Important Questions Raised By...

What Your Favourite Christmas Song Says About You

It's time for a festive round of determining someone's personality based on their interests!

by James Greig
12 December 2018, 11:00am

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As anyone who has worked in retail will tell you – most likely with a haunted expression passing across their face – Christmas music is largely terrible. There aren’t enough bangers to fill an hour-long Spotify playlist, let alone the entire month of December. Most of it is the aural equivalent of cheap tinsel scratching your neck or the queasy feeling of reaching for another Quality Street when you already feel sick. But although I don’t enjoy Christmas music as a whole, I love the songs I love, and am passionate about what is and isn’t an appropriate expression of the Christmas spirit – so naturally I become absolutely incensed when I encounter people with different opinions to myself. On that basis, I’ve decided to rank a series of Christmas songs which commonly crop up as favourites, and explain what they say about the people who like them.

Wham – “Last Christmas”

A genuine masterpiece. A devastating howl of agony. In fact, I’d go as far as to say, if you go home with someone and they mention that their favourite Christmas song is anything else – don’t fuck them. “Last Christmas” is great because, like Christmas itself, it is painful and sad but also, like Christmas, it’s kind of cheesy. This time last year, I had the pleasure of working not just in the same office as my recent ex-boyfriend but sitting at a desk directly facing him. “Last Christmas”, of course, played on the radio at least once a day. Catching eyes with someone you still have feelings for on your way to the photocopier as George Michael croons ‘you gaaaave me awaaayy’ in the background? A 10/10, exquisitely painful experience that I would recommend to any emotional masochist.

Christmas is a horrible time unless your life is going well; it’s horrible if you’re heartbroken, it’s horrible if you’re skint, it’s horrible if you’re ill. “Last Christmas” captures all that (kind of), but it’s also fun and frothy. Having it as your favourite Christmas song shows you are sensitive and refined, you have known pain, you’ve got the depth and soul of a poet – but you’re also a bloody great laugh who’s not afraid to “get down” on your work night out. Like myself!

Is this your favourite Christmas song?

Please slide into my direct messages to discuss the matter further.

The Pogues – “Fairytale of New York (Feat Kirsty MacColl)”

It’s a courageous position for a gay man to adopt in 2018, I’ll admit, but I love “Fairytale of New York”. The two conditions I associate most with Christmas are a) a maudlin, enjoyable sort of sadness and b) being drunk. No song captures this combination better. “I could have been someone…” “...well so could anyone!” is a genuinely affecting exchange and I love the song’s narrative arc: it begins with romantic optimism, goes through abject despair and ends with its characters reaching a bittersweet acceptance of their own and each others failures - a relationship like this, please!

But is it embarrassing for this to be your favourite Christmas song? I’m afraid the answer is yes. Unfortunately, “Fairytale” has come to be seen as an edgy, alternative choice: a song for people who consider Christmas beneath them - there are chilling parallels with the ‘Die Hard is a Christmas film!!’ movement. Why has it achieved this status? It’s not, on the face of it, particularly alternative: the lyrics are directly about Christmas, the music is jolly, even traditional, and upon its release it achieved a similar level of commercial success as comparable songs in the canon (although it’s worth mentioning it was kept from the top of the charts by ‘two queens and a drum machine,’ as Shane MacGowan described the Pet Shop Boys). Its status as ‘alternative’, then, is derived solely from the fact it contains swearing (obviously very cool!) and misogynistic and homophobic slurs (considerably less so).

I like the song despite the slurs but some people seem to like it because of them: you can imagine a puce-faced Rod Liddle down some god-forsaken pub in the Home Counties, a tankard of real ale in hand, grinning as he bellows ‘you cheap lousy faggot!’. It still bangs, though, so don’t let that ruin your enjoyment — just maybe don’t sing ‘faggot’ if you’re straight.

Is this your favourite Christmas song?

I say this with the greatest respect, but please grow up and listen to some f*cking Wham!

The Waitresses – “Christmas Wrapping”

Another addition to the allegedly 'alternative' canon, with its fans imagining it as a ~ kooky ~ choice, this is actually the most requested song on American public radio of all time. It is, in other words, “Fairytale of New York” for poptimists. It undeniably slaps though: the bass line is absurdly, even unnecessarily good, I like the cool detachment of the vocals and, although the subject matter isn’t miserable enough for my tastes, it succeeds in capturing the domestic drudgery and endless chores of Christmastime. Bah humbug, indeed! The only part I find annoying is when she bumps into the guy she’s been trying to bang all year at the shops and says ‘wait… you mean you forgot cranberries too!?’ causing them both to laugh and laugh and laugh – realistically, that’s just not good enough banter to merit such hilarity.

Is this your favourite Christmas song?

It’s a respectable choice but if you think liking it makes you “cool” or “edgy” or “an aesthete”, then I’m afraid I’ve got some rather disheartening news...

Low – Christmas EP

Every Christmas Eve, me and my mates from back home, my buddies, the lads, all of whom are called Ollie, we all tear down to my local pub and spend the evening smashing pints. The highlight comes when we fire Low’s “Just Like Christmas” on the jukebox and just go absolutely fucking mental, roaring our hearts out and hugging each other and dancing on the tables...said no-one ever! It’s time we come to accept that Low’s Christmas EP is incredibly dull. It also gestures towards a larger problem: I’m using it as a stand-in for Hurts, Sufjan Stevens, or any other critically-acclaimed indie music which sounds like it was produced in a lab by a cabal of Mojo readers trying to solve the problem of Christmas music being too tacky.

As a man who once recorded and uploaded an acoustic guitar cover of Low’s version of “Blue Christmas” to Facebook in a desperate attempt to win back a boy who had just dumped him, I am in no position to judge anyone. If you’re the kind of sad, soft indie boy who likes Low, I am you. But it’s only fair I judge you with the same remorseless cruelty as I judge myself. The Christmas EP is beautiful in parts but it’s too po-faced and boring to be properly good Christmas music – the sadness without the sentimentality, the cheesiness, it leaves me cold.

Is this your favourite Christmas song?

Embarrassing. You need to lighten up a bit, mate – it’s Christmas!

The Darkness – “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)”

Having attacked Low for being not cheesy enough, it’s time to move onto the exact opposite. I loathe this song and consider it an affront to everything I hold dear. Cheesiness is fine, but cheesiness with a nudge or, worse, a wink? Cheesiness with its tongue pressed firmly in cheek? That is not what Christmas is about. This kind of naffness has to come from the heart or it’s worthless. Call me a contrarian, accuse me of merely begging for attention by saying the unsayable and slaying the sacred cows, but I do not think The Darkness are a good band. “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)” is a song for men whose interest in beer extends beyond ‘it tastes nice’; men who enjoy mountain biking; men who, when they go to a club, can only bring themselves to dance ironically. If you can’t afford to be a little sincere at Christmas, then maybe you need to work on yourself.

Is this your favourite Christmas song?

It gives me no pleasure to say this but: I don’t fuck with you. Along with voting for the Conservative party, if any of my friends or family told me they liked this song I would immediately sever all contact. Yes, even my dear old mum!

So there you have it. There is an internet trend of declaring ‘liking (x) is not a personality’ but, actually, our likes and dislikes do constitute our personality - so make sure yours is a good one, one that doesn’t make people pity or despise you. Have a fantastic Christmas!

You can find James on Twitter.