We asked NewsWorks readers for the best, and worst, holiday songs. Most seemed to prefer rock, novelty, and Hanukkah songs over the traditional Christmas fare. We listen to a sampling, with comments from NewsWorks readers.
We asked NewsWorks readers for the best, and worst, holiday songs.
Many of you had little love for the classic canon. No “Winter Wonderland.” No “Carol of the Bells.” Not even “Christmas is Coming (the Goose is Getting Fat).”
Most of you preferred alternative fare: rock, novelty, and Hanukkah songs.
Here’s a sampling, with comments from NewsWorks readers.
1. “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses
The 1980s new wave band from Ohio put together a rambling five-minute story-song about an overworked and over-partied young woman who is sick and tired of trying to be cheerful at Christmas. Despite her attempts to isolate herself from Yuletide merriment, she gets her guy in the end.
Matt Stevenson: “Things are pressuring you to be happy and sentimental, to have your heart be touched all the time—and there’s something wrong if you don’t feel that. This song addresses that—and they whip up a happy ending, which is nice.”
Joseph Russell: “The only line I know is, ‘it’s that guy I’ve been chasing all year.’ It’s the only thing about that song I can remember in particular.”
2. “(I’m Spending) Hanukkah in Santa Monica” by Tom Lehrer
Reliably funny Tom Lehrer paired Jewish holidays with the locations that rhyme with them, sometimes using a crowbar to do so. He wants to spend Rosh Hashana in Arizona, and “Yom Kippa” down in “old Mississippa.”
Nadine Bonner: “There’s so many soggy, sentimental songs this time of year. The Santa Monica song is so funny and off the wall … it’s funny, but it’s not stupid funny like ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.'”
3. “The Chanukah Song” by Adam Sandler
The comedian premiered this song in 1994 as a segment for “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live,” then used it for years in his standup shows. The roster of A- and B-list celebrities who are Jewish has forced, Lehrer-esque rhymes. Sandler pairs “smoke your marijuan-ikah” with “have a happy, happy Chanukah.”
Joseph Russell: “He calls out that there are many celebrities that are Jewish. It’s cool that he names people. If you don’t know, you won’t think about it.”
4. “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney
Widely despised, the song by the former Beatle and his then-wife Linda was written in 1989 while the pair was taking a break from a McCartney solo project. Husband and wife purportedly tossed off the song in an evening, repeating the line “simply having a wonderful Christmastime” 14 times.
Even though he has admitted it’s not his best work, the song earns Sir Paul about $400,000 a year, raking in over $15 million gross and counting.
Matt Stevenson: “I hate the badly echoed synthesizers on it. It’s totally out of sequence. It just sounds like Linda McCartney is falling on the keyboard. It’s totally empty-headed.”
5. “Father Christmas” by The Kinks
Straight-up rock ‘n’ roll, in sound and sentiment. The Davies brothers tell the story of a band of street kids who mug a sidewalk Santa, telling him to save his “silly toys” for the “little rich boys.” Apparently the kids’ fathers don’t have jobs, and money is short.
Santa turns the other cheek, asking the listener to think about the less fortunate during the holidays.
Matt Stevenson: “There’s a real thing in rock Christmas songs—you should feel guilty about your Christmas party because there are people who are hungry and homeless. The Kinks song has that message, but they make it funny and aggressive.”
6. “Christmas on the Block” by The Alan Mann Band
This song is out of character for Alan Mann, a guy who came up through the South Street punk scene in Philadelphia.
The tear-jerker tune is based on the true story of a group home for the blind in Upper Darby. The residents would decorate a Christmas tree on their front yard every year, even though they couldn’t see it. As the song goes, it was the most beautiful tree on the block.
In November, it was rerecorded by Mann’s former bandmate, Larry Saklad.
Kenn Kweder: “When Alan wrote that song, I was skeptical. Then I heard it a couple times, and he pulled it off. I don’t know anybody who pulled off a Christmas song, written that well, that I know personally. I know plenty of people who have tried. I tried to write Christmas songs—not only was it trite, it was bizarre.”