When it comes to contemporary radio jams, Christmas music (along with Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song“) can become aggressively annoying within just a few days, but like any Sufjan fan knows, some festive tunes can warrant plays in mid-April.
To celebrate this dichotomy, The Beat staff lined up the most teeth-grindingly awful contemporary Santa-rock alongside our very favorite alt-christmas hits to impress your out-of-touch family with.
Best known for their late ’90s single, “Flagpole Sitta“ - that, unfortunately, keeps getting attributed to Blink 182 – Harvey Danger has had some bad luck getting their due credit. But, one thing Harvey Danger can take pride in is their working class Christmas anthem, “Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas (Sometimes).” Cynical and fuzzy – it’s got the pop sensibilities of Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair,” and the angry power of The National’s “Mr. November,” without unnecessary jingle bells or any other trite Christmasy fall backs.
Justin Bieber – Mistletoe
Nothing makes dying of hypothermia in the snow more appealing than Justin Bieber singing about how he is so caught up with the beauty of his “shawty” that he just may miss Christmas. Really, Biebs? Not only are you like 5’2″, which diminishes your right to call someone “shawty,” but the sleigh bells and nauseating amount of times that you use the word “mistletoe” is proof that you know full well it’s that time of the year. Red, white, and blue tears are shed at the realization that this Canadian pop singer has more of a pull on our youth than social activists.
Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson – Winter Song
Amy Grant’s Christmas album aside (ah, youth!), “Winter Song” by indie duo Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson has to be the most relaxing thing… Ever. It’s like going out and plopping down in the snow to make an angel while birds sing, and then seeing your long-lost best friend who has just brought a box of chocolates and is offering them to you, and also wants to do yoga, and then you both meet the Dalai Lama and he gives you a bouquet of roses.
Ali Lohan – Christmas Magic
No family exhibits the Christmas values of peace on earth and goodwill towards men like the Lohans. This time, Lindsay’s little sister, Ali, reminds us all what makes Christmas, well, magical. With the voice of a Disney Channel starlet and the eyes of a zombie, Ali stumbles her way through a green screen winter wonderland with the transition effects of a sloppy Powerpoint presentation circa 2003. Ali holds all the sugary sweetness and contemporary traditions of the red seasonal Starbucks cups—it’s a pleasure to see her back in our lives every year.
Calamine – Flicker
Okay, so maybe this wayyy more about getting dumped than it has anything to do with Christmas, but the chorus uses the phrase “there’s no Christmas in July,” so it’s a go. Not unlike Polaris, Pete & Pete’s resident band, Calamine wrote up the theme for Sealab 2021 and remained relatively unrecognized despite having a full repertoire of excellent pop songs.
Mary Kate & Ashley – Christmas Medley
The Leader loves MK & A just as much as the next kid born in the early ’90s, but it is forever baffling how many duets these pitchless cuties churned out, from “I am the Cute One“ to the now meme’d ”Gimme Pizza,” the Olsens made ears bleed all year round, but Christmas got hit hard and fast with their full length Christmas album, “Cool Yule” – the perfect ironic/retro stocking stuffer when paired with their blockbuster hit To Grandmother’s House We Go for added giggles.
Thrice – Carol of The Bells
I once had a philosophy teacher tell me, “Oh, I love this band, Thrice… They’re pretty underground; you probably have never heard of them.” After my want to smack her subsided, I went on a “let’s find Christmas songs covered by coolio bands” binge, which brought me, fittingly enough, into the arms of this funky rendition of “Carol of the Bells.” Although I now listen to music that’s pretty underground that you’ve probably never heard of, this Thrice cover is still one of my favorites.
New Song – The Christmas Shoes
Pulling out every cheap, emotional ploy imaginable, New Song’s “The Christmas Shoes” follows a poor, sad little boy with a dying mother, and the narrator who helps pay for her present. How Selfless! But, wait, let’s take a step back here. “The Christmas Shoes” isn’t so much about generosity as it is about being braggy: “I laid the money down, I just had to help him out” – well aren’t you just the greatest man on earth. Barf. Also, musically, it’s just really offensive.
Run DMC – Christmas in Hollis
Before Rev Run starred in MTV’s only non-trashy reality show “Run’s House,” he was revolutionizing hip hop culture with Run-DMC. In the characteristically goofy music video for “Christmas in Hollis,” the trio spots Santa on his visit to Hollis, Queens. Because they’re pop-icons, Santa gives them a million dollars, along with big, chunky chains, Adidas Superstars, and bowler hats to add to their collection. Christmas has never, ever been cooler.
Bright Eyes – Little Drummer Boy
No seasonal collection will put the icicles in your heart quite like Bright Eyes’ disastrous A Christmas Album. Conor Oberst’s folksy voice might be suited towards a post-breakup jam or a soul-searching road trip mix, but his one-second-from-crying warble makes “Little Drummer Boy” the Grinch of every Christmas playlist. With every miserable note, he seems set to “Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum” all the way to the liquor store to drink himself into the new year.