The holiday season brings with it an array of cheerful and festive tunes that help to set the mood for the celebrations. However, lurking among the holly and jolly are certain tracks that can be deemed inappropriate and risqué. These songs may have been popular in the past, but as societal norms shift and awareness grows, they are now regarded as controversial and problematic.
In this article, we will delve into these contentious holiday songs, dissecting their lyrics and exploring their origins to understand why they are now considered taboo.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” – Various Artists
One of the more controversial songs during the holiday season is the one featuring a man trying to convince a woman to stay with him despite her protests. While the tune itself is catchy and has been covered by various artists, the lyrics have been criticized as promoting sexual harassment.
With the growing push for consent and respect towards women, many have argued that it’s time to retire this classic from the rotation of Christmas music.
“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” – Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen’s rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” adds a touch of rock and roll to the traditional holiday classic. Although the catchy beat and Springsteen’s distinctively gritty voice are bound to get listeners in the Christmas spirit, some may find the lyrics problematic in light of the #MeToo movement.
The lyrics, particularly the line “he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake” can be seen as creepy or stalker-like. The song’s playful tone, however, may make it easy for some to overlook these concerns.
“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” – Jackson 5
The track under discussion features a lively performance by a renowned music group known for their soulful hits. This particular tune has a jovial melody and lyrics narrate the story of a young child who catches his mother kissing Santa Clause. Many music aficionados consider the song inappropriate for its suggestive theme, as the lyrics can be perceived as glorifying infidelity.
Despite this, the lively tune and iconic chorus have remained an enduring part of the Christmas music canon, proving to be a moment of joy and light-heartedness during the holiday season.
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” – Band Aid
One song on the list perturbs with an inappropriate and bewildering tone. It perplexes listeners with lyrics that would be considered insensitive and outdated by today’s standards. The song uses a charitable cause as a backdrop for its narrative, but the lines objectifies the people and culture it purports to help. It has rightly received criticism due to its lyrics and lack of cultural sensitivity.
“Wonderful Christmastime” – Paul McCartney
This once-popular tune performed by Paul McCartney is quite an irksome addition to the list of inappropriate Christmas songs. The melody, paired with the peculiar synthesizer beats, are sickeningly cheerful as McCartney’s voice induces a pang of agony in our eardrums.
Its repetitive chorus has been sadly overused in shopping malls during the holiday season, and though once considered festive, it now seems more appropriate for the dentist’s office waiting room. A textbook example of an overplayed Christmas song that needs to take a break and never come back.
“Last Christmas” – Wham!
One Christmas song that has recently come under fire for its inappropriate lyrics is by a British pop duo. The song’s lyrics seem innocent at first but upon closer inspection, they reveal an underlying problematic nature. The lyrics subtly discuss an affair and make disparaging remarks towards the woman involved. The song has faced criticism for romanticizing infidelity and its offensive undertones.
“Santa Baby” – Eartha Kitt
The song in question is a Christmas staple, but some find it controversial due to the suggestive and objectifying lyrics. Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” was released in the 1950s and presents a woman’s indulgent Christmas wish-list, including luxurious gifts such as a yacht, sables, and a convertible.
The lyrics have been criticized for glorifying consumerism and portraying women as materialistic and dependent on men. Despite its potential to offend, the song continues to receive airplay during the festive season.
“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” – Elmo & Patsy
One particular yuletide melody that might raise some eyebrows amongst the more prudish listeners is a spirited ditty about a man who “jingle bell rocks” with a “jingle hop” and “swings” with the “dancing and prancing.” While the lyrics might seem innocent at first, they hint at a more sensual subtext and have led to a number of risqué interpretations over the years.
Some might argue that the song isn’t appropriate for family gatherings or mixed company, though others might just see it as a catchy and harmless Christmas tune.
“The Christmas Song” – Nat King Cole
This classic by Nat King Cole is often played during the holidays but few people pay attention to the lyrics. The song includes lines like “They know that Santa’s on his way/ He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh/ And every mother’s child is gonna spy to see if/ Reindeer really know how to fly.”
The lyrics are suggestive and can be interpreted as creepy by many listeners. If we carefully examine the lyrics, it’s clear that “The Christmas Song” needs to be reconsidered as an appropriate holiday tune.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” – Gene Autry
The tune about the quadruped who we all know is a tad abnormal, with a nasal orifice that illuminates, is not without its controversies. The original lyric, while certainly catchy, sends a message that ostracizes diversity. Additionally, certain re-recordings have also come under scrutiny for including politically incorrect language.
“Frosty the Snowman” – Jimmy Durante
This particular Christmas song has become quite controversial in recent years due to the use of the word “snowman.” Many people argue that the song has racist undertones and promotes the idea of “white is better.” The lyrics contain additional words that have a problematic history, making the song uncomfortable for many listeners.
While some may defend the song as innocent and harmless, it’s important to think critically about the messages we propagate through our holiday music.
“Here Comes Santa Claus” – Gene Autry
This song, with lyrics that appear harmless, is often deemed inappropriate due to its origins in racism and cultural appropriation. While its melody may be catchy and fun, its lyrics can be found insensitive to indigenous peoples, and the use of stereotypical “Indian” pronunciation by its original artist has garnered criticism.
The song can spark debates on cultural sensitivity and political correctness, making it a controversial choice for any holiday playlist.
“All I Want for Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey
One of the melodies that ranks on the list of controversial Christmas numbers is by the talented Mariah Carey. The reason for this is the suggestive lyrics of the tune that sometimes imparts the impression of being an ode to infatuation rather than an innocent festive song.
While the melody might seem jolly on the surface, the repetition of the phrase “all I want for Christmas is you” and the insinuation of ‘you’ being the love interest of the singer has raised eyebrows of critics, particularly in the #MeToo era.
“Sleigh Ride” – The Ronettes
One piece to consider for the list of inappropriate Christmas songs is the jazz-tinged classic “Sleigh Ride” by The Ronettes. Though beloved by many, the song’s lyrics are rife with suggestive undertones that border on outright salaciousness.
With phrases like “Our cheeks are nice and rosy and comfy cozy are we,” and “There’s a birthday party at the home of Farme, it’ll be the perfect ending of a perfect day,” it’s no wonder many are left feeling confused and uncomfortable by the song’s confusing mix of festive cheer and risqué content.
“Little Drummer Boy” – Various Artists
“The Little Drummer Boy” is not an appropriate Christmas song because of its religious overtones. It presupposes a particular faith which may make listeners uncomfortable. The beat of the song is pleasant, and it may even bring back some nostalgic memories. However, it should be replaced with a more inclusive, secular option.
The song’s melody is a reflection of a specific perspective, and it doesn’t stand on its own without that tied context. It’s time to replace it with something more universally acceptable.
“Blue Christmas” – Elvis Presley
“Blue Christmas” is often categorized as an inappropriate Christmas song due to the melancholic lyrics and the sad tone of the song. While Elvis Presley’s iconic voice adds a touch of charm to the song, the lyrics revolve around spending Christmas alone without a loved one.
The song paints a bleak picture of the holiday season and can be quite distressing for individuals who are already feeling down. The emotional intensity of the song is evident in the way Presley’s voice quivers and cracks with emotion, although this does make it stand out from typical cheery carols.
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – Brenda Lee
One of the tracks that often graces Christmas playlists, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee, is a bursty, upbeat song. Although it may seem tame to the untrained ear, upon closer inspection, the lyrics can come across as questionable. The song talks about a “new old-fashioned way” to celebrate Christmas, that can imply romantic or promiscuous advances.
While it may be a classic, it’s essential to reflect on our festivities’ messages and ensure it aligns with our values.
“Fairy Tale of New York” – The Pogues ft. Kirsty MacColl
The tropical beat and catchy chorus of “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano make it a holiday favorite, but its repeated use of the Spanish phrase, “Prospero año y felicidad” has recently come under scrutiny. English speaking audiences may not realize that the phrase translates to “Prosperous year and happiness” rather than the more benign “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”.
While unintentional, the song’s lack of cultural sensitivity raises questions about its place in modern holiday playlists.
“Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” – James Brown
One of the tracks that raises eyebrows during the holiday season is by James Brown with the title “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto”. The lyrics and the context of the song tend to be viewed as a tad inappropriate by some, as it portrays a version of the holiday season through a particular lens, which may be off putting for some listeners.
While the song may have its fans, it’s not the best choice for those looking for a more traditional Christmas tune.
“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Darlene Love
One Christmas song features a heart-wrenching melody and sentimental lyrics, but it’s not without controversy. The track, sung by a classic performer, tells the tale of a yearning for a lover to return for the holidays.
However, it has been called out for its use in emotional manipulation and promoting unrealistic expectations in relationships. Though it may be a staple in holiday playlists, some believe it’s better to skip this particular tune.
“Nuttin’ for Christmas” – Barry Gordon
One particularly dubious entry in the Christmas canon is a song about receiving no presents during the yuletide season. While sung from the perspective of a mischievous youngster, the song’s message normalizes bad behavior, reinforcing the idea that poor behavior is somehow justified, and worse, amusing.
This song has been a source of controversy in recent years, as many believe it promotes a lack of empathy and avarice in children. Though seemingly innocuous, this tune is one of many examples of how inappropriate songs can mar the otherwise joyous holiday season.