’Tis the season when the ambient noise of everything is holiday music. In the car. At the mall. At your doorstep. At the office. On TV. Even during masturbation. But like gift-givers and Santa Claus impersonators, some holiday songs are better than others, which is why we asked the MEL staff to tell us which holiday song they’d erase from the Christmas canon if they had that sort of magical holiday power.
Nick Leftley, Senior Editor: I’m going to start by defending the majority of British Christmas music which, weirdly, is almost entirely glam rock from the 1970s. No, really: I have no idea what people listened to at Christmas before this period. Wizard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” and Slade’s “Merry Xmas Everybody” are British Christmas, and having the holiday without hearing them would be like having it without setting a large, spherical fruitcake on fire, or without pulling both ends of a toilet roll tube that’s been wrapped in colored crepe paper and booby-trapped with a small, rubbish firework, then putting on the hat you find inside it. (British Christmas is weird, FYI.)
That said, Britain has released as many crap novelty Crimbo songs as any other country (maybe more), and while I can laugh most of them off as endearingly shit relics of my childhood, there is one that will forever be like nails being dragged down a chalkboard that’s been power-welded onto my taint: “Mistletoe and Wine” by Cliff Richard. LOOK AT THIS SMUG FUCK:
Richard is the third-highest selling artist in British history, behind only the Beatles and Elvis Presley. This, despite being a weird, unaging, asexual irritant who resembles nothing more than that weedy little drip who would always burst into tears every time his mum dropped him off at school in the morning. Fuck Cliff Richard, fuck his music, fuck Christmas, fuck you, fuck everything.
God, this song makes me angry.
John McDermott, Staff Writer: “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” is definitely the best song ever written about a boy watching his mother get cucked by Santa Claus — and also the most traumatizing Christmas song from my childhood. It combines everything I find sexually uncomfortable: incest, cuckolding, voyeurism and horny fat men invading your home through the chimney.
MEL’s resident buzzkill Nick Leftley (see above) recently informed me that the Santa in question in this song is actually the narrator’s father dressed up as Santa, as if that’s supposed to make me feel any better. The boy is watching his parents engage in some Christmas-themed, Mr. and Mrs. Claus roleplay. Creepy!
Now, Bob Seger’s rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy”? That’s a good Christmas song.
Tierney Finster, Contributing Writer: My favorite Christmas song is Destiny’s Child “8 Days of Christmas.” It has gorgeous lyrics like, “On the eighth day of Christmas my baby gave to me / A pair of Chloe shades and a diamond belly ring.” I think this song deserves more shine.
On the flip side: Although she’s a queen who I revere, I feel like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” unfairly dominates the socially approved Christmas song space. I’m sick of it.
In the end, however, it’s still far more listenable than “The Little Drummer Boy.” You have to be a real freak to like that one.
Ian Lecklitner, Assistant Editor: Call me the Grinch, but I can’t think of a single classic Christmas song I care enough about to warrant protecting (let alone erasing). They pop up once a year, and I keep my radio tuned to stations that don’t play Christmas songs. All in all, I couldn’t care less: Keep them all, or erase them all. Hell, I probably wouldn’t notice either way.
Jeff Gross, Social Media Editor: Fuck John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over).” Look, we can all agree that Lennon > McCartney, and that “Wonderful Christmas Time” is an even worse song. But “Happy Xmas” is pretentious AF, ahem, just like John was. Then somehow connecting it with the Vietnam War — hence the lyric, “war is over, if you want it” — is just the most eye-rolling, most likely Yoko-influenced aspect of a song that was insufferable enough to begin with. Leave the Christmas songs to Elvis, please.
Tim Grierson, Contributing Editor: Umm, an abridged synopsis of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” from Wikipedia:
“In the lyrics, a grandmother gets drunk on spiked eggnog at a family Christmas Eve party and, having forgotten to take her medication and despite pleas and warnings from her family, staggers outside into a snowstorm. While on her walk home, she is trampled to death by Santa Claus and his reindeer-pulled sleigh. The second and third verses describe the next day’s Christmas gathering where ‘all the family’s dressed in black (for mourning)’ and the question is asked as to whether Grandma’s gifts should be opened at all or sent back the next day for possible refunds or exchanges (the collective answer to that question is a loud ‘Send them back!’), while the widowed ‘Grandpa’ acts casual like nothing’s happened, drinks beer, watches football and plays cards with ‘cousin Mel.’ The song closes with a warning that Santa, ‘a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves,’ is unfit for a driver’s license, and that the listeners should beware.”
Miles Klee, Contributing Writer: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” without a doubt. I love happy Christmas, but I hate sappy Christmas. I also hate Frank Sinatra. People call “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” the date-rapey Christmas song — the history there is a bit more complex — but it’s Sinatra who always sounds like he’s slipping something into your drink. (Mulled cider, in this case.) The sheer smarm of this one is off the charts, even for him. Why would having a good Christmas mean that “from now on” all my troubles “will be out of sight?” After Christmas comes January, and that’s basically when all the troubles begin. Give me a drunken, boisterous round of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” over this one, anytime.
C. Brian Smith, Staff Writer: “There’s a world outside your window and it’s a world of dread and fear. Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears.” This jolly sentiment is lifted from the 1984 charity anthem “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” performed by top ’80s British stars including Bowie, Bono and McCartney, who remind us that people living in poverty in Africa might not even know it’s Christmas! It was a stunningly condescending question to ask in 1984, but in 2017 — when half of Africa’s 1 billion inhabitants are Christian — it’s just fucking dumb. Of course, they know it’s Christmas.
Serena Golden, Managing Editor: I’m usually in favor of holiday music, in moderate doses, but I’d like to do away with the entire genre of “Christmas-themed breakup songs.” Why is that even a thing that exists? Is Wham! to blame for all of this? Get rid of it. I’m here for like, holly and reindeer and choral music. You can whine about your shitty breakup when the holidays are over. (The exception, of course, is Joni Mitchell, but I would argue that “River” is at heart a breakup song, not a holiday song.)