Top 10 Best and Worst Holiday/Winter Songs on the Radio

By: Kris Kotlarik

‘Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the house,
He could hear Christmas music playing, even from Laos.
And it was hard for our hero not to remember
That this bullshit has been playing since early November.
While most of it sucks and should be dismembered,
There are a select few tracks that should be remembered.
So grab a chair and read with despair
As I break down the holiday tracks that make me pull out my hair.
And as a special gift to you all,
I’ll even rattle off songs that sound like a ball.

The 10 Best Holiday/Winter Songs on the Radio

Honorable mention: Wizards of Winter – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
This would have made the list if another song of theirs wasn’t already on it. These guys sure do know how to rock the instrumentals. It’s a shame that most of their material is riddled with terrible vocalists.

Honorable Mention – Little Saint Nick – The Beach Boys
While there’s nothing particularly special about this track, it’s fun to listen to once in a while. It’s a harmless, inoffensive tune, which is a lot better than I can say for a number of other tracks.

#10: White Christmas – Bing Crosby
Billboard ranking: #9

You’re dreaming of a white Christmas? I used to know those, too. Tell me more, Bing.

#9: Run Rudolph Run – Chuck Berry
Billboard ranking: #91
This song may be a generic 12-bar blues track, but Chuck Berry is capable of much more than most artists that make either of these lists. I do have one major gripe: Why was the guitar cut off at the end? At least let him play a few damn bars before fading out. Even back in the day, Billboard was a dick to real instruments.

#8: Linus & Lucy – Vince Guaraldi Trio
BIllboard ranking: #48
You may otherwise know this song as the Peanuts theme. I didn’t really know this qualified as “holiday” music, given its iconic status regardless of the time of year, but it’s going on the list. I’ve even heard this thing on the fucking Weather Channel. In the summer. Also, the use of brush sticks are among the best I have heard to this day, simple as it may sound.

#7: I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas – Gayla Peevy
Billboard ranking: #34
This one wears on you pretty quick, but hey, go big or go home, right? I could think of a lot of things I would rather have than a hippopotamus, but you get points for originality. Well played, Gayla.

#6: Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee
Billboard ranking: #3
Unlike another Christmas song that “rocks,” this one has some energy behind it, especially by 1958’s standards. You could say she…came on strong.

#5: The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole
Billboard ranking: #4
Find me a person who doesn’t like this song, and I’ll show you a person with no soul. The lounge music is perfect for NKC’s vocals here. I also like that he’s almost poking fun at the whole Christmas cliche in his own subtle way.

#4: Winter Wonderland – Johnny Mathis
Billboard ranking: #73
Is it just me, or does America hate winter? Wait, that was a stupid question. The cover photo is a shot I took in Tampere, Finland, just in case you weren’t aware that I love this season. Also, there have been a lot of modernized versions of track and none of them really compare to this one. The bridge section is really well-done.

#3: You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch – Thurl Ravenscroft
Billboard ranking: #50
Find me a person who doesn’t like this song, and I’ll show you a person with a heart that’s three sizes too small. I wouldn’t touch that person with a 39 1/2-foot pole.  

#2: It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year – Andy Williams
Billboard ranking: #10
Talented singer with an upbeat sound behind him. It’s a track that just works from start to finish. I just wish there was more of the big band sound that comes out in bits and pieces of this. Plus it’s a song about the joys of the season instead of some generic nonsense about a lover or something.

#1: Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Billboard ranking: #6
Carol of the Bells is the most musically interesting Christmas song. How do you make it more interesting? By metalizing it. It amazes me that the masses don’t think this is too “brutal” for them. It’s actually quite heavy, especially by radio standards, but it’s a great instrumental that almost never gets tiring, no matter how much Christmas music you’re subjected to.

The 10 Worst Holiday/Winter Songs on the Radio

Dishonorable Mention: Last Christmas – Wham
“Last Christmas, I gave you my heart/but the very next day, you gave it away.” Can you remember anything else from that song? I know I can’t. It’s so forgettable. If you’re looking for the reason your heart is no longer in her possession, you already missed the point.

Dishonorable Mention: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – Jimmy Boyd
Unless Santa, this man and this woman are in a polyamorous relationship, I highly doubt the man’s reaction would have been even remotely favorable, much less met with laughter. If only he had seen it, this annoying singer would’ve been cut off about thirty seconds in with the sound of a crowbar hitting Santa’s head.

#10: Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow – Dean Martin
Billboard ranking: #25
Unless you literally cannot see your hand outside, the weather outside is not “frightful.” Snow is not the enemy. That distinction goes to ice, which is a legitimate nuisance even to the most avid winter enthusiasts.

#9: It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas – Michael Buble
Billboard ranking: #18
I mean sure, it looks a lot like Christmas for approximately 10% of the United States. Climate change is a cruel mistress.

#8: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy – Pentatonix
Billboard ranking: #28
I actually don’t mind Pentatonix, with their a capella/electronica mix, but there are some things that should be left alone. This is one of those things. One does not simply cover Tchaikovsky in this style without sounding pompous.

#7: Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Idina Menzel/Michael Buble
Billboard ranking: #15
Given that it could easily be the Bill Cosby anthem with its date-rapey lyrics AND that it has Michael Buble in it, it should be considered nothing short of a miracle that this song isn’t even higher on this list. But it has to be here somewhere.

#6: This Christmas – Chris Brown
Billboard ranking: #72
How is this asshole still allowed to put his voice through the autotune box, much less exist? This isn’t even close to his worst song, and yet he still sounds like a douchebag that you just want to pummel in the face solely because he is a douchebag.

#5: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer – Gene Autry
Billboard ranking: #12
The only thing this song proves is that kids are jerks, regardless of their species. It goes from “Rudolph is such a loser because he is different” to “Oh wow, look at Rudolph, the great hero” with just a few lines of plot bridging the gap. Plus there’s nothing new to this song added after the first verse. It’s just the same lyrics repeated by an old-timers’ choir. Also, boring.

#4: All I Want For Christmas – Mariah Carey
Billboard ranking: #2
There are so many things wrong with this track that I am not sure I can hit on all of the reasons why I hate this song, but dammit, I am going to try. First off, the lyrics come off as the anthem for a generic romantic comedy. Secondly, Ariana Grande is infinitely hotter than Mariah and I would much rather watch her perform this. And thirdly, Mariah Carey can’t even sing this song. What’s interesting about that link is the date: December 3, 2014. Why are we hearing this so early? Maybe if Carey had a couple more weeks to warm up, she wouldn’t have sounded so terrible.

#3: Feliz Navidad – Jose Feliciano
Billboard ranking: #8
On top of this being a boring song to listen to, this might be the most annoying song on this list because of their apparent inability to pick one language and stick with it. Spanish? English? Why not add Korean to the mix? It’s a multicultural party, right? Add a case of nasally vocals that were so perfectly adjusted for a Taco John’s commercial, and we’ve got a shitstorm.

#2: Happy Christmas (War Is Over) – Maroon 5
Billboard ranking: #70
Not that I am particularly enamored with the original by John Lennon, but Moron 5 took a decent track and turned it into a soulless shitfest in a manner that only Adam Levine could achieve. Way to go. Now get the fuck off the air.

#1: Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms
Billboard ranking: #11
You can hate this choice all you want, but nothing takes away from the fact that it is just so fucking boring. I would suggest calling it “Jingle Bell Rockabye Baby,” a far more accurate description for a song in which a droning sleigh bell rhythm is the most notable feature to be found.

All songs were picked from the Billboard Holiday 100. Because this exists, apparently. 


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