It's one of the most wonderful times of the year for music! Yes, once a musician really settles into their career, they're bound to try out a holiday tune or two. Most of them are awesome and promptly get played on a steady radio rotation every late November and December. But today, we're going to talk about the stuff nobody mentions...the holiday song duds.
For every Nat King Cole, Mariah Carey, or Bing Crosby gem, there are dozens and dozens of yuletide disasters. To create this list, we spent hours making our ears bleed in order to find the worst of the worst holiday tunes out there. Some people dislike songs like "Wonderful Christmastime," "Santa Baby," and "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," but the contempt for those tunes is more subjective. You won't find those kinds of middle-ground tracks here: we're sure everything on this list is universally hated. It's the most off-pitch, fake, lyrically weird, and even offensive stuff that will make you want to rinse your ears out with bleach and plug them up with candy canes.
Ready to see what made our naughty list? Below are the 12 worst holiday songs ever created. (And for the love of all things holly and jolly, please do not program them on your radio station!)
1. "Christmas Tree" - Lady Gaga
You would never expect this kind of trainwreck to come out of a master of their craft like Gaga. As soon as you hear that God awful opening line, "Light me up put me on top, let's falalalalalalala" you're sure to cringe. And not only because it's the corniest horniest line in a holiday song, but also because it's totally off-key with the various electronic melodies playing underneath!
After that, the song becomes totally formless and lifeless, with Gaga alluding to her lady bits as a "delicious Christmas tree." Lady Gaga is a Grammy and Oscar winner, but she desperately needs to add better songs to her Christmas canon.
2. "The Christmas Shoes" - NewSong
Upon first listen, you may hear "The Christmas Shoes" as a tearjerker song about a little boy just trying to make his mama happy in her last moments. But upon re-listening to this thing, you're left with a lot of questions. Why is the boy getting his mother a pair of shoes when she's probably bed-ridden and not even able to walk? Why isn't he spending time with her, instead? He says he wants her to look good for Jesus in Heaven, but Jesus didn't even wear shoes, he died barefoot! Is he even going to care about the shoes!?
Add in the weird key change, the awful piezo acoustic guitar, and an addition of a children's choir, and you've got yourself a sappy yuletide mess. This is like the over-dramatic ASPCA commercial of holiday tunes. We don't know how this thing led to a novella and movie. We're happy people made some good money off it I guess, but like...yikes.
3. "The Little Drummer Boy (feat. Ashlee Simpson)" - Jessica Simpson
Rolling Stone has described this atrocity as being like "musical waterboarding." We're not going to lie, "The Little Drummer Boy" is already a mediocre song in the list of Christmas standards. But sisters Jessica and Ashlee Simpson take it to the next ghastly level by making each "pa-rum-pum-pum-pum" more tone deaf than the last.
If you listened to this without any context, you'd probably think it's an SNL sketch. Of course, then you realize no one is laughing, and you're left wondering why these ladies thought this rendition was a good idea to begin with.
4. "Drummer Boy (feat. Busta Rhymes)" - Justin Bieber
But the Simpson sisters' "Little Drummer Boy" isn't the only gross version of the song out there. Bieber's had some presence in the holiday music world thanks to his commercially successful Christmas album Under the Mistletoe. While some people actually like "Mistletoe" and other tracks on the record, nobody can resist the urge to cringe on "Drummer Boy" – specifically when it comes to that rap bit fifty seconds in.
We're sorry you're not in the Bible, Justin Bieber. We're also sorry that Busta Rhymes included a totally outdated reference to BlackBerry phones and can't stop talking about Twitter in his verse. And we'll also apologize for those hella thin snares that sound more like a pan of jiffy pop than an actual drum.
5. "Mele Kalikimaka" - She & Him
Okay, so this She & Him rendition of the Hawaiian Christmas tune "Mele Kalikimaka" isn't so much off-key and lyrically misguided so much as it is empty, soul-less, and totally not Hawaiian-sounding at all. It almost feels...haunted.
Where's the quirky ukulele Zooey Deschanel can strum? Where's the upbeat cheer present in other covers of the song? Why does this rendition sound like it came from the middle of Texas or some hipster watering hole in Brooklyn instead of the Aloha State? If you want some real "Mele Kalikimaka," just listen to the dandy version by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. Don't even bother with this late Tumblr-era garbage.
6. "Spin Me a Christmas" - Aqua
Some people love Euro-pop vibes, but they don't sound so great on this 2009 Aqua holiday catastrophe. We didn't even know Aqua was still around in 2009! This terrible song only made the charts in one country: Denmark, where it only hit #43.
We can only describe this song as sounding fake and plastic. Lyrically, it's super confusing. We're not sure if Aqua wants us to love the phoniness of modern commercial Christmas cheer, hate it, or love it and hate it. "Spin Me a Christmas?" More like "Spin Me a Flop." See, even that joke was awkward – proving just the title alone of this track is so brain dead!
7. "Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy" - The Robertsons
Why, why, why, WHY was this song made??? The cult following that was Duck Dynasty really did a lot of things. This song was one of the most awful things it did. The kids singing, and way-too-quick pace over a cheesy redneck backing track? On an album literally titled Duck the Halls?
No. Just no. Please, Robertsons: just take this song back. We really don't need it.
8. "Do They Know It's Christmas?" - Band Aid
The only song to be included on this naughty list and also on the nice list that is our Best 80s Holiday Music article. Why? Because while there were good intentions making this thing and the production and vocals ain't too bad, it's also been criticized as a smug pastiche of colonialism, racist stereotypes, and geographic ineptitude to “feed the world.” Rich white men really can ruin anything!
For context, "Do They Know It's Christmas" was created in 1984 as a sort of holiday "We Are the World" in order to help survivors of a famine. Bob Geldof saw a BBC report on the famine in Ethiopia, and he and Midge Ure penned a song. Sting, Bono, George Michael, and Paul McCartney heeded the call to assemble, and the tune raised millions of dollars. But it also featured Bono's insensitive line, "Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you," and George Michael suggesting that no snow in Africa is a bad thing (and also misunderstanding that the famine was mostly caused by government neglect, NOT geographical flaws). Not to mention the African-inspired opening (music production-wise) sounds totally fake.
We hate to break it to you Band Aid, but the majority of Ethiopians identified as Christians in 1984. Ethiopia has been a Christian nation for something like 1,500 years. So it's wise to assume that yes, they did know it was Christmas.
9. "White Christmas" - Iggy Pop
This one gives us the heebie jeebies. With his extra bassy voice, Iggy Pop sounds like he's a demon wishing us a "White Christmas" from the depths of hell. Also, what's up with the undercooked music production that sounds like it was made by an amateur on Garage Band? It's gets more and more all over the place as the song progresses.
If ever you need to quickly kill the vibes at a Christmas party, just blast this tune! Simply put, this track is anything but "merry and bright."
10. “Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk on Christmas)” – John Denver
This John Denver song just leaves us feeling concerned. We're not sure if this fully-grown-man-pretending-to-be-a-child thinks it's funny that his dad gets drunk all the time and is making his mother cry, or if he's singing in fear.
Either way, the story of this country tune would be fine if it were released any other time of year. To that, we'd say yeehaw! That would make for some complex art! But hearing a kid complain about his drunk deadbeat father juxtaposed with an upbeat holiday arrangement is enough to make anyone want to chug a bottle of vodka.
11. "The Millenium Prayer" - Cliff Richard
Look, we've got nothing against religious holiday hymns. But if you're going to put a melody over the "Our Father" prayer, at least make it something that's not as iconic as "Auld Lang Syne." We can only imagine a scenario where someone's listening to the opening of this on the radio, starts to sing "Auld Lang Syne" in glee, and then scrunches their brows in confusion once they hear Cliff Richard's voice sing, "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name."
We get it: you can't have the holiday season without some religious spirit. But for the love of all things holy, please be more original than this. "The Millenium Prayer" is just tacky. Soppy, sticky, agitating tacky glue.
12. "Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS This Year" - Tiny Tim
We saved the worst for last. In all our hard research, this was the most bizarre, awful-sounding, and offensive holiday song we could find. It just may be the most terrible Christmas song ever made. It makes all the other entries on this list sound like masterpieces.
"Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS This Year" was made in the early 1980s, when people did not know everything about AIDS and it wasn't quite a severe crisis yet. So yeah, pretending that Santa Claus contracted AIDS as if it's just your typical cold or stomach bug really did not age well. Additionally, Tim's vocals sound like they came from a dying dog, the music production is just a dumb melody repeated over and over until it makes your brain numb, and the Santa Claus impersonations? Pathetic.
The origin story of this tune is even more wacky. According to Genius, Tiny Tim explained, “This song [was] not made to make fun of anybody. This was not made for sadistic humor...this song was written in , just lying [in bed] at two or three in the morning...an idea came to me, it sounded funny – because AIDS was a very, very minor word [at the time]. The biggest thing about AIDS [then] – "Ayds” – was an [appetite-suppressing candy]. It was way, way before Rock Hudson’s unfortunate death, and Liberace’s. And in fact, somebody wanted me to record this song...and my agent – at that time, AIDS was getting heavier – and he said, “If you record that song, I’m dropping you as an agent.” But in [‘80], he even got a laugh out of this, before the tragedies came."
Like...what? What does his explanation even mean? If "Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS" this year presented itself more like a comedy song, perhaps it wouldn't be on this list. But it's not funny at all, and definitely deserves nothing but coal every holiday season.
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