Not Tonight, Santa: The 25 Best Fucking Christmas Songs* (Vol. 1)

*based on absolutely no criteria whatsoever.

Ah, December. The one time of year you can listen to the most terrible music on Earth, and no one can judge you for it.

If you’re like me — and let’s face it, you’re probably not, because I am one odd duck — then most holiday music probably makes you want to tear your hair out of your skull, light it on fire, and use it to burn down the nearest shopping mall immediately. (Or something equally destructive.)

In theory, I like Christmas music. It’s catchy, it’s chipper, it spreads good cheer.

In theory.

In actuality, it is bastardized in all kinds of horrendous commercials and radio ads. Ad execs get real cute this time of year, and think it’s clever to change, say, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” to “It’s the most wonderful sale of the year,” or “These are the most wonderful pickles of the year,” or whatever it is they’re trying to sell. Ho, ho, ho. And everyone’s dancing around wearing fleece vests, khakis, and Santa hats in a JCPenney’s, and it’s just not okay. Does “JC” stand for “Jesus Christ”? I don’t think so.

So when I need to feel festive, I tend to bypass the old standards. Not all of them — but you can only hear so much from Bing Crosby and Burl Ives and Frank Sinatra before you start just wishing Jesus had never been born.

What follows are the songs that get me through the holiday season with spirits reasonably bright, and with my ears and head intact. Some are familiar, some may be less so.

So without further ado, my favorite Xmas songs. (I was going to call this a list of “X.-Must songs,” but then people would have thrown tomatoes at me.)

1. “Carol of the Bells” // John Williams
To start us off on a nice, traditional, reverent note. “Carol of the Bells” may just be my favorite Christmas standard, and there’s no better version than this. John Williams is the man, right? It’s brief, grandiose, and a little creepy. (If you can forget it came from a Macaulay Culkin movie.)

2. “Not Tonight, Santa” // Girls Aloud
Girls Aloud is a kitschy, fantastic pop group from the UK that hasn’t gotten much attention here in the States. This tune takes the coy naughtiness of “Santa Baby” to the next level with lyrics like, “You give me something I could never get from Santa Claus.” Gee, I wonder what that could be…

3. “Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me” // The Refreshments
The thing about Christmas music is: there’s so fucking much of it. I’d never heard this particular song, in any form, ever, until sipping cocktails at the Plaza in New York last holiday season. (Yep, I’m pretty fancy.) Back then it was performed live by a lovely lady singer whose name I cannot remember, but since I never figured out where I could obtain that version, this is my favorite.

4.“Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)” // The Ramones
Christmas music tends to be corny. But The Ramones are pretty badass. So you can feel a little bit less like a douche if you put this one on your playlist.

5. “I Want A Hippopatamus For Christmas” // Dr. Demento
And undoing any badass-ness you may have acquired listening to The Ramones do Christmas, here is just about the geekiest Christmas song you could ever listen to. But it cracks me up. It’s just bizarre and random enough that it doesn’t even make me want to die when it gets stuck in my head. Which it inevitably does. Be careful with this one.

6. “Christmas Wrapping” // The Waitresses
Give your holidays a nice 80’s kick with The Waitresses. Who? I have no idea! All I’ve ever heard from The Waitresses is this song, sort of a cult favorite. It’s all about feeling sorry for yourself when the 25th of December comes ’round — think: Ebenezer Scrooge meets Cyndi Lauper. The combination you’ve been searching for all your life, I’m sure.

7. “Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)” // The Darkness
You may, by now, have noticed that it is pretty impossible for any band to do Christmas music without some sort of cheese factor. Even if you’re a hair band with tattoos and guitars, guess what — if you’re singing a Christmas song, it’s going to be at least 75% ridiculous. And so this is. But I love it anyway.

8. “Suite from Batman Returns” // Danny Elfman
A lot of people adore their Nightmare Before Christmas when it comes to gothing up the yuletide. And sure, that’s a good one. But for my money, there’s nothing that says “have yourself a merry little Christmas” like watching the Ice Princess plummet to her death on top of the button that lights up Gotham City’s Christmas tree. Ho, ho, ho! And Danny Elfman’s excellent score for the movie is full of Christmas-y things like choral “ooh”s and tinkling bells. Even if it’s all in service of a tar-spewing Penguin-man whose master plan is to kill a lot of children on Christmas Eve. Oh, and FYI: mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it…

9. “Lonely This Christmas” // Elvis Presley
I wholeheartedly recommend closing your eyes and pretending this is Elvis. In truth, Elvis does sing this song, except I like this version that only sounds like Elvis even better. But watching these guys sing it totally ruins it. Please just trust me on this.

10. “Christmas Time Is Here” // A Charlie Brown Christmas
And now for a bit of childhood nostalgia. Of course, musically I recommend the version without dialogue, but I couldn’t resist using the actual clip here. It’s just so precious! This one totally makes me feel like a kid.

11. “I Will Be Hating You For Christmas” // Everclear
Here’s a fact: I was all about Everclear for a brief time in my life. It was right before the time when endless radio play of “Father Of Mine” nearly drove me into a psych ward, through no fault of Everclear’s own. So here’s a Christmas carol with some bite to it, just in case that Charlie Brown business was too sweet and fluffy for you. This one makes me feel like a slightly older kid — say, 15 or so — and full of warm, fuzzy hatred.

12. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” // Mariah Carey
I know. I know. But any list of the best holiday music is incomplete without this well-known and beloved staple. Seriously, this song never gets old or dated. You can ignore the video of the lip-syncing sailors — or not. I just wanted a version that didn’t have an ad in front of it.

Click here for the continuation of this list.

(It’s not like I’m trying to be a big deal and draw it out like I’m American Idol, but the page was getting kind of wonky with 25 videos embedded in it.)

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