Studying the best and worst of holiday hits

By Racey Burden | Published Saturday, December 24, 2016

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This time of year, if you listen to the radio at all, you’re constantly bombarded with Christmas music.

I really don’t like Christmas music.

Racey Burden

Racey Burden

I know, I know. How horribly Grinch-like of me. But the thing about my music listening habits is that I’m one of those people who loves to apply songs to either my own life or stories I’ve made up in my head. Every song is part of a soundtrack to me. And I can’t do that with Christmas music. Christmas music has no room for ambiguity, no space left for interpretation. Christmas music is just about Christmas, nothing else.

That being said, you can’t avoid “White Christmas” or “Little Drummer Boy” in December. So I’ve come up with a list of the most acceptable, and least acceptable, songs. The top five I can actually listen to with some level of enjoyment. The bottom half of the list: I hate with a passion.


“Run Rudolph Run,” Chuck Berry

A young Racey learned about Chuck Berry thanks to “Back to the Future,” when Marty plays “Johnny B. Goode” at his parents’ prom. When I discovered Berry also had a song that encourages the most maligned reindeer the way he deserves, I was super excited.

“Mary, Did You Know?” (the Pentatonix version is my favorite)

My mom used to sing this to us kids on Christmas Eve, so I might love it from a purely nostalgic standpoint.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (Jackson 5 version)

Listen, little Michael Jackson had the most impressive vocal range. It really shows here.

“White Christmas,” Bing Crosby

I have to hand it to Irving Berlin – he knew how to write long-lasting music (and the No. 1 selling song of all time). It helps that “White Christmas” is also my second-favorite Christmas movie.

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”

When sung by a large choir, with no instrumentation, I would argue this is the most powerful Christmas carol of all.


“Santa Baby,” Eartha Kitt

Nothing against Kitt’s vocals – they’re perfect for this song – but isn’t it a little greedy to demand thousands of dollars worth of merchandise for being a good person during the year?

“All I Want for Christmas Is You,” Mariah Carey

If this song was only played once every December, I’d love it. As it is, there’s nothing that exhausts me more than hearing the first few chords play over and over and over again.

“Baby It’s Cold Outside,” Dean Martin

I know many people who disagree, but this song creeps me out. The line, “Say, what’s in this drink?” really sends it over the edge.

“Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer,” Elmo & Patsy

“Let’s write a cheerful song about grandma’s horrific death by reindeer stampede, then make a terrible TV movie about it.” – Elmo and Patsy, probably.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Band Aid 30

Maybe they meant well, but the artists who collaborated on this terrible song were participating in the most condescending fundraisers of all time. Yeah, the people of Ethiopia know what Christmas is.

And bonus, because I couldn’t stick to just five bad ones:

“The Christmas Shoes,” NewSong

Just plain attempted emotional manipulation. Every time I hear it I want to run away – and I was once in a play based on this song. I was young. I didn’t know any better.

Racey Burden is a Messenger reporter.

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