happiest...."
::::Tracy drives into a snowbank and starts sobbing uncontrollably.:::
This song is twisted and wrong, and I want it to stop.
I think that’ll just about do it for this year.
TOM SAYS: Just remember, this holiday season, stay away from the carols we’ve discussed in the past that have now made it into our Holiday Hall of Shame: “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney, “Santa Baby” by Madonna, “Christmas Shoes” by New Song, and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
TRACY SAYS: “Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey” by Lou Monte, anything by Michael Bolton and Kenny G, and “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Vince Vance and the Valiants.
* For previous years' carol-bashing (and other entries in our Christmas Carol Hall of Shame), you can visit here and here.
Anyone have any songs they'd like to add to our Hall of Shame?
- Caridad Piñeiro's blog
- Her Random Scribbling
- Hollyworld! (Holly Jacobs)
- Intrigue Authors
- Jen's Blog (Jennifer Mckenzie)
- Melrose St.
- Michelle Monkou's blog
- No rules. Just write. (Brenda Coulter)
- Queen of the Frozen North (Cathy Pegau)
- Sharron McClellan's Fly Grrrl
- Spinsters and Lunatics (Paula Graves)
- The Bandwagon
- • All Through the Night
- • Force of Nature
- • Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows
- • Magic Hour
- • New News Out of Africa
- • One Train Later
- • Secret Contract
- • Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe
- • The Count of Monte Cristo
- • The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood
- • The Last Great Dance on Earth
- • The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.
- • Washington Square