by Jacob Wingate-Bishop
Here at Splendid Fred, everything’s getting a bit Christmassy. Roll out the tinsel, put up the tree, get a mega big drum of Mini Cheddars! We’re celebrating the festive fun with a whole week’s worth of content, and how can we – a blog about all things arty – fail to mention the very backbone of a good Chrimbo? I am, of course, talking about the soundtrack.
Now, I’ll be completely honest, I’m not the biggest fan of seasonal songs. Most of them are repetitive, and not necessarily in a good way. There are a few outliers, a few numbers worthy of being chanted drunkenly any time of the year (The Darkness and the Pogues, for instance). But, for the most part, they do get a little bit old. Some of them, though, really take the Yule log. And not any nice, top shelf Yule log – We’re talking about the cheap, cardboard stuff that’s always last on the cake table. The Yule log you lump off on your least favourite cousin.
Without further ado, these are the five worst Christmas songs to have come out of the last half a century. I hope you’ve got a scarf to cry into, because some of these picks are downright unforgivable.
All I Want For Christmas Is You, Mariah Carey, 1994 – When I was younger, you knew t’was the season when the new John Lewis advert went live, or the fabled Coca-Cola truck was on the move – though I’m convinced no one has ever actually seen one in the flesh – or even the dulcet tones of Michael Bublé thawing out from the freezer. Now, there seems a complete cultural shift, and that opening wail from Ms. Carey is akin to the trumpets of the Book of Revelations bellowing everywhere, all at once. It’s catchy, sure, but best left in the past, when it was echoed at countless Christmas school parties we never actually wanted to go to. It may only be around for two months of the year, but for those two months, it’s played to death.
Little Things, ABBA, 2021 – When ABBA announced their first album in forty years, Voyage, last year, it was like a Christmas miracle. The album, it turned out, was somewhat of a mixed affair. But sure, it had its high points. Unfortunately, the masterminds behind some of pop and disco’s best ever anthems came up with ‘Little Things’, a cringe-inducing ‘I Have A Dream’ wannabe complete with children’s choir. Let me be clear. Children’s choirs rarely pay off in music. The whole track (which ABBA released as a single in some shameless attempt to drum up festive sales) creates the same kind of feeling as two glasses of eggnog and a Terry’s Chocolate Orange devoured in quick succession. I’d rather go through the perennial Boxing Day haze than listen to this one again.
Christmas Lights, Coldplay, 2010 – It’s a bit easy to knock Coldplay, I’ll admit. They’re one of those bands who prove powerhouses on the charts but are, it seems, cool to hate on a personal level – a bit like a latter-day Bono. ‘Christmas Lights’, though, from 2010, is like an amalgamation of all the group’s dreariest ballads. Talk about middle of the road. Chris Martin has proven he can write some beautiful odes of the heart. This one, though, is just a bit unforgettable. It’s all too clear he was attempting a modern-day classic of the genre. Ah well. Maybe next time, lads.
Driving Home for Christmas, Chris Rea, 1988 – I know, I know. It’s a classic. But it’s awful. Deep beige. Wallpaper. Absolute noise, if I’m being jolly about it. Chris Rea, the man responsible for one heck of a brooding rock track in 1989’s ‘Road to Hell’, is sadly also the culprit behind one of the season’s most boring tunes. The subject matter may be seen as whimsical or touchingly authentic to some, but at the end of the day, it’s a song about, well, driving home for the holidays. Back to chaotic households, casually racist relatives and unending tubs of Twiglets. I don’t want to think about that, let alone the ten-hour journey there. It’s also ambient sound of the highest calibre, and a reprehensible testament to quite how far our standards have sunk in music, especially when it comes to December. I’m all for letting everything go around the holiday season, but this is one gingerbread man too far.
Wonderful Christmastime, Paul McCartney, 1979 – If you’re a legend like Paul McCartney, you’re owed a few blunders. ‘We All Stand Together’ comes to mind, but so what? He wrote ‘Let It Be’, ‘Band on the Run’, ‘Live and Let Die’. He’s single-handedly penned some of the most beautiful songs ever written. Mad, then, that he was also the mastermind behind the worst Christmas song ever. And I wish I were exaggerating. ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ is infectious in all the worst ways, astoundingly dull despite its best efforts, and resorts to the kitsch, scalp-clawing depths of a children’s choir, yet again. Macca, we love you, but I’m not even sure political dissidents suffer this kind of torture. Year after year, too. Those opening bars ring out like a siren during tornado season. Maybe we could forgive this effort if it was released by some one-hit wonder who needs the money come Chrimbo. But from one of the Beatles? Irredeemable.