I love Christmas. Everything about it. I love unpacking the boxes with our Christmas decorations. I love walking around the mall after they hang up those enormous Christmas baubles. I love that everything suddenly smells like pine trees, even things that have no business smelling like pine trees-“10 percent off holiday-scented Air Force 1s!” The colored lights on the neighbor’s house, bright enough to land alien spaceships. Eggnog, with or without booze. The ubiquitous cheer. But then there’s the music.
There are a couple of radio stations that have changed their formats from normal programming to nonstop Christmas music. The worst: Santa 106.9. It changed to 24/7 Christmas music, as I recall, the day after Easter and has been going strong ever since. Look, if there is one holiday associated with music-gobs and gobs of music, music from centuries past right up to the present-it’s Christmas. Sting has a Christmas album. Bob Dylan has a Christmas album. Every other album Sufjan Stevens releases is a Christmas album. And by and large, it’s beautiful.
And yet. Santa 106.9 has chosen six or seven Christmas songs, out of bajillions, as their representative selection of Christmas music. Their vetting process? Evidently, it’s “Are these the worst Christmas songs? Yes? Then add them to the rotation with alacrity.” Look, here are Santa 106.9’s worst of the worst:
5. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”
Nobody beats the Boss. With a career that brought us “Born to Run”-the album and the song-not to mention “Nebraska,” “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and just about everything else he’s ever written, Springsteen has solidified his place in the pantheon of rock gods. But nothing can account for his version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” It starts with some stage banter, and Bruce asks Clarence if Santa is going to bring him a new saxophone. You can nearly hear Clarence’s thoughts: “You literally ask me that every Christmas. Would you please just holly-jolly shut the f@$# up?”
4. A Bunch of People with Humungous Hair (AKA Band Aid), “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
Here we have some do-goodin’ smack dab in the midst of the “Greed is good” 1980s. Duran Duran, Phil Collins, half of U2-the group’s goal with the song was to raise awareness about and aid for starving people in Ethiopia. The cause is great. I just can’t get past the lyrics “There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas.” Ethiopia, a nation within spitting distance of the equator, would flip its s@%! if snow appeared anywhere within its borders. I repeat: IT’S NOT WEIRD IT WOULDN’T SNOW. No snow? Cool. There won’t be a heat wave in the Arctic, either.
3. Wham!, “Last Christmas”
This is George Michael’s and Andrew Ridgely’s second appearance on this list (yep, they were part of No. 4, too), and the question remains: If you gave somebody your heart for Christmas and the very next day (so, for a Boxing Day present?) the recipient of your heart regifted it, why the hell, this Christmas, weren’t you like, “. and I’m gone. Faster than a Christmas tree in a match factory.” And “my heart” is kind of a bull s#@^ present, anyway. It lets the recipient know that you spent 15 seconds on the drive over to his Christmas party thinking about what to get him. “Damn it. I better slide into this Walgreens. Gotta be something in here.” Just for the hell of it, here’s a nonexhaustive list of things that make a better Christmas present than “my heart”: A pack of tighty-whities from weird Aunt Gretchen. A first edition of “Mung Beans, Y’all! A Cookbook.” A stocking full of reindeer turds.
2. Paul McCartney, “Wonderful Christmastime”
John Lennon threw down “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” a brave protest song laced with despair and hope that retains its relevancy today. McCartney gave us “Wonderful Christmastime,” a counterpoint of inexplicable tripe from the latter half of the best songwriting duo in history. I can picture what happened: McCartney locked himself in a recording studio with a Casio and a full bottle of absinthe. When he emerged 15 minutes later, absinthe bottle totally drained, he proclaimed, “People of Earth, I give you ‘Wonderful Christmastime,’ and it is literally at least 10 times better than Handel’s ‘Messiah.’ Now, would somebody brush these tiny elves off my skin?” McCartney is lucky he also wrote “Yesterday” or I’d give him a punch in the stomach every Christmas.
1. NewSong, “The Christmas Shoes”
Obviously. I haven’t actually heard this number on Santa 106.9. Yet. But it takes the top spot anyway. It’s the most schmaltzy, schlocky, syrupy, vapid, vacuous, brainless, lame-ass Christmas song ever written. It tells the story of a dopey kid whose mom is terminally ill. Instead of staying by her side though, he goes to-I presume-Walmart. To buy a pair of women’s shoes. Because “I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight.” Jesus was known for his fashion sense, of course. You see that everywhere in the Bible. “Welcome to Heav . Whoa. Nice kicks, lady.” If this song comes on, do yourself a favor and jam some candy canes into your ears. Seriously. It’s less painful than even one spin of “The Christmas Shoes.”
Now, don’t let me mess up your Christmas. Listen to whatever you want. But know this: If we ever get within 20 feet of each other and I catch you humming, not to mention full-on singing, any one of the above Christmas songs, I’m sneaking into your house and filling all your socks with coal. And your shoes. And your tighty-whities.