Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Songs I Hate, Part I

Christmas songs are indeed a mixed bag. Some are truly inspired, and some are great because of their effervescent and unrepentant cheesiness ("All I Want For Christmas is You"). Unfortunately, there are several things that work against the quality of Christmas songs. Since there is money to be had in Christmas albums, EVERYONE puts out a Christmas album. This surfeit of albums often leads to rushed Christmas songs (there are only so many variations on the theme possible) or to strange covers of already established songs. Furthermore, while Christmas (at least in theory) is a time of peace, joy, and love, song writers tend to translate that into maudlin, trite, and emotionally manipulative.

Although I will do a post of Christmas songs that I do like, here are some of the ones that I have a particular aversion to. I've also helpfully included links to the songs, when possible, so that you can share in the pain. These are more than just your garden-variety annoying Christmas songs (like "Feliz Navidad" or "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth"); these songs take annoying to a whole new level:

"Hey Santa" - One of my most embarrassing things from my past is that I used to really like Wilson Phillips. Luckily, this only lasted for about a month in the 5th grade, so I was much wiser when two members of the group came out with "Hey Santa," which is a song that was universally reviled at the bookstore I worked at, perhaps because it was on constant rotation on the holiday mix that we were forced to listen. The perky melody, saxophone solo, and stupid harmonies still set my teeth on edge. It has Lite FM written all over it, and it is a rather stupid song (and an insultingly bad video).

"Where Are You Christmas?" - This song is from the travesty that is the live-action version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Jim Carrey and Ron Howard - you should both know better). Besides being from a horrible movie that probably still has poor Dr. Seuss whirling in his grave, this song is so syrupy that just listening to it is enough to rot teeth. I particularly hate the Faith Hill version of the song, which she does in full-throated, power ballad mode. My hatred for this version stems from the fact that, when I lived in Nashville, a radio station had it on constant rotation during the months of November and December. Whenever I heard that song when I was driving, I would frantically and violently dive for the radio controls, almost crashing my cute little CR-V in the process.

"Santa Baby" - Strangely enough, I don't hate this song as much as the other ones on the list. However, my siblings, particularly my sister, hate this song with the fire of a thousand suns. Besides the fact that it is almost a rite of passage for pop tarts to cover this song (Madonna, Taylor Swift, Kylie Minogue, Kellie Pickler, etc.), the song's entire vibe is simultaneously too materialistic and too cutesy for words. Whenever I listen to it, I get the image of Santa as sugar daddy, which is incredibly disturbing. The Madonna version is probably the most obnoxious, since she did it during her high-pitched, Betty Boop phase during the 1980s.

"The Christmas Shoes" - I've saved the most hated song for last, for I despise this song more than I can possibly convey in words. Worse yet, it was a huge hit that spawned a book and a tv movie, so it was, at least for a time, everywhere. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it is about a little boy who wants to buy shoes for his mother so that she will look beautiful for Jesus when she dies. Unfortunately, he doesn't have enough money for the shoes, so the man standing in line behind him, who is also the song's narrator, gives him the money and notes that God sent the little boy so that the man would feel heaven's love (or something of that nature). Just when you think that the song can't get any more saccharine, a children's chorus enters the picture and lisps the cloying chorus once more. Listening to this song is like being beaten with a sack filled with kittens or being drowned in a vat of pudding (TM Mike Nelson).

Once you get beyond the children's choir, you start to realize the entire emotional arc of the song is wrong. A self-absorbed guy gives a few dollars to a boy so that the boy can buy shoes for his dying mother? And this guy says that "God had sent that little boy to remind me what Christmas was all about"? Perhaps he should leave God out of it. All things considered, couldn't the Almighty have figured out another way to remind this self-absorbed douche what Christmas is about without having to resort to giving a small boy's mother a fatal disease? Beyond that, I don't think that Jesus is that much of a stickler for trends or footwear. I know that I am supposed to be touched that a little boy wants his mother to look pretty when she gets to heaven, but I'm more than a little disturbed at the thought that he is running around on Christmas Eve while his mother is apparently knocking on death's door.

By the way, someone did a parody version of this song called "The Christmas Thong." This is so wrong (yet funny) on so many levels. The story has changed somewhat: the guy is trying to get a job at Fredericks of Hollywood and a little boy comes in to buy some lingerie for his mom. The guy gets a glimpse of the mother's picture and decides to help the boy out. I'm not sure what's more upsetting: the fact that the little boy is buying a thong for his mother or the fact that the song's narrator is completely supportive of this venture.