The 25 worst Christmas pop songs: One of them is maybe good?
One good thing about Christmas season is making lists. One bad thing about Christmas is listening to Christmas pop songs. That must mean it’s the right time to make a list about terrible Christmas pop songs! And that’s a tall task, because almost all of them are uniquely terrible. It’s probably because it’s really hard for the agenda of pop—parties, romance, money—to really join in with the ethos of Christmas—Messiah-child fated to die, born of a virgin, raised poor, persecuted. But that’s never stopped pop before!
So in the spirit of the season, here’s a list of 25 Christmas pop songs, ranked and categorized from best to worst.
The Only Good Christmas Pop Song
1: Winter Wonderland: This is a song about witches, and it rules. Want evidence? Here it is: “Later on, we'll conspire / As we dream by the fire / To face unafraid / The plans that we've made.” Those plans definitely involve conjuring spirits into snowmen, and that fire involves witchcraft. But only if it’s the Andrews Sisters version. All others are unbearable.
The Maybe Almost Good Christmas Pop Songs
2. Let it Snow: This one is like a responsible “Baby, it’s cold outside.” Fire, popcorn, dim lights, “your love to keep me warm.” No whiny guilt trips or roofies, just good old fashioned consensual romance framed by bad holiday flute flourishes.
3. Feliz Navidad: short and simple. Bonus points for José Feliciano making an English language version in the same song with totally different lyrics than the Spanish lyrics. If he was betting on English speakers not really noticing, he was right.
4. Little Saint Nick: Shout out to the Beach Boys for turning Santa into my old weird neighbor, who used to work on his cherry red muscle car all year long and rev the engine for hours at a time.
Jaded Christmas songs
5. Here comes Santa Claus: I appreciate Gene Autry for recognizing the hard truth that Rudolph is a one-trick pony who’ll be discarded after one foggy night: Vixen and Blitzen? Sure, they’re here. Poor Rudolph? They dropped him like a bag of sprouting potatoes. It’s still an awful song, though.
6. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas: Props to the jaded songwriter for the “And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again” line. Haha, kids are annoying!
Christmas Songs Made by Oblivious Optimists
7. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Really? I’m sorry, but “and everyone telling you be of good cheer” sounds a lot like someone telling you to smile more.
8. Holly Jolly Christmas: Yes, I’d love to say hello to friends I know when I walk “down the street.” But, no, I’m not going out of my way to meet strangers on the street, and I’m certainly not saying hello to “everyone I meet.” And I certainly don’t want to be on the flip-side of that.
Weird Santa Thirst Songs
9. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus: I mean, yes, it’s dad pretending to be Santa Claus, but still. I just think seeing your mom kiss Santa in your living room while your dad presumably is asleep in bed is a little more traumatic than the lyrics let on: “Oh, what a laugh it would have been / If Daddy had only seen / Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night.” A laugh for whom, kid?
10. Santa Claus Is Back In Town: Elvis enters the sexy Santa field with these lyrics: “Hang up your pretty stockings / Turn off the light / Santa Claus is comin' down your chimney tonight.” Like, whoa, please no.
11. Santa Baby: why is there more than one song about having the hots for Santa Claus? “Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree for me / Been an awful good girl / Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight.” I guess Santa’s really the only pop culture Christmas figure with any ready gifts and or cash you could even imagine getting frisky with, so that makes him the de facto sugar daddy.
12. Last Christmas: This song is like watching your friend make terrible personal choices while being powerless to stop him: “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart / But the very next day you gave it away / This year, to save me from tears / I'll give it to someone special” What are you doing? You missed the entire point! Stop giving your heart away! But no, he won’t listen.
13. Frosty the Snowman: Frosty is an idiot, and the kids wasted a magic hat on him. Case in point: “Frosty the Snowman / Knew the sun was hot that day / So he said let's run / And we'll have fun / Now before I melt away.” Self-preservation is not his strong point. And if I were one of the witches that enchanted that hat, I’d be furious with Frosty.
Songs that Try too Hard
14. Happy Xmas (War is Over): Clearly written by a kid who just took his first college philosophy class and wants to tell everyone about it.
15. Hallelujah (That Leonard Cohen one that plays too often in Starbucks): the Christmas song for emo kids who think it’s a good idea to turn the volume up to 11 to listen to it at 2am after spending the night out drinking with some ex or something else as equally stupid.
Terrible, Terrible, Lazy Lyrics
16. Wonderful Christmastime: Not enough is said about how lazy most Christmas songwriters are. For example, there’s no way that this line is a reference to a real song: “The choir of children sing their song / Ding dong, ding dong / Ding dong, ding, oh, oh.” Good lord, that’s bad. And then, the songwriter just completely mails it in: “ The word is out / About the town / To lift a glass / Ah, don’t look down.” Ah, don’t look down? What does that even mean?
17. Sleigh Ride: All is lost with, “sleigh bells jingle-ing, ring-ting tingle-ing, too” and then stomped in the mud by horses with “and friends are calling ‘yoo hoo.’” There’s just no justification for that kind of lyrical malpractice.
18. Silver Bells: Another in the category of “did you even try?” Just try reading this without gagging: “Ring-a-ling, (ring-a-ling) hear them ring (ting-a-ling).” I don’t care who you get to sing this song, it will never be good.
19. Jingle Bell Rock: Jingle Bell Rock is a middle school poem written five minutes before it’s due in class.
20. Little Drummer Boy: No one should have to say, let alone hear, “Pa rum pum pum pum.” It’s sole function is to keep your focus off the fact that this plot has some serious holes in it: a drummer boy meets some kings who take him to drum behind them while they give gifts to a newly born god-king...wait a minute, that story rules! This song should be so much better than it is.
21. Rocking Around the Christmas Tree: These lyrics make zero sense. Nobody puts a Christmas tree in the middle of the room, especially during a party. That’s just bad planning. Plus, the chronology is absurd: dance. Stop. look at Mistletoe. Dance. Eat pumpkin pie. Go caroling.Pumpkin pie for Christmas? This song’s a hoax. And we have to mention the flat absurdity of “new old-fashioned way.” That’s just a poor excuse of juxtaposition.
The Worst Ones
22. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: The other reindeers were full on bullies, but suddenly once he gets some fame, “then how the reindeer loved him.” They’re the jerks who come calling after you get famous looking for a cut of your wealth. Don’t give in to the reindeers, Rudolph, they just want your money.
23. Mele Kalikimaka: It’s just a hunch, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t a thing. Sounds about as tacky as going to a tiki bar. If you’re reading this in a tiki bar while this song is playing, you’re part of the problem.
24. White Christmas: “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.” Too much MAGA for me, folks.
25. Baby it’s Cold Outside: what’s better than a cozy song about date rape (or at best shame culture societal norms)? It’s the Christmas war battle du jour, but it’s always been terrible. Look, even if you explain away the whole date rape thing, at a fundamental level this guy is just an entitled whiny man-child.
That’s a whole bunch of terrible Christmas pop songs. Our biggest takeaway friends? The recipe for a successful song includes 1 part flute, 1 part jingle bell, and 1 part terrible lyrics. That’s all it takes! So go out there and start assaulting the world with more terrible pop Christmas songs.