Best & Worst Holiday Music


The Best and Worst of Christmas Music
For every ‘Silver Bells’, there’s a ‘Wonderful Christmastime.’

As a rule, I believe the Christmas season starts the day after Thanksgiving. But the radio stations, Spotify and the endless loop of horrid Christmas music remixes that play at the store where I work seem to suggest otherwise. So, to get in spirit, I’ll be doing what I do best: criticizing things. Christmas music in particular is very polarized; it’s either amazing songs that melt even my cold, Grinch-like heart or garbage that would turn Buddy the Elf into a Scrooge. Without further ado, here are my most-loved and most-hated Christmas songs.

Best: ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham!
I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m a sucker for cheesy 80s music. This fine specimen represents the apex of the genre. I love how unabashedly corny it is, and I’ve belted it out in the car more times than I care to admit. The Taylor Swift version is also worth a listen (or 20), but in terms of sheer cheese, the Wham! version can’t be beat.

Favorite Lyric: “Merry Christmas, ” I wrapped it up and sent it/With a note saying “I love you, ” I meant it

Worst: ‘Santa Baby’ (any version)
This song has always made me uncomfortable. I know it’s supposed to be
funny, but something about the singer flirting with Santa has always
rubbed me the wrong way. I mean, this is supposed to be a family-friendly
holiday! It also emphasizes the materialistic side of the season, rather than
the goodwill-toward-man and family bonding spirit that I believe really
defines the holiday.

Worst Lyric: “Think of all the fellas that I haven’t kissed/Next year, I could be just as good/If you check off my Christmas list”

Best: ‘White Christmas’ by Bing Crosby
This one is just iconic, and as a Hoosier, it’s basically my anthem for the Indiana winters. It’s always a crapshoot whether Christmas Day will be 70 degrees and sunny or -13 and the mailbox is buried under the snow. The excellent vocal quality just adds to the charm.

Best Lyric: “May your days be merry and bright/And may all your Christmases be white”

Worst: ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ by Paul McCartney
I feel uniquely qualified to commentate on this song because I have exactly zero opinions about the Beatles. In brief, this song is horrid. It perfectly creates the atmosphere of a family Christmas party gone wrong where Aunt Linda and Uncle Kyle have just gotten into a nasty fight (again!) and your grandma is trying to patch things up by commenting on how pretty the tree looks. The utterly charmless keyboard synths do it no favors.

Worst Lyric: “The choir of children sing their song/Ding dong, ding dong”

Best: ‘Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ by Gene Autry
Another iconic entry, this song just brings me back to my elementary school days, when a vast chorus of out-of-key second graders were forced to sing it, complete with jingle bell sound effects. It was mortifying at the time, but now I look back on it fondly. It doesn’t hurt that I have a soft spot for the ‘Rudolph’ movie, either.

Best Lyric: “‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer/You’ll go down in history’”

Worst: ‘Christmas Shoes’ by NewSong
In the dictionary entry for “pandering”, there’s a picture of this song’s YouTube thumbnail. No, not really, but there should be. There’s a way to write a song that calls attention to the less fortunate and calls for people to take action, but this isn’t it. This guy came up with the saddest story he could think of, stirred in some religion, and called it a Christmas song. A better title would be “Emotional Manipulation: The Song.”

Worst Lyric: “And I know these shoes would make her smile/And I want her to look beautiful if mama meets Jesus tonight”

Best: ‘Carol of the Bells’ (any version)
I’ll be straight with you: I’m not a lyric-less music person. I like my songs to have a clear storyline or message. It might be a sign of a cultivated person to adore Mozart or Bach, but I don’t. This is the one song I like that has no lyrics. It captures the essence of Christmas. Though I have to admit, something about it feels vaguely ominous…

Worst: ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer’ by Elmo & Patsy
I love a bit of morbid comedy as much as the next person, but this song just falls flat. Perhaps it’s because I can’t relate to the grandma character, who is clearly a fan of eggnog. Or maybe the god-awful animated film spoiled this song by association. Either way, it just never clicked with me.

Worst Lyric: “And we just can’t help but wonder/Should we open up her gifts or send them back?

Best: ‘Silver Bells’ (Any Version)
This is another one of those classics that are simply indispensable. I’m not sure why I like it so much; it might be that the lyrics make me feel like I’m in New York City on Christmas Eve visiting the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Whatever the reason, it’s just one of my personal favorites.

Best Lyric: City sidewalks, busy sidewalks/Dressed in holiday style/In the air
there’s a feeling of Christmas

Worst: ‘Mistletoe’ by Justin Bieber
Congratulations, as a reward for making it this far, I’m going to let you in on another embarrassing secret. Way back in second grade, I loved Justin Bieber. I even had a Justin Bieber backpack. Thankfully, I’m a much different, much more sane person now. This song is everything a Christmas song should not be. It’s grating, uncreative, and it makes me want to throw my hot chocolate at the radio.

Worst Lyric: With you, shawty with you/With you, shawty with you/With you under the mistletoe

Well, that’s a wrap! I hope you enjoyed my rankings, and I hope I didn’t offend any die-hard ‘Christmas Shoes’ fans. Feel free to add your hot takes to the comments below! And as always, have a happy holiday season.