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SpinnerIntroduction. Spinner was an online magazine (now defunct), and I enjoyed their lists of the "12 Worst" and "12 Best Songs of Christmas" so much that I just had to preserve them after the rag went belly up. Their "worst" list was brave enough to sacrifice a few sacred cows (including several of my Top 100 Songs) while their "best" list is genuinely eclectic - and hip enough to include latter day classics by the White Stripes and Fountains of Wayne. Still, I couldn't help but notice that no less than five tracks are pulled from the Very Special Christmas series - something I'll attribute to the tender age of the compilers. Regardless, I am proud to say I own all 12 best songs of Christmas - and all but one of the worst (Clay Aiken... insert joke here).

spinner 12 Worst Songs

  1. Do They Know It's Christmas (Band Aid, 1984) [close]
    Band Aid, Do They Know It's ChristmasFile this, charitably, under Good Intentions. The cream of the U.K. pop crop - including Bob Geldof and the guy from Spandau Ballet - banged this out in one 24-hour session. Unfortunately, despite the heroic tub-thumping of Phil Collins, it sounds like it. And - with lyrics like "Tonight thank God it's them, instead of you" - you can't exactly take it out caroling. [buy]
  2. Please, Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas) (John Denver, 1975) [close]
    John Denver, Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas)The late Rocky Mountain troubadour sometimes introduced this song as a funny little ditty that took on more serious overtones over time. It's hard to see what could have been funny about a seven-year-old pleading with Daddy not to pass out under the tree. Not when you consider that Denver had two DUI arrests before his death in 1997. [buy]
  3. Oi to the World (No Doubt, 1997) [close]
    No Doubt, Oi to the WorldCovering the Vandals no doubt shored up Gwen's punk cred, and the storyline - Hadji the Punk and Trevor the Skinhead learning to live together in harmony - just warms the old cockles every time. But there's something about making a cutesy play on the phrase "Joy to the World" using the skinhead's "Oi!" that just doesn't sit right. [buy]
  4. Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight) (Ramones, 1989) [close]
    Ramones, Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight)When Joey Ramone sees trees of green - red roses, too - it truly does sound like a wonderful world. But when he calls out to the stray flying mammals on his tenement rooftop - where is Rudolph? Where is Blitzen? - to help save him from another bickering Christmas, it's just too absurd. [buy]
  5. Merry Christmas With Love (Clay Aiken, 2004) [close]
    Clay Aiken, Merry Christmas With LoveThis song comes to us warmed over from an old seasonal pot luck by contemporary Christian artist Sandy Patti. Just as the lonely subject despairs that there's "no reason for trimming the tree" (Was she dumped? Lost in a remote wing of her McMansion?), the carolers remind her of the true meaning of Christmas. Was that a sigh of relief, or are you choking on your peppermint? [buy]
  6. Santa's Beard (Beach Boys, 1964) [close]
    Beach Boys, Santa's BeardThe kid pulls the pillow out from under Santa's shirt and yanks off his beard. The whole scenario makes our stomach roll over, like an undercooked ham - for instance, when was the last time that pillow was washed? With Brian Wilson hitting his most migraine-inducing falsetto note as he repeats the taunt ("Not Santa! Not Santa!"), we may never enter a shopping mall again. [buy]
  7. Christmas Conga (Cyndi Lauper, 1998) [close]
    Cyndi Lauper, Christmas CongaSeriously? After all the snow shoveling, the shlepping through the malls, the tantrum-throwing children and the drunken uncles, you really think we feel like joining a conga line? [buy]
  8. Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (Bruce Springsteen, 1981) [close]
    Bruce Springsteen, Santa Claus Is Comin' To TownEven though he's darn near as sainted as St. Nick himself, Bruce is capable of laying the occasional lump of coal. We've got no beef with rollicking through this sloppy number live, but do radio stations really have to play it 5,000 times every December? And, yeah, we get it ... Clarence wants a new sax. [buy]
  9. 8 Days Of Christmas (Destiny's Child, 2001) [close]
    Destiny's Child, 8 Days Of ChristmasBackrubs and poems. A diamond belly ring and some quality T-I-M-E. "Doesn't it feel like Christmas?" Well, no, ladies - it feels kinda dirty, like we're the third wheel on your No-Tell Motel weekend. The keys to a CLK Mercedes? Now, that's a sentiment we can get behind. [buy]
  10. Christmastime (Smashing Pumpkins, 1997) [close]
    Smashing Pumpkins, ChristmastimeWhen Billy Corgan shrieks about feeling like a rat in a cage, he's a voice of authenticity. When he sings about the tender feelings he has for tots fawning over their presents, it's ... creepy. How close are we letting him to these kids, anyway? [buy]
  11. Wonderful Christmastime (Paul McCartney, 1979) [close]
    Paul McCartney, Wonderful ChristmastimeLook, kids - Daddy got a new synthesizer for Christmas! McCartney has reportedly renounced this creampuff in recent years, but the damage was already done. But you gotta give it to him: the old boy can write an irrepressible melody even when he sounds like he's puckered up from a half-dozen eggnogs. [buy]
  12. Santa Baby (Madonna, 1987) [close]
    Madonna, Santa BabyMadonna had been around the block far too many times to get away with playing the infuriating Betty Boop-ish ingenue. When Eartha Kitt made a case for being a good, deserving girl - "think of all the fellas that I haven't kissed" - it was mildly amusing. When Madonna trotted out the line, it was just another reason for Sean Penn to start throwing ornaments. [buy]

spinner 12 Best Songs

  1. Christmas in Hollis (Run-DMC, 1987) [close]
    Run-DMC, Christmas in HollisRapper Rev Run meets a guy in the park with a beard and a dog. Turns out the dog's a reindeer, the guy is Santa, and the million bucks he leaves behind in his wallet is the year's good tidings. The sample makes this a double whammy of good cheer: It's from Clarence Carter's soul strutter "Back Door Santa," itself a naughty-but-nice Christmas classic. [buy]
  2. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (John Lennon & Yoko Ono, 1971) [close]
    John & Yoko, Happy Xmas (War Is Over)What you get when you combine the weight-of-the-world Beatle with Phil Spector and the Harlem Community Choir: A bombastic wall of Christmas sound with a heart of gold and a banner headline's timelessness. The prevailing sentiment – "war is over, if you want it" - is an exercise in mass-scale positive thinking on par with believing in Santa Claus. [buy]
  3. Blue Christmas (Elvis Presley, 1957) [close]
    Elvis Presley, Blue ChristmasElvis sure knew how to pick 'em. This one was first popularized by deep-drawlin' Texan Ernest Tubb, who had a knack for holiday cheerlessness ('I'll Be Walking the Floor This Christmas'). The opening gambit - "Eh-hulla havva huh baluuuuuue kariss muss" - may be the single best example of the King's signature breathalizing. [buy]
  4. River (Joni Mitchell, 1971) [close]
    Joni Mitchell, RiverIt's not technically a Christmas song - it's your basic garden-variety "Look-what-I've-gone-and-done" lost-love song. But Joni's from Canada, and when they start "putting up reindeer" in L.A., she's hopelessly homesick. She wishes she had a river to skate on, long enough so she could fly. But she's stuck in the crazy scene in La La Land, where the only river is a dry concrete aqueduct. [buy]
  5. Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto (James Brown, 1968) [close]
    James Brown, Santa Claus Go Straight to the GhettoBefore Jay-Z was born, the great JB was teaching the world how to show off. He had radio stations, a Lear Jet and a fleet of Cadillacs. He also had a pronounced God complex - he never met a superhero he didn't like. Put those traits together, and a magical guy in a red suit who makes poor kids feel special is right up James Brown Alley. Unh! [buy]
  6. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee, 1958) [close]
    Brenda Lee, Rockin' Around the Christmas TreeThis perennial was a dud on its first go-round, selling a measly 5,000 copies. But the elfin Brenda Lee was becoming one of the biggest pop stars of her era, and the record company reissued the song each December. The third time was the charm: Since 1960, it has sold about 5 million copies, putting more than a few nuts in Brenda's cracker. [buy]
  7. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (U2, 1987) [close]
    U2, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)It's been covered by Cher, Hanson, Death Cab and Jon Bon Jovi, all of which makes sense: the song manages to be sassy, juvenile, shut-in and Jerseyish at once. A standout by Darlene Love on 'A Christmas Gift for You, From Phil Spector,' U2's bighearted version trumps the original, not least because it features Love on backing vocals. [buy]
  8. Someday at Christmas (Stevie Wonder, 1967) [close]
    Stevie Wonder, Someday at ChristmasIt sounds innocuous on the surface - Little Stevie Wonder caroling sweetly to his own seasonal original. Except that this was 1967, when innocence was lost. The verses ask for a future Christmas ("maybe not in time for you and me") when all men will be free and equal, when "men won't be boys/ Playing with bombs like kids play with toys." When the man wished, he wished big. [buy]
  9. Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You (Billy Squier, 1981) [close]
    Billy Squier, Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love YouBilly was supposed to be the one-man reincarnation of Zeppelin, but he took some bad fashion advice and became an early MTV casualty. There's a rollicking N'Awlins flair at the heart of this big-beat, unabashedly corny sing-along that gives it a certain timelessness, even as it takes its rightful place on VH1's "Big '80s" Christmas comp. [buy]
  10. Candy Cane Children (White Stripes, 2002) [close]
    White Stripes, Candy Cane ChildrenWho ever knows what Jack and Meg are on about? Christmas, as Jack points out, comes but once a year, which leaves 364 tears. Still, the red-and-white color coordination has always made these kids the finest kind of indie-rock stocking stuffers, and the song title has been adopted by the band's fans. They know the drill: You peel back the wrapper, and you suck on it. [buy]
  11. Pretty Paper (Willie Nelson, 1979) [close]
    Willie Nelson, Pretty PaperIt only seems as though Willie Nelson has been writing and performing the great American song since old St. Nick was a real-life bishop in fourth century Byzantium. Young Willie was still considered an apprentice song peddler when Roy Orbison rode this song of his all the way up to Number 15 on the pop charts. The white beard came later. [buy]
  12. I Want an Alien for Christmas (Fountains of Wayne, 1997) [close]
    Fountains of Wayne, I Want an Alien for ChristmasGimme, gimme, gimme. Have you seen a kid's wish list for Santa these days? Wii, iPods, iPhones and countless other bank-breaking iCan't-Live-Withouts. At least this fine young man has a lively imagination. He doesn't need a bike, and like the rest of us, he's not up for more ugly sweaters. If Santa's such a wizard, why not ask for "a little green guy, about three feet high, with 17 eyes"? [buy]

- Originally published in 2007 by Spinner Magazine, a division of AOL Music -

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