I’ll level with you: This became a very unpleasant assignment.
The internet has no shortage of lists about bad Christmas songs. Reading through these lists, though, there’s a lot of redundancy. (See: Newsong’s “The Christmas Shoes,” New Kids On The Block’s “Funky, Funky, Xmas.”) I wanted to dig deeper. What were the absolute worst, most cringe-worthy, most irredeemable Christmas songs with which to torture myself?
The following nine songs drove me to the brink. If you make it through all this music without stopping, you deserve a medal.
‘I’m Gonna E-Mail Santa’ — Billy Gilman
Rosie O’Donnell released a Christmas album in the year 2000. It is very, very bad. (Guest appearances include Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray and Jessica Simpson.) Among the worst songs is “I’m Gonna E-Mail Santa.” Billy Gilman, a 12-year-old country singer who was topping the charts that year and that year only, sings this one. The song’s worst line: “I’m sending it out HTTP / You’ve gotta get this letter ASAP.”
‘White Christmas (Dubstep Remix)’ — Iggy Pop
Iggy Pop’s “White Christmas” was already an all-time bad Christmas song. This remix is, somehow, so much worse. The trick? Trading in Iggy’s lethargic vaudeville piano for dubstep’s WAA-WAA-WAA-WAA aural assault. This remix puts the “woof” in subwoofer.
‘Christmas Unicorn’ — Sufjan Stevens
I’ve tried numerous times to get through all of “Christmas Unicorn,” and succeeded only once. This song lasts 12 minutes and 28 seconds. In the first two minutes, Stevens prances through a bunch of nonsensical lyrics about unicorns, pagan symbolism and American materialism. (He’s posturing as either insightful or silly. I can’t tell which.) The next 10 minutes morph from a hazy medieval jaunt to some kind of psychedelic techno-folk. Sufjan Stevens fans will try to convince you this song is actually good. It’s actually really, really not.
‘I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas’ — Elmo
The song has been around since the 1950s. The original, sung by 10-year-old Gayla Peevey — the Walmart Yodeling Boy of her era — has some goofy charm. Elmo’s 1998 version smashes that charm under his furry red heel. As usual, Elmo refers to himself in the third person (“Elmo wants a hippopotamus for Christmas … ”) and chuckles creepily. I don’t trust him.
‘Spin Me A Christmas’ — Aqua
Lyrics have never been Aqua’s strong suit. On “Spin Me A Christmas,” the eurodance trio throws a bunch of winter references out there, hoping some will stick. One of the weirder lyrics: “Be ready to get stuffed like a turkey / With candy and twinkle lights.” Um, my twinkle lights will do no such thing, sir.
‘Santa Claus Has Got The AIDS This Year’ — Tiny Tim
Yes, this song is actually about Santa having AIDS. According to various reports online, Tiny Tim claims he wrote the song in 1980, before the term AIDS was commonly known, and that he’s actually referring to Ayds, an appetite suppressant candy. The lyrics indicate otherwise: “He won’t be yelling out ‘Ho ho ho ho!’ / But he’ll be screaming out ‘No no no no!’” This song is a monument to poor taste.
‘Have A Cheeky Christmas’ — The Cheeky Girls
They’re called the Cheeky Girls because they wear short shorts. Beyond that, there isn’t much to say. After some hilariously bad reality TV auditions in the early 2000s, these Romanian-born twins hit it big overseas. “Have A Cheeky Christmas” sticks to the group’s formula: act like bimbos, use the word “cheeky” a lot, and set it to some bubblegum European dance-pop.
‘Hark, the Herald Angels Sing’ — Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan released a famously bad Christmas album in 2009. Picking its worst song is, well, not pleasant. If I had to choose one, it’s “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” Dylan barks, burps and wheezes his way through the hymn, and the listener’s only respite is a 20-second interlude with just the backup singers (who sound lovely). This song is as bad as Dylan’s best songs are good — an impressive feat.
‘Santa Claus Is Freaking Me Out’ — Lord Weatherby
I don’t know who you are, Lord Weatherby, but someday, somehow, you will pay for this crime against Christmas. “Santa Claus Is Freaking Me Out” is the worst Christmas song I have ever heard. No question. The song’s unraveling violin line, its lumbering bass — and especially Lord Weatherby’s exaggerated foppish accent — is a slow, agonizing descent into madness. Is this what seasickness feels like?