When it comes to radio, I like to know what to expect. In the industry it's referred to as programming format, and internet-based services such as Pandora have perfected it, playing exactly what you want to hear before you even know you want to hear it. A dependable format is like an aural guardian angel, soothing you with reassurances that you won't be forced to listen to Joan Baez segue to Insane Clown Posse. Or vice-versa. As someone who hasn't used the radio wake-up on my alarm clock since Black Sabbath's Iron Man destroyed my mood for an entire week in 1986, format is important to me.
Format appears to have been lost on 93.3, which has been playing Christmas music since the week before Halloween. Christmas music, in and of itself, is not a format. It's a sub-genre that can take all kinds.
Just yesterday I was driving south on Ferry Road, gliding up the (third-time's a charm!) smooth ribbon of tree-lined roadway, listening to Andrea Bocelli's unbelievably wonderful rendition of O Holy Night. With tears in my eyes I was on the verge of a religious conversion. Then, suddenly, chipmunks. Luckily I had not yet reached the bridge (and I'm not really that impulsive.)
So, without further ado, my list of Christmas songs I could do without, in no particular order. One woman's opinion. Please weigh in, to add or argue for clemency.
Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, Randy Brooks
So Grandma's all lubed up on eggnog and she gets greased by an equally compromised Santa? And nobody in the family seems too concerned about it? The storyline is bad enough, and the "music" is worse.
Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, Bruce Springsteen
Thunder Road is one of my favorite songs of all time, but this particular Springsteen arrangement, beginning with the creepy bells that jingle randomly followed immediately by that first menacing measure of "you better watch out" in a voice gravelly with cigarettes and cheap domestic lager? That's the stuff that decades of psychotherapy are built on.
Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas), John Denver
See above, the al-anon version. Nothing says happy holidays like begging Daddy to stay sober.
The Twelve Pains of Christmas, Bob Rivers
It's not hard enough to get out of bed in the winter? There's not enough Prozac at the to make me like this song.
Jingle Bells, Barking Dogs
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Jimmy Boyd
Great choices here: either there is no such thing as Santa or mom gets around. Take your pick, kid. Either way, the combination of juvenile vocals with adult subject matter unnerves, like seeing a young child cast in a Stephen King film.
Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree, Brenda Lee
This song is so gosh-darned festive and sugary-sweet I go into a diabetic coma every time I hear it. Which, if it were up to me, would be never again.
Santa Baby, various
I just don't think it's kind to dangle that kind of overt sexuality over a man who spends his days with elves.
Do They Know It's Christmas?, Band-Aid
This song raised millions for Ethiopian famine relief, which is a wonderful thing. The song itself is grim and condescending. Worse, it launched the trend, which continues unabated, of self-aggrandizing celebrities ensuring that their charitable giving is done before a global audience.
Of course they know it's Christmas. The Christian ones, anyway, of which there are millions. They're Africans, not Martians. The worst line of all? "And the Christmas bells that ring there/ Are the clanging chimes of doom/ Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you." Nice. Maybe I'll read that to my kids this year – The Night Before Christmas teaches nothing about the realities of social injustice.
Turns out Bob Geldof, who wrote the song, agrees with me. In an interview last month with Australia's The Daily Telegraph, he admitted "I am responsible for two of the worst songs in history. One is Do They Know It's Christmas?, the other one is We Are The World. Any day soon, I will go to the supermarket, head to the meat counter and it will be playing. Every [expletive] Christmas."