Giddyup, jingle horse, kick up your feet
December 19, 2003 3:28 PM   Subscribe

"This is what it sounds like inside the brains of crazy people." - one person's review of "Carol of the Bells", part of the results of a "Worst Carol Contest." Ineligible: novelty songs, especially involving injuries to grandmothers. The most hated: Little Drummer Boy. (I was disappointed not to see Leroy Anderson's feculent Sleigh Ride get top honors.)
posted by kurumi (41 comments total)
This is an amazingly comprehensive review of various Christmas music as well. (via Looka.)

And my vote for worst Christmas music of all time? The completely fetid Paul McCartney instrumental "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reggae." (it's the flipside to "Wonderful Christmastime." Picture an instrumental synth-based quasi-reggae-by-way-of-Kent tune that sounds like you left the turntable on 33 rpm by mistake. (Or just click here if you're brave.)
posted by Vidiot at 4:05 PM on December 19, 2003

I like Sleigh Ride.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 4:19 PM on December 19, 2003

McCartney's Rudolf: thanks for that "gem." /sarcasm

That is one incessant, Gawd-awful rendition. It just goes on and on. Make it stop!
posted by wsg at 4:46 PM on December 19, 2003

I like Carol of the Bells.
posted by JanetLand at 5:06 PM on December 19, 2003

I like Carol of the Bells.

posted by linux at 5:23 PM on December 19, 2003

I always imagine holiday-season suicides being driven to it by Carol of the Bells. God, that song gives me the creeps.
posted by scody at 5:24 PM on December 19, 2003

Thank the Old Ones for the Cthulhu Carols. Now when I'm exposed to some horrible Xmas carol, I often hear the words of the Cthulhu version in my head. I might just make it through this holiday season with my sanity intact (such as it is.)

Tidings of Madness and Woe!
posted by homunculus at 6:00 PM on December 19, 2003

Chanukah "music" is worse.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:06 PM on December 19, 2003

I'm very hesitant to go into chain drugstores at this time of year, all for fear of hearing "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and getting it stuck in my head. I think they put it on repeat from Thanksgiving until New Year's. (Maybe interspersed with "Jingle Bell Rock," the Hall & Oates version.)
posted by lisa g at 6:14 PM on December 19, 2003

During the yearly rendition of the Carol of the Bells at the local school concert Wednesday night a friend of mine leaned near to whisper, "Doesn't this song always sound schizo to you?" I had to think about that one a bit, but no, I don't agree with that really, for me the song blends together nicely ...maybe if you try to listen to all of the parts seperately you would feel like your brain was running in four directions at once, but if you're trying to do that, you're just trying too hard and you're going to pull the muscle that matters most.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 6:27 PM on December 19, 2003

My SO loathes any Christmas song sung 'lounge-style' by Dean Martin (or any member of the rat pack, actually, including ol' blue eyes). Its kind of fun to watch him tweak out when we're stuck in a restaurant or somewhere and Dean comes on singing Rudolph.....
posted by anastasiav at 6:28 PM on December 19, 2003

Being a chip off of a very bells and smells Methodist church I don't mind "Carol of the Bells" that much. Christmas usually included something by Mozart, Bach or Handel. By a fortunate accident of being the son of a musicology graduate student, I was exposed to some pretty great performances as part of my religious upbringing including one by then child-prodigy Joshua Bell.

As a result, I was spoiled and I'm rather fond of anything that is not in a major key just for variation. Give me a good Coventry Carol over anything written in the 20th century. Anything that has the word "rock" in the title is to be especially dispised.

I one time had the misfortune of attending a "pops" concert. The highlight was a beautiful bit of Chistmas music written a generation before J.S. Bach that was perhaps the most amazing thing I've heard all year. The low point was an impressionist singing "Holly Jolly Christmass" as a duet between Willie Nelson and Kermit the Frog.

And what is with the sudden subversive comeback of "Baby It's Cold Outside" which is perhaps the ultimate cheesy lounge-jazz holliday song (beyond it's appearance in Elf). For those of you who don't hear any music from Haloween until January 1st, or those who simply have not heard it yet, it's a duet in which the female vocalist keeps talking about how she really should go home now, while the male vocalist keeps offering reasons to stay, until they both decide that 1950s style implied post-party drunken holliday nookie by the fire is better off than braving the bad weather outside. This is one of those songs that is so much over-the-top camp that it might even be cool for one season until it gets overplayed or until I hear a Britney Spears version (which would not suprise me given how she keeps doing the Marilyn thing while denying that she's doing the Marilyn thing). Of course Louis Armstrong pulled off the best live version, turning the song into self-parody and cracking up this parter with the line "give it up, give it up, give it up!"

There are other songs that are spoiled by performance. I have never liked "Oh Holy Night" primarily because it becomes the showcase holiday song for soloist performers to pretend to be great opera singers (and usually failing miserably in the attempt.) Even when done by competent singers the result is usually banal.

My spousal unit, looking over my shoulder really hates "Santa Baby" which is probably excluded from poll but I must agree with the sentiment.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:12 PM on December 19, 2003

It doesn't sound like that inside my brain. All I can hear is Metatalk
posted by troutfishing at 7:57 PM on December 19, 2003

*quonsar plays rudolph reggae and pogos off the walls like walter brennan on crack*
posted by quonsar at 8:27 PM on December 19, 2003

Playing the original version of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" around our apartment has recently caused my girlfriend to hide my christmas music tape.
posted by interrobang at 8:39 PM on December 19, 2003

Ever since I was a kid, I've disliked slow, soppy, ballad-y "White Christmas" and "The Christmas Song" automatically send my fingers scrambling for the pre-set buttons on the car radio.

This past year I found a new favorite station to listen to in the car, CFCO-AM from Canada (mainly because they play so many lost CanCon songs of my youth). BUT...this holiday season, they've seemingly been possessed and are including things like Christmas medleys by the Osmond Brothers (as sung on the "Donny and Marie" show). I never thought I could hate such a basic, bouncy holiday staple as "Jingle Bells", but the OsBro did the trick.

As for the "modern" songs, "Step into Christmas" and "Wonderful Christmastime" both make me cringe, but it just doesn't feel like Christmas until I hear "Happy Xmas (War is Over)." PS Queen's "Thank God It's Christmas" is the best holiday tune, but nobody seems to play it.
posted by Oriole Adams at 8:46 PM on December 19, 2003

Very funny. I'm surprised no one compared the 12 Days of Xmas to 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall...although 12 Days does have that beguiling "Five Golden Rings" slowdown riff
with its promise of a quick recapitulation.

Little Drummer Boy, of course, is so awful and so annoying that I have no idea (and only just a tiny little bit of googlecuriosity - and by the way, please credit me for the very first usage of that word) how this song came to be a "Christmas Carol."

By the way, I used to carol as a kid, with a very very nice Pillsbury guy (he was a skinny humble patrician...nobody poked him) on accordian. I never looked forward to it, but there were some nice carols. Angels We Have Heard On High. Joy to the World (simple, simplisitic, but dramatic and fun). And the most melodic of them all, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. Noel Noel had a nice arc.

The creepy part of all this was that, although my public high school (in Ladue...St. Louis)was almost half Jewish, most of our neighbors were Gentiles. In the Fifties, certain
streets accepted Catholics, maybe, but not Jews or Blacks.

Of course, that meant we didn't have to sing that Dreidel Dreidel song, which is one of those songs with that hard-to-get-out-of-your-head viral quality. Sorry.
posted by kozad at 8:50 PM on December 19, 2003

Three words: Jingle Bell Rock.

'nuff said.
posted by ilsa at 9:08 PM on December 19, 2003

I second 'Santa Baby'. It's always sung by some coy little Jon-Benet trying to do a skank-wad Betty Boop act. I'd rather push nails through my eyes.
posted by ao4047 at 9:17 PM on December 19, 2003

KirkJobSluder- In some areas of retail, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is referred to as the "Date Rape Christmas Song". After hearing it four thousannd times a day while working, one begins to ponder the lyrics in their context. Lines like "the neighbors might think...saaaay whats in this drink?" take on more and more lurid undertones as the number of listenings increase.

Worst Christmas song ever? I can't find it anywhere, but in the past I had been subjected repeatedly to "Jingle-O the Brownie" by Tennessee Ernie Ford. Talk about weird. Jingle-O is apparently Santa's helper who "has a great big magic eye that looks at you from in the sky, and when you are bad...poor Jingle-O is sad". I imagine children everywhere this song was played developed persecution or paranoia complexes, thinking about this twisted elf eye staring at them.
posted by oflinkey at 9:26 PM on December 19, 2003

Surprised nobody mentioned Elton John's Step Into Christmas. Many of the better Christmas songs were written by Jewish songwriters, but that song just screamed out "Bernie Taupin Is An Athiest!!"

"This is what it sounds like inside the brains of crazy people."
In my case, it's equal parts "Carol of the Bells", Bach's "Tocatta and Fugue", "Karn Evil 9" and "Achy Breaky Heart".
posted by wendell at 9:37 PM on December 19, 2003

oh, bah fucking humbug, you jaded curmudgeons.
posted by crunchland at 9:54 PM on December 19, 2003

1) Carol of the Bells backed by a symphony is CHRISTMAS OR DIE you Scrooges. YOU WILL BE MERRY. SUBMIT!


2) I can't believe no one's mentioned "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer". I'm not linking it. The wounds haven't even scarred over yet.
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:03 PM on December 19, 2003

While I agree with the sentiment about Santa Baby, I do quite like the version by Everclear. No squeaky, early Madonna vocals there. The more "Christmas" songs I hear, the more I like some
odd ones that I never came across as a child. Like...

The Band - Christmas Must Be Tonight
The Chieftains - The Rebel Jesus (sung by Jackson Browne i think)
The Ramones - Merry Christmas (I don't wanna fight tonight) which is really the only decent punk rock carol. You don't have to be be a punk kid to enjoy it!

And...I love the Dean Martin stuff. I can't imagine someone not enjoying the game of trying to decide just how drunk he was when he recorded Silver Bells.

Oh yeah, Rober Downey Jr. does a great version of Joni Mitchell's River too...not a trad christmas tune, but certainly seasonal to me.
posted by Richat at 2:23 AM on December 20, 2003

Some people call him Rober Downey Jr. Others call him Robert Downey Jr.
posted by Richat at 2:47 AM on December 20, 2003

They missed my pet hate in carols: versions of Jingle Bells where people sing "Ha Ha Ha" after the line "Laughing as we go".
posted by raygirvan at 4:41 AM on December 20, 2003

"Like Monopoly!"

Reminds me of Lore's ratings of Christmas songs. My Favourite Things? wtf.
posted by ODiV at 6:20 AM on December 20, 2003

While Christmas shopping, I heard Michael Jackson, age 12 when it was released, singing Little Drummer Boy and the images in my head just would not stop. That song now has a whole new meaning for me.
posted by Geo at 8:15 AM on December 20, 2003

Here's the dreaded link to the Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer lyrics. I'm being especially Grinch-like about this because I was actually subjected by my retired father to the latest TV broadcast of the ONE HOUR animated Christmas special based on this song. (This from a man whose #1 retirement pastime is watching TV shows he hates, called the storyline to A Charlie Brown Christmas "sick" and thinks I'm doing something juvenile-delinquent whenever I'm on my computer for more than an hour)
posted by wendell at 10:46 AM on December 20, 2003

Thanks Wolf Daddy & wendell - that's my top non-favorite, also. Speaking of "I'd rather push nails into my eyes..." sheesh! What I find amusing is the Beatles' doing their loony best to come up with Christmas songs. I've heard a couple of those on the Beatles Anthology CD's.
posted by Lynsey at 12:11 PM on December 20, 2003

For all the curmudgeons out there: streaming Christmas music. I hope you folks don't have to go to Chicago for the holidays. There's 2, yes 2, stations this year that play Christmas music non-stop from the day after Thanksgiving. Nothing makes me think of Christmas more than Run DMC's "Christmas In Hollis":

My name's D.M.C. with the mic in my hand
And I'm chilling and coolin just like a snowman
So open your eyes, lend us an ear
We want to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

posted by superchris at 3:55 PM on December 20, 2003

Um, I actually find "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" to be kind of a fun novelty song.

The song I can't stand is "The Christmas Shoes". I heard it for the first time last year (it might have come out then) and it's among the most saccharine, maudlin, nauseating things ever set to music.
posted by orange swan at 6:04 PM on December 20, 2003

Uh huh. Like they say on those pizza boxes -

"You've tried the rest - now try the best."

Worst. You know the rest...
posted by Perigee at 9:52 AM on December 21, 2003

Little Drummer Boy is not so bad. I am reminded of that great West Wing Christmas episode.

The worst? How about Pearl Bailey asking Santa for a "Five Pound Box of Money"? Yikes.
posted by drinkcoffee at 2:36 PM on December 21, 2003

As far as best, I really really like "The St. Stephen's Day Murders" by Elvis Costello and the Chieftains. It's a song about wanting to kill your family the day after Xmas...who can't relate?
posted by Vidiot at 3:37 PM on December 21, 2003

orange swan:
I am so glad someone mentioned "The Christmas Shoes". I can't understand why anyone would listen to this song a second time. I think of it as a kind of "Tear Jerker Pornography" that appeals to some area of the brain that I don't have. Then again the good folks at "Kleenex" may be behind it to boost sales.
posted by waltb555 at 6:17 AM on December 22, 2003

I heard an acoustic guitar, Spanish version of Drummer Boy in a crumbling church on Christmas Eve in Panajachel, Guatemala. That was cool.

Also, we bought a new Christmas album this year.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:13 AM on December 22, 2003

I was just remarking that Here Comes Santa Claus is not just mildly annoying, but one of the bizarrest Christmas songs I know. I mean, yeah, you've got songs about "the true meaning of Christmas" and songs about Santa and his fictional pals, but the two really, really should not mix (unless you're being sardonic, of course).

I can't fathom how people of whatever age can sing along with a straight face, "Santa Claus knows we're all God's children," and "lets give thanks to the Lord above, that Santa Claus comes tonight" and not say, "hey, wait a minute, something's wrong here. How can these two things be causally connected? Either Santa Claus is a real flesh-&-blood thing, or..."
posted by soyjoy at 9:51 AM on December 22, 2003

orangeswan! waltb555! I was coming to this thread to say that I generally liked Christmas music (I'm listening to some right now!) but that the "Christmas Shoes" song actually makes me physically uncomfortable, it's so hideously horrendously bad. I left my favorite burrito shop before I was even done with my burrito just because I couldn't be held hostage to this unsufferable crap anymore. And isn't this by Bob Carlisle, the guy who did the stupid stupid stupid nauseating "Butterfly Kisses"?

Why is he allowed to continue to write songs? Listening to them is like being forced to eat an entire jar of molasses in one sitting. Why does Elliot Smith take his own life, but Bob Carlisle lives on to write more and more pap? WHY GOD WHY?????
posted by jennyb at 11:06 AM on December 22, 2003


Time a good, old-fashioned Christmas killing spree!
posted by jennyb at 12:00 PM on December 22, 2003

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