The Most Menacing Time of the Year? An Annotated Guide to Troubling Christmas Music

 

I’ll admit it: I’m totally, hopelessly soft when it comes to Christmas. The trees, the lights, the otherwise indefensible notion that egg nog is something that should be consumed by humans rather than used to patch roofs — I go a little weak in the knees for all of it.

So it was that I found myself at home a few nights ago setting up the Christmas tree — a process that, in the Senik household, features an inadvisable mix of hard liquor and 10-foot ladders — with my iPod navigating an array of seasonal music. That’s when I noticed it: Peel away the cotton candy melodies and you will find, in the lyrics of many of our most beloved Christmas standards, a buffet of human dysfunction and malfeasance totally subversive of the ostensibly cheery holiday sentiment. As a public service (something the courts have been pretty insistent about where I’m concerned lately) I hereby provide you with a shorthand guide to some of the most troubling lyrical narratives of the Christmas season:

Santa Baby” — Eartha Kitt runs the honeypot on Kris Kringle. Implicit in the lyrics is that this ends with a chloroformed Santa in Eartha’s living room and the sleigh in a chop shop.

Winter Wonderland” — Two miscreants perform a horrible Frankenstein experiment on a snowman, apparently for the purposes of committing ecclesiastical fraud. Despite a lack of relevant licensure, he begins performing wedding ceremonies.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town” — The jolly old man you’re leaving milk and cookies out for is running an intelligence sweep that makes the NSA look like pikers and is intent on meting out vigilante justice.

O Tannenbaum” — Germans attempt to express guileless wonder. Despite their apparent earnestness, it is still creepy.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” — A mutant quadruped suffers bullying, which he eventually transcends by consolidating enough power to inspire sycophancy.

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” — A couple finds themselves unable to express their love in any manner other than gifting each other domestic servants and the contents of an aviary.

Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” — An alcoholic senior citizen is brutally murdered by Father Christmas. Her family is indifferent.

“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” — A dysfunctional family’s Christmas list consists primarily of firearms, demon-possessed dolls, and the parents’ earnest wish that their kids would go the hell away.

“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” — A small child musters no more than a shrug at the notion that his mother is conducting an affair with an aged drifter.

 

All in all, it makes for pretty harrowing listening. But let’s be honest — these are all still better choices than “Wonderful Christmastime”, the song that was apparently the back end of the deal Paul McCartney made with the devil in order to produce the Beatles catalog. As I write this, I’m hearing it for the second time today … and trying to figure out where I put that damn egg nog.

 

 

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  1. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    I don’t know what’s to complain about re eggnog.  Mr. Evan and Mr. Williams make a perfectly delightful variety.

    • #1
  2. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    I’m still reluctant to listen to “I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus.”

    • #2
  3. user_1030767 Inactive
    user_1030767
    @TheQuestion

    Not exactly on the topic, but I love to imagine the creative process that was behind “Last Christmas” (sung by George Michael, cast of Glee, etc.).   I assume an executive told a songwriter, “I need a Christmas song!” and the writer thought, “I want to write a pop love song.  I don’t want to write a Christmas song.  I’ll put Christmas in the title and work it in somehow.”

    I like to listen to “Last Christmas” while meditating on the mystery of Christ’s incarnation as God and man :) .

    • #3
  4. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Darn it! Troy beat me to it.

    But it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who finds secular carols a plentiful source of squickitude.

    Troy Senik, Ed.:Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” — A mutant quadruped suffers bullying, which he eventually transcends by consolidating enough power to inspire sycophancy.

    I wonder whether Rudolph also had a very long, long neck…

    • #4
  5. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    Troy, you’re living in Tennessee now.  Among your neighbors I doubt that firearms are considered inappropriate Christmas gifts.

    • #5
  6. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    Hilarious.  I love it.

    Can’t wait for Lileks to way in on the impossibilities of rockin’ around a tree.

    Christmas rules!

    • #6
  7. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    Randy Weivoda: Troy, you’re living in Tennessee now.

    I imagine every mall in the state is flooded with A Christmas To Remember.

    • #7
  8. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    You’ve left off “Let it Snow” and “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. It’s nothing new to note that “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is smarmily seductive to the point of being date-rapey, but “Let It Snow” asserts that, if a blizzard isn’t enough pretext for seduction, then having “bought some corn for popping” is, which is quite frankly much weirder than simply plying your date with alcohol.

    • #8
  9. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    I always preferred this variant on Grandma:

    • #9
  10. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Troy Senik, Ed.: All in all, it makes for pretty harrowing listening. But let’s be honest — these are all still better choices than “Wonderful Christmastime”, the song that was apparently the back end of the deal Paul McCartney made with the devil in order to produce the Beatles catalog.

    Ooo, I loathe that one.

    I thought this one was a good send up of it though (at least as a running gag in Love Actually):

    • #10
  11. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    You left out Feliz Navidad, the most insufferably monotonous lyrics ever inflicted on mankind.

    • #11
  12. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    “Jingle Bells”  advises getting into the old-timey equivalent of an auto accident as a means of winning women away from other men. (Drive your sleigh into a “drifted bank” until the girl tumbles out “upsot”, and then “Crack! You’ll take the lead!” with her.)

    The people in “Deck the Halls”, on the other hand, join a Pride parade and indulge in pyromania if you use the bowdlerized lyrics, or – if you use the original lyrics – indulge in riotous drunkenness (Fill the mead-cup, drain the barrel) with its attendant plumbing problems (See the flowing bowl before us!), and are so far gone out of their minds that their response to this regurgitating sewage is to break out into song (Strike the harp and join the chorus!).

    • #12
  13. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Troy Senik, Ed.: a process that, in the Senik household, features an inadvisable mix of hard liquor and 10-foot ladders

    Thank you for an image that will make me laugh throughout this Christmas season.  :)

    • #13
  14. Crabby Appleton Inactive
    Crabby Appleton
    @CrabbyAppleton

    [ Disregard ]

    • #14
  15. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    OK, for officially the first time, that damn fool carousel up there made me smile.

    (Damn is ok now, right?)

    • #15
  16. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    Michael Sanregret:Not exactly on the topic, but I love to imagine the creative process that was behind “Last Christmas” (sung by George Michael, cast of Glee, etc.). I assume an executive told a songwriter, “I need a Christmas song!” and the writer thought, “I want to write a pop love song. I don’t want to write a Christmas song. I’ll put Christmas in the title and work it in somehow.”

    I like to listen to “Last Christmas” while meditating on the mystery of Christ’s incarnation as God and man :) .

    The most horrible Christmas song of them all.

    • #16
  17. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Worst. Song. Ever.

    Take that.

    • #17
  18. JimGoneWild Coolidge
    JimGoneWild
    @JimGoneWild

    Time to breakout National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and get the correct perspective.

    • #18
  19. Tim H. Member
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    Gaah! I’d never heard “Wonderful Christmastime” until about four years ago, and it was immediately my least-favorite Christmas song. In fact, it may be my only *hated* Christmas song.

    Incidentally, how is it that I’d gone 38 years never hearing of this song, but nowadays, I’m hearing it multiple times a day in cases? Did somebody find this thing shoved down in a vault (pinned to a note saying never to get it wet, and no matter how much it begs, never, ever feed it after midnight) and decide that it needed to be rediscovered? You know, those “back of the vault” songs are in the back of the vault for a reason.

    • #19
  20. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    I need to draw a thick red line right here… The first person to slam the Waitresses Christmas Wrapping gets his eyes clawed out.

    • #20
  21. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    The King Prawn:Worst. Song. Ever.

    You got something against interspecies romance, KP?

    • #21
  22. user_176994 Inactive
    user_176994
    @AimeeJones

    “Christmas Shoes” goes down as my most despised Christmas song, right alongside Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” which was a horrible song before he managed to strangle it even more. But “Christmas Shoes” is an overwrought, non-melodic, slop-fest designed for the sole purpose of bringing sentimental people to tears over what I deem is an absurd premise.

    • #22
  23. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    So after the list in the original post, and now 22 previous comments, and nobody has mentioned “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

    Nor has anyone named any Christmas song that actually contains any content that refers to the birth of Jesus.

    • #23
  24. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    MJBubba:Nor has anyone named any Christmas song that actually contains any content that refers to the birth of Jesus.

    Because this is a post about troubling side of Christmas tunes. The skeezy, nauseating side. Not the good side ;-)

    • #24
  25. user_90635 Member
    user_90635
    @BryanVanBlaricom

    Am I to understand that everyone who has posted so far is fine with John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over)”? That one sets my teeth on edge every time I hear it.

    • #25
  26. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    MJBubba:Nor has anyone named any Christmas song that actually contains any content that refers to the birth of Jesus.

    Because this is a post about troubling side of Christmas tunes. The skeezy, nauseating side. Not the good side ;-)

    Of course.

    Last year there was a local radio station that played all Christmas music for six weeks (they were between format changes), and I unfortunately had to listen for an uninterrupted four-hour stretch one day.   I think they only played one real Christmas song per hour.   Everything else was Christmas garbage.

    Now I have a new way to phrase that: “troubling pop Christmas tunes.”

    • #26
  27. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Try this.  Just makes you smile.  Shepherd’s Pipe Carol, John Rutter.

    http://youtu.be/XwkEHnNkFSM

    • #27
  28. profdlp Inactive
    profdlp
    @profdlp

    Troy Senik, Ed.:O Tannenbaum— Germans attempt to express guileless     wonder. Despite their apparent earnestness, it is still creepy...

    When the Internet was still in its infancy I was trying to explain to my mom how useful it could be.  She asked me “if it knew” the lyrics to “O Tannenbaum” in German.  (Not “O Christmas Tree”, which was the version preferred by the winners.)  She wanted her First Graders to sing it in the school Christmas show.  (It was a private school, hence not a “Winter Musical”.)

    I found a German guy online who grudgingly sent me the words, but only after imploring me to not let my mom teach it to a bunch of impressionable youngsters.  According to him it was Hitler’s favorite carol.

    • #28
  29. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    OK, I’ll admit that I am a Paul McCartney fan, and possibly biased. But can someone explain to me what is so horrible about “Wonderful Christmastime”? I’ll grant that it’s rather lightweight, suffering from Paul’s tendency to dash off songs in five minutes and assume they’re masterpieces. And its late-’70s production style has not aged well. But it’s catchy and pleasant enough, and it seems to capture the spirit of the season better than Lennon’s “Happy Christmas” (which, as Bryan van Blaricom points out, is far more offensive lyrically).

    (I’ve also been known to defend “Silly Love Songs,” but that’s a subject for another thread.)

    • #29
  30. kaekrem@aol.com Thatcher
    kaekrem@aol.com
    @VicrylContessa

    This post gave me a much needed laugh during my otherwise awful night at work. Just as alcohol and boating don’t mix, I feel the same rule should apply to alcohol and step ladders; maybe let the buzz wear off before putting up the star. Be careful!

    Pop Christmas music is by and large pretty obnoxious. The shining exception would have to be Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas.” However, most pop music is dreadful and shallow, and it is for this reason my Pnadora Christmas station consists of traditional carols and oratorios.

    • #30

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