The 13 worst holiday songs you can download from iTunes

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I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

When I ask you what words you associate with the holiday season, you would probably not respond with “betrayal,” “loss of innocence,” and “cuckoldry.” But then again, you are likely a normal person. The same cannot be said for the folks who penned “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” In this jaunty tune, a precocious tyke sneaks downstairs on Christmas Eve only to find Mom in a compromising position with an understandably jolly St. Nick. One might think this would traumatize the little urchin; one would think wrong, given lyrics like “What a laugh it would have been/If Daddy had only seen/Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night.”

Look, father! Your entire marriage is a crumbling sham! Hilarious!

I would suggest there’s not a singer on earth with enough musical talent and charms to rescue this particular ditty from the dumpster. If you’re looking for particularly appalling covers of this tune, may I suggest The Jackson 5’s version in which Michael pleads in vain for his four brothers to believe his fantastical tale of yuletide infidelity. Also of note is Jessica Simpson’s version in which the erstwhile Mrs. Lachey confuses volume with quality.

I Wanna Be Santa Claus

Regardless of how you feel about The Beatles, even the group’s most ardent fan would have to concede that the Fab Four has a dodgy track record with Christmas tunes. “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” is all right, so far as these things go, except for the fact that John Lennon’s recording is clearly the worst version. (This is what happens when you delegate the supply of backing vocals to Yoko Ono.) If “Wonderful Christmastime” isn’t one of the worst holiday songs ever written, it is most certainly one of the laziest, with music and lyrics that sound as if they were dashed off by someone on their way to the studio after they suddenly remembered they were supposed to be recording something that day.

You know, you wouldn’t have had this kind of nonsense from Pete Best.

But no, as with many of the items on the Worst side of The Beatles’s ledger, the honor here goes to Ringo, who gave the world the cloying, inconsequential “I Wanna Be Santa Claus.” If the job change means The Beatles have to line up a new drummer, I’m sure we’d be willing to make that trade.

I’m Giving Santa Claus a Pikachu This Christmas

Yes, a Pokemon Christmas album actually exists. And “I’m Giving Santa Claus a Pikachu This Christmas” is just one of ten songs available for your listening pleasure on that album. (This figure does not include the two karaoke versions thoughtfully included for your next family sing-a-long.) But no, “I’m Giving Santa Claus a Pikachu This Christmas” isn’t as bad as you might imagine it to be. IT IS FAR, FAR WORSE.

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year/Last Christmas

Phrasing is an oft-overlooked part of a song’s overall success. It doesn’t matter how strong the music and lyrics are—strike the wrong emotional note with your voice, and you may as well be blowing raspberries into the microphone. As evidence, I submit Martina Sorbara’s take on the otherwise innocuous “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of Year.” Oh, there may be parties for hosting and marshmallows for roasting, but it’s clear from Sorbara’s dreary phrasing that she’s struggling to find anything so wonderful about it. The heavy, weary sigh she utters halfway through the song also suggests this is a detached, ironic reading of the song that’s so popular with the hipsters these days. Yes, it is a shame that Congress passed that law a few years back requiring singers to record holiday songs against their will.

Ashley Tisdale—a person who I realized existed just moments ago—has the exact opposite problem with her cover version of “Last Christmas.” Fans of the unremarkable original from Wham will know that it is a song about holiday heartbreak—about a lovelorn sap who finds that his or her gift of affection has been thoughtlessly spurned. Someone failed to brief Ashley Tisdale, who cheerfully chirps out lyrics like “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart/But the very next day, you gave it away,” as if she’s happy that at least the heart is headed to a good home in some sort of romantic Yankee Swap.

The Angel at Top of My Tree

It's wintertime, man—put on some sleeves.

There is a class of holiday music so devoid of authenticity or human emotion that it sounds as if it’s been assembled by a focus group tasked with coming up with bland tunes aimed at appealing to the widest cross-section of the song-downloading public. Somewhere, in a windowless conference room at Amalgamated Chrismunnakah Industries, the Committee for the Promotion of Yuletide Jollification, Music Division is carefully ticking down a list of pre-approved holiday tropes for inclusion in a song that will offend (and inspire) precisely nobody. Presents? Check. Mistletoe? Check. Non-denominational accoutrements of holiday merriment? Check and mate, chairman.

We single out Kenny Chesney’s offering The Angel at The Top of My Tree not because this New Country iteration is any better or any worse than the Hip-Hop, Adult-Oriented Rock, or Dubstep versions of this song that doubtlessly exist, but because of Mr. Chesney’s unsavory name-checking of “White Christmas.”

We’ll make a little candy
Then a little later on
We’ll make a little love
To that old Bing Crosby song

You know, Ken, you keep Christmas in your way—and next time, maybe keep that to yourself.

Santa Baby

I’ve been alive 40 years now. I’ve seen a lot of things. I’ve talked to a lot of people. I’ve listened to what they have to tell me. And you know what I’ve never heard anyone say? “‘Santa Baby’ is an outstanding song, and I’m so glad whenever I hear it played.”

There is a reason for that: “Santa Baby” is dreadful, not just a bad holiday song, but a bad song period. The song glorifies materialism to the point where the lyricist could have saved everyone time just by writing the words “Gimme, gimme, gimme” over and over again. Adding insult to injury is that every singer who decides to take a crack at this song—a diverse roster of chanteuses ranging from American Idol rejects to muppets to Macy Gay—tries to channel their inner Betty Boop by baby-talking their way through this hateful anthem.

Picking the absolute worst version of “Santa Baby” would be like picking the absolute worst terminal illness. So I put the question out to Twitter, and the masses, speaking as one, came back with a single unified answer: Madonna. I mean, it’s the perfect response, really. If Madonna didn’t exist, we’d have to invent her just so that she could record the definitively terrible version of “Santa Baby.”


Might I have missed a wintertime tune you hold in particular contempt? It’s possible, but after 13 of these musical nightmares, I’m physically and emotionally spent. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend the time between now and New Year’s listening to Guster’s “Carol of the Meows” on continuous loop to purge out the last echoes of John Travolta’s speak-singing.

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