It has come to the time of year wherein we cannot leave the house without an aural assault of jingle-riddled festive musical tedium. While most are equally intolerable, some merit special mention for the implicit horrors they conceal. These are the Christmas songs that can fuck right off.
Rampant consumerism ahoy!
Capitalism has done a fine job of co-opting Christmas, turning it into a festival of panic-buying and receiving things you don’t really want. It is hardly surprising, then, that one of the most-covered traditional Christmas songs is The Twelve Days of Christmas. In this song, a person is given a series of increasingly ludicrous Christmas presents from a lover, presented through the medium of mind-numbing repetition. The nameless narrator of the song tells us nothing about their lover except that they buy a lot of presents. By the end of the song, the narrator has received 12 drummers drumming, 22 pipers piping, 30 lords a-leaping, 36 ladies dancing, 40 maids a-milking, 46 swans a-swimming, 42 geese a-laying, 35 gold rings, 32 calling birds, 30 French hens, 24 turtle doves and 12 partridges in pear trees. Implicit in this is that there must also be 40 cows to be milked, 46 small lakes for the swans to live in and at least 42 baby geese to soon be hatched. Quite where the narrator is going to keep all of the birds is not explored. Neither is it ever discussed that perhaps sending people as gifts might be slavery, or at the very least prostitution.
It’s immoral, it’s impractical, and it’s a vision of the future the capitalists would like to see. Its bastard lovechild is clearly visible in this godawful Littlewoods advert wherein a choir of children sing about how brilliant their mum is because she bought everyone presents.
Merry Christmas. Buy things. Debt is love.
A woman is left in a horrible, horrible relationship
Fairy Tale Of New York is the Christmas song it’s cool to say you like, because it’s kind of ironic, has a catchy Irish folky riff and Kirsty McColl died tragically early. It features bitter lyrics of a life of hardship and alcoholism, but ultimately, in some sort of Christmas miracle they arguing couple in the song realise that they love each other very much, right? Actually, not quite. Listen to the resolution of the song, at around 2.48. The woman laments that the man “took her dreams”. He replies that he kept them with him, made them his own and can’t possibly live life on his own.
Now, this would be all well and good if he wasn’t consistently portrayed as a complete and utter failure with verbally abusive tendencies. So that woman’s dream-eggs are stuck in a basket of piss, vinegar and toothless uselessness simply because the man won’t let her go. She never gets the chance to point this out, as it immediately becomes a matter of utmost urgency to report on the song choice of the New York Police Department and a bulletin on bell status. After this, we can only assume she overdoses on cocaine as white as Christmas snow, hollow-eyed on the tinsel-strewn rotting corpse of her lover.
Let me sing my privilege to the noble savages
Bono is an unmitigated cunt, and when people talk of “the good things he did”, often they refer to his charity work. Bono’s charity work includes the single Do They Know It’s Christmas, and therefore his unmitigated cunt status remains intact. This is a song in which a crowd of mostly white pop stars patronise an entire continent with startling factual inaccuracies.
Africa, as portrayed by the song, is a uniform desert populated entirely by starving people who need Middle England to ride in with their wallets and fix everything. There’s no snow in Africa, not even on top of mountains. There’s no rain, not even in the rich rainforests. There’s no rivers, not even the sodding Nile, the biggest bastard river in the world. The dear little noble savage Africans apparently don’t know it’s Christmas because Africa is such an insufferable shithole, not because many Africans probably couldn’t give two hoots about Christmas what with being Muslims.
It’s a terrible song, with a hefty dollop of misinformation. It may have been done with the best of intentions, but it’s pretty fucking racist, and it seems to have pissed off a few people. Nothing says traditional Christmas spirit like a bit of casual racism with a sing-al0ng chorus.
The date rape song
Baby It’s Cold Outside is another song which can be categorised under “Christmas romance” and tells a tale even more chilling than that recounted in Fairy Tale Of New York.
It’s about rape. Straight-up, it is a song about rape.
A woman tries to leave a man’s house. He gives her a drink. It has some drugs in it. While still compos mentis enough to argue, the woman argues that she cannot stay, says “no” several times, lists people she knows who might be worried about her and again mentions that she cannot leave. We leave her having finally been forced to into sex with coercive tactics and drugs. We’re supposed to find this rape cute because it’s all Christmassy, and who wouldn’t want to be raped by charming crooner Dean Martin? Listen to the lyrics of the song and tell me it is not about that.
As it’s Christmas, I shall conjure up the happiest possible ending for the story. The next morning, the woman goes home. Her family enquire as to why she appears to be shaken and upset. She explains what happened, and her mother, sister and vicious maiden aunt are appalled. These women call round at Dean Martin’s house, just as he is about to pounce upon another trusting, drugged woman and intervene. They then chop off Dean Martin’s raping penis and use it as a Christmas tree ornament. Everyone is very lucky in getting away with this cathartically criminal act, as the police are currently occupied with singing Galway Bay over the frozen husks of a pair of addicts. With support, Dean Martin’s victims find themselves able to move forward from the incident and engage in community activism to try to build a world without rape.
That’s the happiest possible ending, and we still have at least one rape in it. Fills the heart with Christmas cheer, that does.
The song that is surprisingly awesome
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus is a song which is intensely, intensely irritating. In all honesty, I would be happy if I never heard it ever again. The thing is, it has a surprisingly positive poly message hidden deep inside all of the twee faux-childish awe: the kid doesn’t give a shit that Mommy is necking with Father Christmas. In fact, the kid expresses dismay that Daddy can’t see the happy occasion.
Of course, Santa is Daddy, but the kid doesn’t know this. The kid is completely cool with Mommy playing with other people, and seems to think Daddy would be too. It is a glimpse at a non-conventional family set up which, for a twelfth of the year, gets played on loop. May the message one day sink in so we never have to hear that godawful song again.
Those are some of the worst, but let’s be straight here: all Christmas songs can fuck off.
21 thoughts on “Christmas songs that can fuck off.”
I kind of like Silent Night… *cowers*
It’s all right, from a “cute story about the trenches” perspective. Been utterly RUINED by various reality TV show stars warbling it in the last few years.
I fucking hate Do They know It’s Christmas in every possible fucking way. It makes me want to kill people.
Isn’t it sort of the point of Fairytale of New York that they have shit lives and hate each other? I dunno if it’s intended to come across as pro-abusive relationship.
Also I wouldn’t worry too much about the 10 or so aristocrats being sold into bondage. They seem full of beans.
I’m more concerned about the human-trafficking ring, which can clearly send people out in bulk over the festive period. They need shutting down!
Still, there’s something heartwarmingly anti-capitalist about a litany of utterly unworkable Christmas gifts. Apart from the gold rings.
This is a spoof, right?
By the way, I couldn’t be fucked listening to that Dean Martin shite, but I read the lyrics and I’m not sure it was drugs in her drink, if she was actually trying to leave, if her family were concerned for her safety rather than her chastity or if she actually stayed.
I think it might be less about rape than it is ambiguity/irrelevance of consent.
‘….that woman’s dream-eggs are stuck in a basket of piss, vinegar and toothless uselessness simply because the man won’t let her go’.
This is the entire point of the song. It’s horribly ironic. Sarcastic even. The upbeat music is there as an ironic comment onwhat is actually a pretty bleak, tragic story. Adults get this.
You’d be surprised how few do. Presumably, they’re the same people who think Wuthering Heights is a love story, but STILL.
It’s right up there with Babybird’s ‘You’re Gorgeous’ (about child pornography) and Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ (about a heroin overdose) in the ‘Have you LISTENED to the fucking lyrics?’ stakes.
…and a lot of people have their first wedding dance to “Every Breath You Take”. Nothing says “I love you” like creepy-ass stalking.
Lou Reed strenuously denies Perfect Day is about heroin. Experimental foray into other subject matter.
Anyway, for these things, history of interpretation is at least as important as authorial intent and badly communicated irony.
Almost completely agree, especially with the “It’s Cold Outside” bit. When Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews covered it a few years ago, I’d find myself heckling the radio. (“Run, Cerys! Quick! Get out of there! Tom Jones is trying to get you pissed so he can put his leathery old hands all over you when you pass out! Run!”)
The following could just be my own biased perception, but… I’ve always taken Fairytale of New York to be deliberately dark and depressing, with no positive resolution – even the name is drenched in irony, as nothing is further from a fairytale than this sad story of mutually-destructive love from the underside of the world’s financial capital. We hear two impoverished addicts arguing, throwing insults at each other, lamenting past and present. Their dialogue flips repeatedly from wishing for a better future to knowing – even hoping – that this Xmas will be their last alive.
Meanwhile, New York’s capitalist Xmas extravaganza tempts the outside world with the bright lights of Broadway and inexplicably singing policemen, promising hopeful outsiders cars (big as bars) and rivers of gold. Yet the characters here have found that, in reality, all these things are meaningless, and the life New York seemed to be offering is a long way out of reach for its increasingly downtrodden poor.
The song was first released in 1987 and I’ve always interpreted it as a scathing critique of the Reagan age, social inequality, and the contrasts between the image of Xmas (and New York itself) sold to the public by the corporate American dream, and the reality facing many who are lured to the city in search of better things.
Many of Kirsty’s own songs confront similar contrasts between Reaganite-Thatcherite Yuppie culture and how it tries to present itself, and the inevitable horror that lies beneath the gold-plated smile of every aggressive capitalist ideology. I can’t recommend her lyrics enough. She was completely ace and should be listened to all the time, by everyone, forever. In my humble opinion.
Baby It’s Cold Outside is the tip of a worryingly large iceberg: http://www.cracked.com/article_18431_8-romantic-songs-you-didnt-know-were-about-rape.html
On the bright side, there is at least one awesome Christmas song, namely this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eDxngn9tpg
Doubtless somebody else may have mentioned this – hell, you’ve probably heard it before – but your mention of 12 Days of Christmas brought it to mind;
Excellent blog by the way.
Heh, I had the ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ conversation with my parents:
“Isn’t Africa predominantly Muslim? Then of COURSE they don’t know it’s Christmas, and they probably don’t care.”
I’ve argued that FairyTale of New York isn’t ostensibly a Christmas Song, it’s a mini-tragedy that happens to be set at Christmastime.
Another take on ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ – http://persephonemagazine.com/2010/12/listening-while-feminist-in-defense-of-baby-it’s-cold-outside/
Nearly All These Songs make my Blood boil with rage when I hear them every Fucking year. Just so glad that it’s all over now .
Good god i agree. I hate those stupid songs too.