December 15, 2005

Ransom's least favourite Christmas songs

Yesterday I posted my five favourite songs of the Christmas season. Those are the songs I can't get enough of. These, on the other hand, are the songs I have had enough of. If someone were to invent an electronic device that monitored your stereo speakers and replaced the songs on this list with the songs on that list, I would be first in line to buy one.

  • "Christmas All Over Again": This is a perfectly typical Tom Petty song, and in that respect it isn't bad. But he simply cannot be forgiven for the following lines of wretched, non sequitur doggerel: "And Christmas is a rockin' time / Put your body next to mine." A sure station-changer, every time.

  • "Away in a Manger": This song isn't a Christmas carol so much as a photo-op for proud parents of two- and three-year-olds, dressed up in Daddy's white dress shirt and a tinsel halo, then wrangled on-stage by their Sunday-school teachers to sing off-key while making hand signs that may represent rocking a baby in their arms. But it's not a particularly good song, and I think I first started hating it around the time I was one of those three-year-olds.

    Plus, it's bad theology: "The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes" suggests that as a baby, Jesus wasn't quite human. Crying is what normal babies do. How did he tell Mary he was hungry? Did he write her a letter?

  • "Up on the House-Top": Ho-ho-ho, who wouldn't go postal if they were subjected to this number every year? We were forced at gunpoint to sing at every annual Christmas assembly in elementary school, so my hatred of it goes back a long way. Yes, we all know now that reindeers don't have paws, they have hooves. Please don't tell that stale joke ever again, and please don't make me sing this stale song ever again.

  • "Do They Know It's Christmas": 1984 was the year of the mass-pop-singer-choir charity pop song. Bob Geldof wanted to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief, so he got on the phone and got Duran Duran, Paul McCartney, U2, Culture Club, Sting, and various other Brit-pop singers into a studio for this charity single. And thus Band-Aid was born.

    The thing is, with all these songwriting giants in the crowd (Sir Paul, Bono, and Sting, fercryingoutloud!), why couldn't they come up with something better? It's heavy-handed and preachy ("And the Christmas bells that ring there / Are the clanging chimes of doom"), and the chorus ("Feed the world, do they know it's Christmastime") needs a few more words and a few less repetitions. Oh, and it says, "there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime." That's true. It's because Africa is mostly tropical, and those parts that do get snow, probably get it in June, not December.

    In the meantime, this song has been covered twice: by Band-Aid II in 1989, then Band-Aid 20 last year. Sadly, it charted at #1 all three times by people with very short memories.

    And, the #6.022 × 1023 song on Ransom's Christmas list is . . .

  • "The Christmas Shoes": Grumpy man in line doing some last-minute Christmas shopping is persuaded to give a few bucks to shabby waif to buy a pair of shoes so dying mama will look good for Jesus. Now he understands "just what Christmas is all about."

    Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. NewSong's tear-jerker is, hands down, one of the most contrived, melodramatic, manipulative, and vomit-inducing songs ever to be released in time for Christmas. Apparently "what Christmas is all about" is this: Don't be grumpy in line, or God will kill a little boy's mother to teach you a lesson. Whenever I hear this glurge on the radio (which happens only infrequently, thank heaven), I want to stick a fork in my eye.

    Oh - and it needs a cement mixer to lay on the schmaltz. Gravel-voiced country-type singer, because we all know that country music is honest, emotional, hurtin' music. Key change! Cue the children's choir! Gag.

There you have it. Please don't play or perform these songs near me. To round out the Season of Lists, I'll post a few comments about my favourite Christmas albums after the weekend.