I love Christmas, and I love Christmas music. But not all holiday tunes are created equal. Some songs — Nat King Cole’s “O Holy Night,” “Christmas in Hollis” by Run-D.M.C. — I can listen to over and over. But others make me want to jam railroad ties into my ears, they’re so awful.
Following is the list of 11 Christmas songs that should never have been made. In some cases, they’re sung by artists that I otherwise respect, which makes these terrible tunes all the more troubling. If there’s a Santa Claus, he will banish these awful, insipid, stupid affronts on Christmas to the Island of Misfit Songs.
11. “Happy Xmas (War is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono - I’m a die-hard Beatles fan, so it pains me to start this list with a John Lennon song. And it’s actually pretty great – until the 40-second mark, when Yoko comes in and starts her caterwauling. Honestly, John. I know you loved her and all, but why’d you gotta let her sing?
10. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Neil Diamond – His first Christmas album was a mega-seller, so for his second one, Neil got a little creative with his arrangements, including a reggae version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” He begins this song by calling out to the boys and girls in a Jamaican accent. I’m embarrassed for him.
9.“Santa Baby,” Madonna – I’ll bet the modern-day Madonna listens to this 1987 version of herself and cringes. I know I do. Perhaps she thought her nasal-voiced, cutsey-pie delivery was sexy, but really, she sounds like a half-in-the-bag bimbo. For sexy, see Kitt, Eartha, or Minogue, Kylie.
8. “Last Christmas,” Wham – This song is like cilantro: You either love it, or you think it tastes like soap. I’m in the latter camp. Vapid lyrics and cheesy music make "Last Christmas" completely unlistenable. Worse yet, those damned “Glee” kids went and covered it, so all the teenyboppers are into it now. Gaaaah.
7. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Band Aid – When I was a youngster, I thought this song was awesome, because it had Sting and Bono and Duran Duran (swoon). And it was made to help those affected by the Ethiopian famine of the mid-1980s. But the lyrics appear to be written by a third-grader (“There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time), or a pompous first-world jackass (“Well tonight, thank God it's them instead of yooooouuuu!”)
6. “Silver and Gold,” Burl Ives – This song has the power to bring down a room. I know because I’ve seen it happen, during my son’s inaugural viewing of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Here they’ve just introduced Yukon Cornelius, and then, bam! Preschoolers all take a powder while the snowman guy sings “Silver and Gold.” Buzz kill!
5. “Zat You, Santa Claus?” Buster Poindexter – Look, I don’t like the Louis Armstrong version of this song, either. But the Buster Poindexter rendition is nails-on-a-chalkboard bad. It’s change-the-station bad. It’s pull-the-car-over-and-smoke-a-cigarette bad. Bad, bad, bad.
4. “Christmas Don't Be Late,” Alvin and the Chipmunks – When you’re 5 years old, this song is hilarious. When you’re an adult, this song is torture. Let’s say you were a spy, and you were captured. How many times do you think you could endure this record before you broke down? Think about it. And then, answer me this: Why is a grown man living with three chipmunks?
3.“Baby It’s Cold Outside,” Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone –The lyrics of this song make me mildly uncomfortable to begin with. This woman is trying to leave, for God’s sake, but her “date” won’t let her. I don’t mind so much when it’s Dean Martin. But Zooey Deschanel sounds so drowsy when she sings, “Say, what’s in this drink?” that I really want to call 911.
2. “Wonderful Christmastime,” Paul McCartney – For an artist with his pedigree, this song is unforgivable. It’s an overproduced, strangled-by-synthesizer mess that deserves the distinction as one of the worst Christmas songs ever. Insult to injury: Sir McCartney, already richer than God, makes almost half a million bucks a year off this song, it gets played so much.
1. “O Holy Night,” Christina Aguilera – Let me first say that this is my very favorite Christmas hymn, and it offends me when celebrities mangle it. Aguilera’s taste level, always in question, is particularly egregious here. I don’t deny that she’s got serious pipes, but this song deserves reverence, not show-offy vocal gymnastics. Christina: Must you recite the Lord’s Prayer midway through? And why, WHY extend this train wreck with a Broadway-meets-gospel-choir ending? The worst. Period.