Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stupid Christmas Songs

Santa's not "rocking out." He's just really frustrated with some 
of the  stupid songs he has to listen to.

Christmas may have passed, but there are things about the holiday that stay with you long after it's over. Like songs that get stuck in your head. Now, I love me some carols. But there are some horrible, horrible Christmas songs out there. These are a few of them...

# 7 Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer
Hit-and-run deaths make for charming
Christmas tree ornaments!

YouTube
Lyrics

I'm not opposed to dark humour. I just don't find this song funny. At all. And I can't get over the feeling that it's sexist, or ageist, or both; what with this...


Now we're all so proud of Grandpa, 
He's been takin' this so well.
See him in there watchin' football,
Drinkin beer and playin' cards with cousin Mell.


Grandpa really doesn't seem to care that his wife just got killed. This song isn't the only place where I've come across the idea that old men just want to get rid of their wives once they aren't youthfully attractive any more. It's not an idea that I find amusing.


#6 Mary, Did You Know?
Pictured: Mary being the first to know


YouTube
Lyrics

I just find this song condescending.

Mary, did you know
that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know
that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you're holding is the Great, I Am.


Yes, Mary did know all of this. In fact, she was the first mortal to find out about it. So stop acting like you were in on some great irony and she wasn't. Asshole.


#5 Here Comes Santa Clause
What is this? I can't even...


YouTube
Lyrics

As a child this was one of my favourite Christmas songs. I think my attention span was such that I never really listened to the last verse. It's kind of a devious song; the first couple of verses are all about reindeer and toys, and then the last verse slaps you with this:

Peace on earth will come to all
If we just follow the light
Lets give thanks to the lord above
‘Cause Santa Clause comes tonight


Is Santa coming to give us toys or to lead us into the light of Christ? Is he a jolly old elf, or a missionary? Make up your mind, Bing!


#4 Last Christmas
Have a pouty Christmas!

YouTube
Lyrics

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


This isn't even a proper Christmas song. It's a self-pity anthem that happens to be set during Christmas. The singer had a one-night stand a year ago, still isn't over it, and now is attempting to throw shade at the girl by saying, "oh, you just weren't special enough!" Dude, she doesn't even remember you!

Tell me baby
Do you recognize me?
Well
It's been a year
It doesn't surprise me


Why are you even talking to her? She clearly doesn't care what you do with your heart. And I don't think you should be gifting your heart to anyone new either, at least not until you're able to find self-validation outside of a relationship.


#3 Grown-Up Christmas List
Wishing really hard that the world was a
better place.
YouTube
Lyrics

Do you remember me?
I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies
Well I'm all grown up now
Can you still help somehow?
I'm not a child but my heart still can dream

So here's my lifeful wish
My grown up Christmas List
Not for myself
But for a world in need

No more lives torn apart
That wars will never start
And time will heal our hearts
Every man will have a friend
That right will always win
And love will never end
This is my grown up Christmas List

Ah, Christmas... the time of year that we can all ask Santa to make the world a better place... instead of actually doing something to help.

Also, I don't appreciate the implication that it's not grown-up to want - or, y'know, need - stuff for Christmas.


#2 Baby It's Cold Outside
Why don't you come in and warm up with Santa?
Lyrics
YouTube

This one is kind of personal, because I have a dear friend who insists that this song is not about date-rape. Allow me to explain why it is.

A man and a woman spent an evening together. She has to go, and he tries to pressure her to stay the night. His lines are in parentheses.

I really can't stay
(but baby it's cold outside)
I've got to go away
(but baby it's cold outside)
This evening has been
(been hoping that you'd drop in)
So very nice
(I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice)


This is not cute or charming. By repeatedly ignoring her "no," the man is engaging in boundary-testing behaviour used by rapists to choose their victims.


My mother will start worry
(beautiful whats your hurry)
My father will be pacing the floor
(listen to the fireplace roar)
So really I'd better scurry
(beautiful please don't hurry)
but maybe just a half a drink more
(put some records on while I pour)

The thing that makes me sick about this song is that the woman has actual reasons why she has to go - specifically, her family - which are dismissed out of hand. She is depicted as playing hard-to-get. It's like the song writers are saying, "Don't be fooled by this line. She doesn't actually have other relationships or obligations that she has to worry about - she's just being coy to reel you in." No matter what a woman says, she's not to be taken at her word.

the neighbors might faint
(baby it's bad out there)

Again, an actual real concern - being slut-shamed the next day - is dismissed out of hand. It's not a serious concern that women have, just a line they throw around. Even though the song is a duet with a part for a woman, the woman's perspective is entirely absent from this song. She is objectified as the potential conquest.

say what's in this drink
(no cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how
(your eyes are like starlight now)
to break this spell
(I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell)

I don't think a woman has to be sober to consent to sex. But pressuring a woman to have alcohol in order to impair her judgement so that she'll have sex when she's already said no - that's something else. That's something date-rapists do.

I ought to say "no, no, no sir"
(mind if I move in closer)
at least I'm gonna say that I tried
(what's the sense in hurtin' my pride)

The entire song seems like it was written by a misogynist "Nice Guy"-turned-pick-up-artist. The woman in the song basically reveals that she just says "no" so that she won't look like a slut - she doesn't really mean it. Because that's what women do. And what's the most important thing at stake here - more important than all of the woman's previously stated reasons for leaving? The man's pride.

I really can't stay
(oh baby don't hold out)


both:baby it's cold out side

"Oh baby don't deprive me of teh sex!"

I simply must go
(but baby it's cold outside)
the answer is no

If this song was not about date rape, this is where it would end. But it doesn't!

(but baby it's cold outside)
your welcome has been
(how lucky that you droped in)
so nice and warm
(look out the window at that storm)
my sister will be suspicious
(gosh your lips look delcious)
my brother will be there at the door
(waves upon the tropical shore)

This song really highlights the double bind that women find themselves in when it comes to the social consequences of sex. If you have sex, you risk being slut-shamed. If you don't, you're a frigid bitch.

my maiden aunts mind is vicious
(gosh your lips are delicous)

This is something else that I've seen misogynists write on the internet. That is, the idea that slut shaming isn't an element of patriarchy, it's just something that sexually frustrated women do to prevent anyone else from having fun.

Also, it's funny how the dude is running out of sweet-talk.

but maybe just a cigarette more
(never such a blizzard before)
I've gotta get home
(but baby you'd freeze out there)
say lend me a coat
(it's up to your knees out there)
you've really been grand
(I thrill when you touch my hand)
but don't you see?
(how can you do this thing to me?)
there's bound to be talk tomorrow
(think of my lifelong sorrow)
at least there will be plenty implied
(if you got pneumonia and died)
I really can't stay
(get over that old out)


both:baby it's cold
baby it's cold outside

"Get over that old  out." Throughout the song, the fact that women have to face social consequences for sex that men do not is utterly dismissed. But even if it was just an "out", the fact that the woman in the scenario is using it means that she doesn't want to stay. Her motivation is really besides the point. If she doesn't want to stay, she doesn't want to stay, and that the man is haranguing her into doing something she doesn't want to do is what makes this song date rape-y. The entire song is premised on the notion of attraction-as-pursuit - a pillar of rape culture.

Of course, one could make excuses for the song, saying that its a relic of a by-gone era. But it's still being played on the radio. It's still being covered by contemporary artists. As though there is nothing wrong with it.


#1 The Christmas Shoes
The kind of shoes that a kid would probably buy for
his mother

Lyrics
YouTube

"The Christmas Shoes" is a truly special song. Though simple, the story it tells manages to demonstrate several things that are wrong with North American society in terms of attitudes towards poverty, gender, religion and consumerism. At the same time, it is highly contrived to the point of being absurd.

It was almost Christmas time, there I stood in another line
Tryin' to buy that last gift or two, not really in the Christmas mood
Standing right in front of me was a little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing 'round like little boys do
And in his hands he held a pair of shoes

The first thing that bothers me about this song: why is a child buying shoes? I don't know how representative my experience is, but as a kid, I didn't think about shoes; not unless the ones I was wearing happened to be pinching my toes. They were just things that you had to wear. If I had gotten shoes as a gift I would have been hugely disappointed. It would never have occurred to me to get shoes as a gift for someone else. Moreover, I hated shoe shopping - all the sizing, and waiting for the sales people to bring out different shoes, and trying them on, made for a frustrating process. I would try to hurry past the shoe store whenever I went shopping with my parents. But say that child-me absolutely had to buy shoes - I probably would have gotten the wrong size anyways.

Which is all to say: from the beginning, this song has broken my suspension of disbelief.

His clothes were worn and old, he was dirty from head to toe

Okay, so this kid knows how to buy shoes on his own, but he doesn't know how to bathe himself? I get that the songwriter is trying to establish that the kid is poor, but what is this, Dickensian London? There seems to be this idea that if you're not entirely helpless, then your poverty is your own fault. So in order to be worthy of the narrator's charity, the songwriter made the child as wretchedly poor as possible.

And when it came his time to pay
I couldn't believe what I heard him say


Chorus:
Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

Again - why shoes? If I wanted to make someone look beautiful, the first thing I would get for her is a dress, or maybe a hat. But more importantly: you know what would probably make the mom smile more than shoes? Spending her final hours with her children. That's the thing about this song - it tries so hard to be all Christian-y with a good moral, and ends up being a parable of consumerism. Jesus doesn't care how you look; "blessed are the poor" and all that. It seems like the child has confused Jesus with a bad gay stereotype, "Girl, you are not getting through the pearly gates wearing those."

He counted pennies for what seemed like years
Then the cashier said, "Son, there's not enough here"
He searched his pockets frantically
Then he turned and he looked at me
He said "Mama made Christmas good at our house
Though most years she just did without
Tell me Sir, what am I going to do,
Somehow I've got to buy her these Christmas shoes"

And again, it bothers me that the songwriter felt it was necessary for the kid's family to live in abject poverty for the story to work. Does the narrator really need to know that a child's dying mother was the epitome of domestic martyrdom before he considers spotting him for a gift? What if the boy said, "Mama made Christmas good at our house, she spent a lot of money to make sure everything was perfect;" or conversely, "Mama sank into a depression after she lost her job, and last Christmas was really sad, so I wanted to make this year's nicer"?

There is an ideology about who is worthy of help that the song plays into. You need to have done everything conceivable to try to boot-strap yourself ("making good" while "doing without") and at the same time be without hope (say, dying of cancer). And when someone living in poverty fails to live up to these requirements it's easy to villanize them as "welfare bums" or people trying to cheat the system.

In either of those alternate scenarios, the kid's mother is still dying, and he's still a kid who doesn't know how much shoes cost.

So I laid the money down, I just had to help him out
I'll never forget the look on his face when he said
Mama's gonna look so great

The fixation with making sure the mother looks good at the hour of her death is simply sexist. You'd think that when someone is in their final days, beauty standards could be cast aside, and that person could be allowed to simply exist, as comfortably as possible, in the company of her loved ones. But no. Could you imagine a song being written a kid buying a tie for his dying father to make sure that he'll look handsome for Jesus? I don't think so.

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

Am I the only one who finds it embarrassingly trite when song writers tack on the word "tonight" to the end of a chorus in an attempt to make sound more poignant?

I knew I'd caught a glimpse of heaven's love
As he thanked me and ran out
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me just what Christmas is all about

Considering that the central theme of Christianity is self-sacrifice, this is some pretty self-centered reasoning. God gave a woman cancer so that her son could remind some dude of the true meaning of Christmas. Which, apparently, is that it's more important to get nice gifts than to spend time with your loved ones.

And then, because it wasn't corny enough already, the song ends with a child singing the chorus.

The sad thing is, that after working retail for six hours on my feet, this song did bring unironic tears to my eyes.

* * *

I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season, and a happy New Year too!

Image source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

14 comments:

  1. I've never heard "Last Christmas," but I find all of the others annoying as hell. "Here Comes Santa Claus" is still kinda cute to me but it gets really old, really fast. "Christmas Shoes" just makes me want to shoot myself. It is simply awful music and depressing as hell. I think they even made a Hallmark movie based on it. Ugh.

    I recently heard "Baby It's Cold Outside" with a woman singing the date rape-y part and a man singing the part about how he "really can't stay"... it was still weird.

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  2. I never paid any attention to the lyrics of "baby it's cold outside" but damn that's pretty creepy and rapey.

    But Christmas Shoes has got to be one of the strangest and most ridiculous songs ever recorded. Patton Oswalt has a whole routine about it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iq10bz3PxyY


    Here's my favorite Christmas song:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Q1mKdd4_uU

    ReplyDelete
  3. good timing - i properly listened "baby it's cold outside" for the first time a few days ago, and it made me feel sick. it's just gross. (i didn't realise it was a 'christmas song', though.)

    i do like 'last christmas' because i imagine the narrator stamping his foot and pouting like a 7 year old. it cracks me up! my partner and i sing it to each other with melodramatic gestures.

    ReplyDelete
  4. P.S. HAHA OMG! I've never heard the Christmas Shoes song (thankfully not one that gets airtime on Australian radio) before, so I found it on YouTube. It is terrible!

    ReplyDelete
  5. YES to everything you said here!

    Especially the part about why the f*** a kid would buy shoes in the first place. That might actually play into the whole ideology surrounding who's worthy of charity that you were talking about. Would the singer still have coughed up the money if the kid had been trying to buy something more frivolous, like a necklace (which to me makes a lot more sense as a gift that's supposed to make someone look 'beautiful')? Shoes are a necessity.

    And seriously, people need to read this passage of the gospel more often: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Jesus would probably like the mom more if she wasn't wearing expensive shoes

    @ David
    I got a good laugh out of that video!

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Ghouldilocks

    Yeah, either way, the song is about attraction as pursuit and not respecting what one of the parties is saying.

    @ David

    Thanks for linking that video, it's really funny. Originally I wanted to make this a humourous post, but then I got carried away with the serious analysis. /typical humourless feminist.

    @ nixwillaims

    Yeah, "Baby It's Cold Outside" really has nothing to do with Christmas, but it's on several times a day on the radio station that plays nothing but Christmas music all December, so it counts.

    The way you sing "Last Christmas" is the only way that it should be sung.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hahahaha! Your breakdown of these songs is hilarious and right freaking on.

    I tried to explain to a co-worker why I thought "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is so problematic and she rolled her eyes and waved me away with the excuse that "it's old. Things were different back then. Besides, I really think she actually wanted to stay." Blah blah blah. It made me mad and I had to just walk away.

    I am a sucker for the shoe song and cry every time. There is also a made for tv movie created around it that is equally sappy and makes me bawl my eyes out. I try not to watch it unless I am alone. For some reason I just can't change the channel.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have never heard that "Christmas Shoes" song, and I'm so very glad of that. So cheesy...so stupid...and shoes for someone bedridden? Maybe I should write a Christmas song about a kid who buys a bike for his quadriplegic dad.

    I've also never heard that "Mary Did You Know" song...and it seems like I'm not missing much. (And yeah, I do seem to remember the Bible mentioning that an angel has sex with Mary to beget Jesus...so unless Mary traumatically blocked the angelrape out afterwards, I'd say she knows her kid is going to be, how do you say, "special".)

    Coincidentally, I made a similarly themed post on my own blog on Christmas eve: http://shesaidpop.blogspot.com/2010/12/overthinking-christmas-carols.html

    We both agree that "Baby it's Cold Outside" has a seriously antifeminist undertone, but aside from that I singled out different songs from you so maybe you'll be entertained.

    ReplyDelete
  9. @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ BOYCOTT CHRISTMAS @@@@@@@@@@@@@

    Christmas is highly offensive to the growing population of seculars and other non christian belief systems in North America. Christmas should only be allowed in private settings, prohibiting its inclusion in commercial establishments and radio and television broadcasts.

    We as a growing community of nonbelievers are letting our voices be heard loud and clear. There must be firmer guidelines set regarding separation of church and state.

    The egregious impact of Christmas has allowed generations of children to be mislead by all of its irrational underpinnings. The greed, the selfishness and self serving desire to acquire more material goods, and even expecting to be garnished with gifts is one of the most disgusting traits of the wasteful, greedy North Americans.

    How about we pull the plug on Christmas once and for all. Imagine all of the energy saved not having all of those silly twinkling lights blinking away all night long.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Why you give the title like stupid.Christmas songs give happiness to everyone.You can also watch Jingle Bells Lyrics

    ReplyDelete

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