Before I started to work in [supermarket employer] I used to enjoy quite a number of Christmas songs. Now, however, entering into my 4th Christmas in work I’ve come to truly loathe most of them. They get played constantly in work on repeat and when I’m in the store for 9 hours I have the joy of listening to each of the songs about 10 times. Plus I get a bit of overtime over Christmas, so this might be 3 or 4 times a week. It’s ruined a few Christmas songs for me completely (I used to really like Fairytale of New York; it’s still a good song but I just can’t listen to it) and made me realize how hopeless a number of others are. I’m not quite at the point where I’m filled with utter contempt towards Christmas but I can see myself getting there pretty quickly. Of course, being a Christian I appreciate the importance of the season from a religious point of view. However, many other aspects of Christmas are now detestable to me; snow and ice now drive me crazy, I hate how X-Factor now appear to own Christmas, I hate the fact that I usually have exams after Christmas so I can’t even get a proper break, and of course I hate the Christmas music. I still have a few favourites (Mike Oldfield’s In Dulci Jubilo, Run-D.M.C.’s Christmas in Hollis and The Beatles Christmas Time (Is Here Again)) but going through would be less fun than my least favourite ones – I rave about so much music on this blog; it’d be nice to let rip into some awful music for once.
5. The Darkness – Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)
I used to rather enjoy this song and considered it a worthy addition into the Christmas song canon. However, time has not treated this song well. I remember when The Darkness first came out. Everyone loved them because they were so outrageous; a throwback to the stadium rock bands of the 70’s and all their glam, glitter and excess. Now they just seem utterly ridiculous and annoying. The only person with a voice as whiny and annoying as Justin Hawkins is Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. But anyway, this song. All the usual clichés attached such as bells, a children’s choir and completely uninspired lyrics. Oh, and THAT voice. Truth be told, this entry is not half as bad as the rest of this list.
4. Cliff Richard – The Millenium Prayer
So bad the radio stations refused to play it. I don’t even know why Cliff Richard is credited on this – singing The Lord’s Prayer over Auld Lang Syne? Jesus deserves more credits on this song than Cliff does. On top of all that, the arrangement is so bombastic and over the top you’d think it was a Phil Spector-produced fanfare for the late Gadaffi or Jong-Il. The video is even worse, with Sir Cliff standing in front of a series of images of African children and dead presidents (among other things) gesticulating as he sings. All I can say is I’m glad I never hear this in work – obviously the folks in [supermarket employer] have discerning enough taste not to include this in their Christmas playlists.
3. The Cheeky Girls – Have A Cheeky Christmas
I don’t think this one really needs any explanation. Why David Bowie supposedly likes these pair I’ll never know. (Although if you do a Google image search of The Cheeky Girls that might explain it. Dirty old man)
2. Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmastime
This is the pits right here. Even Paul himself claims to be embarrassed by this insipid record now. It has dated atrociously, with the horrible synthesizer sounding permanently locked in 1979. But of course this is merely the first of a series of many things wrong with this song. The lyrics are absolutely trite, the melody is bloody AWFUL, it’s repetitive and it has all the usual clichés as mentioned before, such as those damn bells and a kid’s choir again. (Honestly, when has a children’s choir ever worked in a song apart from Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)? Coincidentally, this was actually the Christmas number 1 in the same year as Wonderful Christmastime. Glad to see people had sense to buy the better single back then) It’s awful, yet bizarrely manages to receive some of the most airplay of any Christmas song around this time of year.
1. Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?
As if we didn’t already know, the dreary reviews for the new film New Year’s Eve have shown us that combining a lot of well-known and talented stars often results in an awful final product. This song is the complete epitome of this ideology. You see, the problem in making a song with so many artists of differing styles and tastes is making a track that can cater to each individual. In the case of Do They Know It’s Christmas, the end result is simply a bland, generic 80’s pop production which stops the song from clashing with some singers’ styles, but also stops the track from having any personality at all. The “stars” keep the song locked in the 80’s freeze-frame, with many of them (ie Big Country, Bananarama, Spandau Ballet, Ultravox) generally being associated with that period and having little enduring popularity. So okay, it’s dated, that’s bad enough, but forgivable. The main problem for me lies in the immensely patronizing attitude this song portrays. It’s typical of the Western idea of superiority; that they have money and means and therefore must be better than those who don’t. No amount of good will on their behalf can stop this from creeping through; I mean, as much as it did raise a lot of money for the then-current famine in Ethiopia, (I think) it also did quite a lot for the contributing singers’ careers. A couple of lines in the song really get on my nerves, too. “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you,” sings Bono in reference to the famine. Why not pray that it wouldn’t happen at all instead of being glad it’s someone else? And I seriously hate that line “and there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time.” So? Is there ever? And if there isn’t, why is that such a big deal? Just because us Westerners love snow and associate it with Christmas doesn’t mean that’s the way everyone has to see it. You can just imagine the Band Aid guys having a conversation: “You know it’s too hot in Africa for it to snow, even over Christmas.” “Oh no! That’s so sad!” “Yeah, and there aren’t any Christmas trees either.” “Oh my God! Those poor Africans! Do they even know what Christmas is?” It’s sickening. Other parts of the world have different Christmas traditions: do Australian pop stars pity us because we can’t have barbeques and go surfing on Christmas? I’m not familiar with any African Christmas traditions (although Christmas is largely celebrated in “Christian” countries and the number of Christians in Africa is increasing greatly, so I suspect there are some fairly familiar Christmas traditions in Africa) but I’m sure they have some and don’t feel the least bit annoyed that we don’t celebrate it like they do. And what’s with the whole “Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?” Come on folks; they might be starving but they’re not stupid. The ignorance and condescension of this song is beyond belief, and combined with the lifeless production I simply can’t stand it. And it’s got to Christmas number 1 THREE TIMES under different re-recordings. Dear goodness.
[For Steve – Wouldn’t mind a picture of someone going “bah humbug” or something to that effect as the artwork for this entry if you could find one. If you can’t get one, some generic Christmas artwork is grand.]
[I left that last comment in because I liked it so much. Merry Christmas Adam, thank you for putting up for my frequently incomprehensible emails. ED.
P.S. I can't think of a single Christmas song for whom it isn't one of the worst things that artist has ever done]
Words - Adam