Holiday music is the best … except when it’s the worst.

There are wonderful holiday songs, of course. Nat King Cole singing “The Christmas Song,” Bing Crosby’s hit with “I’ll Be Home For Christmas (If Only In My Dreams).” Or maybe something a bit peppier such as Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” or Mariah Carey and “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

This is not a story about good songs like those. This is a chronicle of the bad holiday songs that we — by which I mean, me — despise the most. And after conducting a highly unscientific study using YouTube and a focus group of friends, the results are in: These are the worst.

But because it’s the holidays, we also suggest some much better alternatives to listen to instead. So let’s open the little doors on our Worst Holiday Songs Advent calendar and see what’s inside, starting with …

12. “Mistress For Christmas,” AC/DC: Some people don’t like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” for its out-of-date sentiments about male-female relations. “Baby,” though, is kid’s stuff compared to this 1990 track from the Aussie hard rockers. It starts off wrong and gets worse from there. Plenty of fine, racy holiday songs exist, but not many that endorse adding a mistress to your missus.

Instead, listen to: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home” by Darlene Love, a truly great longing-for-love holiday song.


11. “Mistletoe” by Justin Bieber: I told a group of college students I was including this number on the list and they were outraged that I would disrespect the Beib. It’s not that the song is bad — it’s fine little pop R&B number with a reggae rhythm, and he sings it well. It’s just I don’t see the need for a Christmas song about smooching “shawty” underneath the mistletoe. Sorry, kids!

Instead, listen to: “Underneath the Mistletoe” by Sia is a better choice for a kissing-under-a-parasitic-plant holiday love song.

10. “Nuttin’ For Christmas,” Barry Gordon: There’s a subset of bad Christmas songs that feature annoying kids singing insipid songs — you’ll find another one further down the list — and this 1955 ditty by a then-6-year-old Gordon was both a Top 10 hit and an eternally grating tune. He sings about all the bad things he did and the snitches who ratted him out and, by the time its two-and-a-half minutes is over, you’re fully in favor of the kid getting nothing. Gordon has had a long and accomplished career — president of the Screen Actors Guild, the role of rabbi on Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — so clearly he’s got somethin’ going for him.

Instead, listen to: “Joel the Lump of Coal,” by the Killers, which tells the story of Joel, a lump with feelings, and his journey to a naughty little boy.

9. “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” by Alvin and the Chipmunks: Sure, a lot of people do like Alvin and the Chipmunks. But most of them who like this song liked it when they were 7 and grew out of it. That said, I do still have the “Chipmunk Punk” album my parents gave me for Christmas 1980, and you have not lived until you’ve heard their version of “My Sharona.”

Instead, listen to: “Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo,” from the TV series “South Park,” because if you’re going to listen to a bad song from an animated show, don’t mess around.


8. “Same Old Lang Syne” by Dan Fogelberg: The singer runs into his old high school flame at the supermarket on Christmas Eve, which makes this probably the only holiday song with a protagonist stalking someone in the frozen food section. She’s married; he’s a successful musician. Instead of wishing each other a Merry Christmas and going on their way, they decide to go for a drink, find all the bars closed — because people are home with their families! — and buy a six-pack, which they polish off in the car and then drive home. So much wrong here.

Instead, listen to: “Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis,” by Tom Waits, is your better haven’t-seen-you-in-a-long-time holiday classic.

7. “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” by Gayla Peevey: Another kid-sung novelty number, this one from 1953 by 10-year-old Gayla Peevey who — did you guess it? — wants a hippopotamus for Christmas. It’s a jaunty ’50s pop song but dear li’l Gayla’s voice is oddly grown-up for a kid so it all seems a bit disturbing.

Instead, listen to: “The Friendly Beasts,” by Sufjan Stevens, a traditional carol about the gifts the animals gave Baby Jesus, not a girl who wants a dang hippo.

6. The Little Drummer Boy: There are so many versions of this and the only one mildly tolerable is the one where David Bowie pops ’round Bing Crosby’s place for a Christmas song. The song is slow, the song is boring. It has 26 lines and 14 of them are variations of “pah,” “rum,” or “pum.” This reminds me of an old saying I just made up, “Give a child a drum on Christmas morning, you’ll be drinking by Christmas noon.”

Instead, listen to: “Il Est Né, Le Divin Enfant,” by Siouxsie and the Banshees. A traditional French carol about welcoming the Christ child that isn’t just about the drummer boy on scene.


5. “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)” by John Denver: “Please daddy, don’t get drunk this Christmas,” Denver sings from the point of view of an 8-year-old boy in this 1973 song. “I don’t want to see my mama cry.” Yeah. And it gets worse from there: “You came home a quarter past eleven / And fell down underneath our Christmas tree.” Oh, daddy! The music isn’t bad — the song was written for Denver by Taffy Nivert and William Danoff, who also provided him with “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Then again, they also formed “Starland Vocal Band,” so maybe it’s all that “Afternoon Delight” that led to daddy’s drinking. Oddly, the same year, Commander Cody released a song titled “Daddy’s Drinking Up Our Christmas.” Something must have been in the water that year and from the sound of it, it was whiskey.

Instead, listen to: “Fairytale of New York,” by the Pogues featuring Kirsty McColl. If you want a song about drunks at Christmas there’s none more beautiful than this. Truly.

4. “Chanukah Song” by Adam Sandler: A lot of people love this song, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. Adam Sandler sings in this weird boyish voice and seems so self-satisfied with himself I just can’t even. I’d rather watch him in “Jack and Jill,” and that has a 3 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Instead, listen to: “Happy Epic Chanukah,” by Rachel Bloom (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), Jack Dolgen and Dan Gregor, which is much, much better music and comedy for this holiday.

3. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” by Elmo & Patsy: I will admit enjoying the guilty pleasure of singing this song to my family in years past, though in my defense it was mostly to annoy them. It is not a good song, and it does annoy people. Especially grandmas. It’s also clearly a song about murder — grandpa probably had some deer hooves in the barn he used to frame Santa and Rudolph, right? Nothing wrong with a good dysfunctional family song for the holidays, but …

Instead, listen to: “Merry Christmas From The Family,” by Robert Earl Keen, for a Texas troubadour’s take on that theme.


2. “Jingle Bells” by Jingle Dogs: Have you ever walked into an animal shelter, maybe looking for a lost pet or to adopt one? And when you step into that sad aisle of lonely dogs, they all start barking and howling and raising an unholy night of noise? When you got home, did you think, man, I wish I could put on some Christmas music made out of those miserable dogs I just heard? Well, if you did, this is the song for you! As for me, no thanks, I’ll pass.

Instead, listen to: “Silent Night,” by Jingle Cats — the 10-hour version. If you love animals singing carols then prove it by listening to all 10 hours of this on YouTube. Thought so.

1. “The Christmas Shoes” by NewSong: This is a song about a little boy who scrapes together his pennies and races to the store on Christmas Eve to buy his mama a pretty pair of red shoes. OK, so far so good. But what’s this? “Could you hurry, sir, daddy says there’s not much time,” the singer continues. “You see she’s been sick for quite a while. And I know these shoes would make her smile. And I want her to look beautiful if mama meets Jesus tonight.” Oh. Uh. OK. Just your typical mama’s-dying-let’s-make-her-pretty-for-Jesus song for Christmas cheer! They say calls to crisis lines rise during the holidays, I blame this song.

Instead, listen to: “Billy’s Christmas Wish,” by Red Sovine, in which the country singer-songwriter delivers a dialogue between a local Santa and a sickly, sad boy — dad in prison, bartender mom living with an abusive boyfriend — who runs away because he’s been told he’s naughty and doesn’t deserve any Christmas joy. And then he literally dies on Santa’s lap in front of all the other kids. It. Is. Epic.