It’s officially fall, and we all know what that means: the countdown to the holiday season is on. It isn’t even October yet, but Christmas decorations are already crowding out jack-o-lanterns and creepy cats for prime shelf space. Although there are plenty of people who can’t wait for the day the local radio station becomes 24/7 holiday tunes, the rest of us are already annoyed. The primary subject of our annoyance is each season’s new crop of Christmas albums. The holiday season always brings out a cornucopia of albums from a curious combination of artists: today’s superstars, yesterday’s has-beens and plenty of musicians who are just holding on.
The worst part of the holiday album onslaught is always the painful “original Christmas songs” that are dutifully added to the lineup of classic Christmas hits. For every bona fide new classic, like “Last Christmas” (Wham!), “All I Want For Christmas is You” (Mariah Carey) and Blue Christmas (Elvis), there are hundreds of failed Christmas originals that listeners will skip for generations. Here are just a few of the worst offenders.
Ariana Grande – “Wit It This Christmas”
Ariana Grande has a special affinity for Christmas – or at least her record company does, because she has already put out two albums “celebrating” the season. There were many options for Worst Ariana Grande Christmas Song, but I chose this one because it reeks of “I spent five minutes writing this, then the dog ate half of it. Anyway Merry Christmas!” Behold, the splendor of Grande’s songwriting skills!
We don’t need no presents
We don’t need the kitchen
We don’t need them recipes
You know I’m tasty like a candy cane or gingerbread made with love
Are you down for some of these milk and cookies?
I’m down for loving, you’ll be my drummer boy
And I’m the only drum that you gonna play
Wow, so, so catchy. Ariana’s second Christmas album, from which this song came from, is called “Christmas and Chill.” Just…no.
John Denver — “Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk on Christmas)”
The holidays can certainly evoke a certain melancholy or wistfulness. In the hands of a true genius, we end up with a song like Joni Mitchell’s “River, which is a depressingly beautiful Christmas song. In the hands of people like John Denver (sorry Denver fans) we get the song “Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk on Christmas.)” This clunker is about a child begging his father not to get drunk and hit him on Christmas. Hey, this isn’t a Lifetime movie! Nobody will ever willingly listen to this one.
Band Aid — “Do They Know It’s Christmas”
Before you protest about what a great song and movement Band Aid started in 1985, consider that I know all the lyrics to this song and it evokes a wave of nostalgia every time I hear it. So I totally get why you like it. But when we consider the song’s actual lyrics, it’s just mind-boggling that a group of music superstars thought this was just the right way to raise consciousness about the Ethiopian famine. And although they were successful, it’s worth remembering that Ethiopia has been a majority Christian nation since 330 AD. So yes, Bob Geldof, they do know it’s Christmastime in Africa.
Seriously, if I lived in Ethiopia and I heard words like “There’s a world outside your window, and it’s a world of dread and fear / Where a kiss of love can kill you, and there’s death in every tear/ And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom / Well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you” my first response would be keep your hands off, pal!
Lady Gaga — “Christmas Tree”
I’m willing to bet that the new and improved, respectable Lady Gaga would like this one back. It’s not like a song full of double-entendres at Christmas breaks new ground. There’s an entire subgenre of let’s-get-horny-for-the-holidays that rockers just can’t seem to stay away from. Gaga’s contribution is full of eye-rolling moments like “Take off my stocking’s / I’m spreading Christmas cheer” and “The only place you wanna be / Is underneath my Christmas tree.”
Then there’s the line “My Christmas tree is delicious” – ah yes, Christmas-as-an-invitation to oral sex, set to music! Said no one.
Tiny Tim — “Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS This Year”
I confess to never knowing what to make of Tiny Tim. Was he a novelty act? Was he a parody of something else? Were we supposed to take him seriously? Nowhere is my confusion so complete as on this track, “Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS This Year.” It features Tim accompanied by a 1980s Casio while warbling lyrics like “He’s lying sick in bed / Call the doctor there instead” and “The nurses all look sad / ‘cause Santa’s got it bad.” Dubiously, Tim claimed that the song referred to the diet supplement, Ayds. Ok. Does anyone remember that supplement?
Gwen Stefani — “You Make It Feel Like Christmas”
This is a preemptive strike, because what person in the world is waiting on a Gwen Stefani Christmas album featuring her country boyfriend, Blake Shelton? The answer that is probably millions of fans of The Voice, which is depressing to those of us who grew up with No Doubt. Her album isn’t out until October, but the first single has already dropped, despite the 90-degree Indian summer of mid-September.
Never thought we’d see the day when Stefani would be wearing sneakers with Shelton’s face on them while releasing an album where she croons lyrics like this with Blake:
“Sleigh bells singing ‘Hallelujah’ / Stars are shining on us too / I want to thank you, baby / You make it feel like Christmas.”
Lame and unmusical, and unintentionally depressing, this song is sure to be featured playing quietly in the background while Chip and Joanna Gaines install tasteful shiplap on HGTV.