Welcome to the second RIFF Rewind Hater Special! That special time when I get to let all the pent-up vitriol out of my system by ripping on things I specifically dislike.
You may be assuming I’m going to start by saying I hate Christmas. You’re wrong. Hating Christmas is passé and lazy. I actually love Christmas; a warm fire, the smell of a Christmas tree, giving and receiving gifts, excited kids, houses festooned with lights. No matter how much people try to ruin it by starting it in August or raging against an imaginary War on Christmas, it’s still great.
No; I just hate Christmas music.
It’s all garbage. All of it. If it was good music you’d listen to it for more than one month per year. It’s a bunch of saccharine tripe written by committee to milk yet another dollar out of the most over-commercialized of holidays.
Not all Christmas music is created equally bad, though. Some is much worse. So let’s take a tour of the worst of the inescapable aural dregs trying to sour my Christmas spirit.
Basically everyone — “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
Let’s get this rapey garbage out of the way first: It’s rapey garbage, and the backlash against banning it is stupid. I don’t care that it won an Oscar. It’s trash.
It wasn’t even originally a Christmas song! It’s just about an attempted date rape in the winter! But no, every time someone sensibly tries to stop playing it the same people who rage against Starbucks cups not having enough Saturnalia iconography on them act like someone just keyed their car.
Just let it die. Please. For all our sakes.
New Kids on the Block — “Funky, Funky, Xmas”
In 1984, Maurice Starr paid the members of New Edition $1.87 each for an entire concert tour. They fired him. So he thought, “What if I just made another New Edition but worse and white?” And New Kids on the Block was born.
After their breakthrough album, Hangin’ Tough, which is the real name of an album recorded by an especially lame boy band, they cashed in on its success with the most American of products: A hastily produced and poorly written Christmas album nobody asked for. It went platinum.
This song was the hit single. This song. People listened to it to celebrate Christmas. On purpose. In the real world.
The ’80s were a dark time.
Bob Dylan — “Must Be Santa”
I’m not convinced this entire album isn’t a troll.
Most bad Christmas albums are done by flash-in-the-pan pop musicians trying to cash in on their 15 minutes of fame, but this is Bob Dylan. It was his 34th album. And this is a polka song about Santa. By Bob Dylan.
There is one and only one human being who can make an accordion cool and that is Alfred Matthew Yankovic. Bob Dylan is no Al Yankovic. The accordion makes an already-terrible Christmas song into a war crime.
Yes, all the proceeds of this album were donated to charity. But I think it’s because Dylan heard the album and needed to atone for what he had done.
John Denver — “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)”
The entire lyrics of this Christmas song—an actual Christmas song on a Christmas album, mind you, not a sad song off a different album that just happens to mention the holiday—is about a 7-year-old begging his alcoholic father to not get drunk and beat his wife on Christmas. That’s it. That’s the song.
There are instances where this is played for laughs. It’s all done in an upbeat major key. It’s two songs after a cover of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” on the album. Oh, and to top off how surreal this all is, it was written by members of the Starland Vocal Band. You know, the people who wrote “Afternoon Delight.”
If Salvador Dali was an uncredited producer it would actually explain a lot.
NewSong — “The Christmas Shoes”
From a brutally tragic song inexplicably performed as a jaunty country tune to the single most emotionally exploitative song ever recorded.
Performed by a guy who sounds exactly like a parody of a sad Christmas song, this was utterly inescapable for the last half of the ’00s even though it’s about a scenario that I’m pretty sure couldn’t happen outside a movie version of the 1950s.
First off, how did the kid get to the store? Did he take a bus? Is the store walking distance from his house for some reason? Second, how old is this kid if he doesn’t know how money works? I get that little kids don’t understand values and denominations, but if you can get to a shoe store on your own you probably know it takes more than a random handful of pennies.
Worst of all, though, is that it’s in the first person sung from the perspective of a bystander who buys shoes for this kid who pays for things in pennies but somehow has a bus pass. It’s just a sappy humblebrag! The entire song is about what an awesome guy the narrator is! The kid and his mother are just props in his story about doing a good deed!
Seriously, dude. It doesn’t count if you tell everyone about it.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.