The best thing about Christmas is the songs. I wait all year to hear the traditional ones (who else loves belting out “O Holy Night” in their car?), the classics (it’s not Christmas unless you’ve gone on a “Sleigh Ride” at least 46 times), and even the contemporary ones. But the latter category is often why Christmas songs are the worst part about Christmas too. For every amazing contemporary Christmas song, there are always going to be pop stars who think for some inexplicable reason that getting festive means getting sexy. I’m looking at you, Lady Gaga, and your “Christmas Tree.”
There are also some bands that feel that a Christmas song is an appropriate place to complain about what they didn’t get last year: requited love. And thus, Wham! is still reminding us through their perpetual whine-fest called “Last Christmas” that it’s okay at Christmastime to be a bitter and creepy stalker.
Consider that the song pretends to be about the narrator giving their heart to “someone special.” That’s so sweet, right? But in actuality, the song is sung not to the current object of affection but to the past one. Last Christmas, the narrator gave his heart away to someone who didn’t return the affection but instead gave it to someone else. The narrator, an entire year later, still cannot get over getting rudely re-gifted and insists on bragging that this year, things are going to be different with a different person, and then they’ll see! But we all know that still talking about it = still not over it.
But the absolute worst Christmas song on nonstop rotation is probably “Christmas Shoes.” For the two or three of you still out there who remain happily ignorant of this song, the premise is that a kid is buying a pair of shoes for his mother who is dying, and might die that very night. But he doesn’t have enough money, so the narrator of the story pays for the shoes and realizes the boy was sent to teach him about the Christmas spirit.
This is obviously the type of song that was written to get listeners to cry. What a beautiful message of selfless giving at this time of year! Most listeners cry about that, anyway. I apparently have a heart of stone. But even though I’m probably at least a tiny bit more cynical than the average listener, I can’t be the only one who’s wondering why this kid is running around town buying shoes for his mom who might die any second. The song might make more sense if he were trying to find a doctor or some medicine. Hell, even a blanket might make this more plausible.
But instead, this little boy squanders his last pennies and moments with his mother so she can look nice when she dies. Kid, I don’t know it for a fact, but I’m pretty sure that you don’t show up in heaven in the clothes that you died in. If so, then I feel sorry for anybody who died in a bathtub. That has to be awkward.
Also, am I the only one who smells a scam? This kid shows up with a handful of pennies and wants to buy a pair of shoes for his mom. Now, for all we know, this could be a discount shoe store, but any shoes the boy picks out are most likely at least thirty dollars. After all, the song isn’t called “Christmas Flip-flops.” Plus, I’m guessing that if there is indeed a “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” sign hanging on the pearly gates, Jesus isn’t going to be impressed with knock-off bargain bin shoes either.
So anyway, the boy probably has no more than fifty cents in change, but if he’s out shopping by himself then he’s damn well old enough to know you can’t buy a candy bar for less than a buck, let alone a pair of women’s shoes. My theory is that the kid knows that since it’s Christmas, there’s going to be people out there who want to be the hero of a feel good story. So he turns to the guy behind him in line and confesses that he somehow seems to be $29.50 short. The sucker—I mean, the narrator—is completely taken in by the story and forks over the money. Because nothing says Christmas like shaking down strangers at the shoe store.
And why stop there? The kid’s mom probably needs a new dress, jewelry, etc. He probably runs around town doing this and then goes home with a bunch of unnecessary crap. That guy is going to feel a bit remorseful when he sees the kid in line to take back the shoes the day after Christmas, aka National Refund Day.
I’m sure there are plenty of people who are going to say that I completely missed the point. But hopefully there are at least an equal amount who secretly agree that something is up with that kid. So if you’re more like me and refuse to be emotionally manipulated this year, check out “White Wine in the Sun” and receive some sentimentality sprinkled with a large dose of sass.
And for those of you who enjoy breakup songs during Christmas because you’ve smashed a few ornaments over lost loves of your own, you might consider ditching songs about revenge gifting and listen to “Lonely This Christmas” instead.
Finally, I know I can’t be the only one who’s disturbed by Santa-as-sex-object tropes and wonders when it came to be that sexual innuendo is only for wussies with a capital p. If you want a contemporary song that hearkens back to the fun back-and-forth of “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” then try “Text Me Merry Christmas.”
Let me know if you have any favorite Christmas songs that don’t get the attention you feel they deserve. I probably can’t do anything about getting them played on the radio, but at least we can commiserate about it together.