Five Christmas Songs That Don't Suck

Because the Trans-Siberian Orchestra should be exiled to Siberia.


by Maura Hehir & Alex Heigl

Christmas music is absurd. What if every holiday was celebrated with music dedicated to it that began a month in advance, played in all major stores and public places? Can you imagine a Fourth of July that began on June 1 with radio stations playing nothing but Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Grand Funk Railroad? (Actually, we are, and it's kind of awesome.) But regardless of your stance on Christmas music, you probably need a new playlist for your holiday party. Well, ask and ye shall receive: here are five Christmas songs that kick ass, and a whole Spotify playlist for your next party.

1. "Christmas in New Zealand," the Long Ryders

The Long Ryders are a deeply underappreciated Paisley Underground band with a wicked sense of humor and songwriting chops to match. "Christmas in New Zealand" appears on their 1985 album State of Our Union, and it just seems incredibly bizarre at first (the "Feed the world" bridge, the spoken-word interludes, and the closing line "I hope Santa's not a skinhead"), but we defy you to listen to it without a smile on your face.

 

2. "Let's Make Christmas Merry, Baby," Amos Milburn

"Christmas" and "sexy" rarely go together, but there're enough innuendos packed into this slow-burning Christmas jam to make Mae West blush. (Old-timey reference: nailed it) Milburn's sultry voice and drunk-sounding piano solo (his "Jingle Bells" quote at the beginning made me laugh out loud the first time I heard it) provide the perfect accompaniment to a long evening in front of the fire.

 

3. "Everything is One Big Christmas Tree," Magnetic Fields

Most Christmas songs fall into two categories: entirely too cheerful and thus depressing, or depressing and thus depressing. But this one manages to acknowledge that while Christmas can suck, if you have a beer and try not to dwell on the sad stuff, everything will be just peachy. It doesn't hurt that Stephin Merritt imbues humor (and German?) into the lyrics — because Christmas should never be taken too seriously if you don't want to end up bawling into your milk and cookies.

 

4. "Fairytale of New York," the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl

It's not news that "Fairytale of New York" is a Christmas song that doesn't suck. It's beloved in Ireland and the UK, and often voted as the #1 Christmas song of all time in polls by media outlets over there. It's my personal favorite Christmas song, mostly because of the alternately tender and abrasive lyrics, but also because of the divine contrast between Shane MacGowan's growl and Kirsty MacColl's mature, feminine vocals.

 

5. "Another Lonely Christmas," Prince

There are a lot of Christmas songs about loss and loneliness, but only one that will inspire the kind of sadness that makes you want to drink banana daiquiris 'til you black out. Prince tells the story of a sad, lonely man pounding down said daiquiris on Christmas as he mourns his lover's death. I mean, can you picture that image? Prince thrives on this kind of high-camp absurdity ("Batdance," anyone?), and "Another Lonely Christmas" is hysterically overwrought, but it has convinced me to drink a banana daiquiri on Christmas more than once.

Commentarium (32 Comments)

Dec 22 11 - 1:18am
D Suzanne

Fairytale of New York...Best. Song. Ever.

I cry and laugh with this tune. :)

Dec 22 11 - 3:16am
Yanqui

"Fairytale of New York" is not only far and away the best Christmas song of all-time, it's one of the best songs, period. D Suzanne said everything about it that needs saying. It gets me every time.

Dec 22 11 - 10:52am
Abby

How about "white wine in the sun" by Tim Minchin. As an extreme southerner living tin the
UK I can really appreciate this one.

Dec 22 11 - 10:34pm
D Suzanne

Oooh, good pick!

Dec 26 11 - 10:15am
profrobert.

How about "seasons in the sun" by Terry Jacks. As an extreme homophobe living tin
the
basement I can really appreciate this one.

Dec 27 11 - 12:23am
David

White Wine in the Sun is my new favorite Christmas song!

Dec 22 11 - 11:55am
Alex

christmas party by the walkmen is a favourite of mine

Dec 22 11 - 12:15pm
Lady

"Together at Christmas" by moe.

Dec 22 11 - 12:25pm
SxPxDxCx

Tom Waits - Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis is great and I really have an irrational love of the The Waitresses - Christmas Wrapping

Dec 22 11 - 6:18pm
TFT

You "nailed it" with the Waitresses.

Dec 26 11 - 10:17am
LiquidCourage

YEAH BABY! I nailed a waitress with my throbbing stinkhammer Xmas Eve. She was a GREAT lay!

Dec 22 11 - 12:43pm
Pablo G

Check out Miles Davis Blue Xmas..The hippest Xmas tune ever..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnRmHszDaa0

Dec 22 11 - 12:48pm
Wossamotta

I always sort of liked it, but Miles, in his autobiography, had really bad things to say about Bob Dorough.

Dec 22 11 - 2:02pm
Bo

I love these lists! I recommend "Old Toy Trains" by Roger Miller and "Christmas Past" by Mike Ireland.

Dec 22 11 - 4:35pm
-d

Father Christmas by the Kinks

Dec 22 11 - 4:47pm
SxPxDxCx

The Christmas Trees On Fire by Holly Golightly

Dec 22 11 - 5:01pm
Dan

If this is the "best" that's out there, I guess now we know why the recording industry is swirling down the bowl....

Dec 22 11 - 5:51pm
MikeyFresh

Fairytale of New York <3

Dec 22 11 - 6:43pm
Kevin

Five better picks:

"A Great Big Sled" by The Killers
"Christmas, Baby (Please Come Home) by Darlene Love, later by U2
"Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band-Aid
"The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole
"All I Want for Christmas is You" by Mariah Carey (yep)

Dec 22 11 - 6:58pm
milhaus

1. "Fairytale Of NY" as discussed.
2. "Christmas in Hollis", Run-DMC
3. "Greensleeves/What Child Is This?"- John Coltrane. Yep. It counts.
4. "Blue Christmas"- Low
5. "Christmas"- Beat Happening

Dec 22 11 - 7:11pm
MunchnerKindl

What about Christmas songs from, say, medieval times? Those are quite pretty, frankly...
For example:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2SXELbHuic

Dec 22 11 - 9:32pm
Yup.

Lady Gaga's "Xmas Tree"

Dec 22 11 - 9:49pm
EMcK

Happy Christmas War Is Over is my vote for the best Christmas song with a message we could all be thinking about.

Dec 22 11 - 10:40pm
Lizzy

Christmas at the Zoo - The Flaming Lips

Dec 23 11 - 1:18am
Colin

What? No "Chiron Beta Prime" by Jonathan Coulton?

Dec 23 11 - 3:08am
JonahB

"Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland" by Grandaddy.

Dec 23 11 - 3:24am
MotoMan

This list seems to be an arbitrary list of Christmas songs and has nothing to do with not sucking. The Pogues was a good call but that seems to have been random luck. Maybe have someone write the list who isn't trying to take revenge on Christmas music?

- Santa Claus / Throwing Muses
- The Christians and the Pagans / Dar Williams
- 2000 Miles / The Pretenders
- Make it Home / Juliana Hatfield
- Happy XMas (War is Over) / John Lennon

Dec 23 11 - 10:33am
Tobi

The Kinks - Father Christmas :)

Dec 23 11 - 11:24am
Ditto

No love for "Christmas in Hollis?"

Dec 23 11 - 4:36pm
a jew

all Christmas music sucks, but "Christmas in Hollis" deserves some kudos. oh, and that song by The Waitresses...

Dec 26 11 - 10:43am
Publius

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Canon rocks.