Mister X did not write this article. It was actually written by Chris Lang, who has no connection with Mister X. It was erroneously attributed to Mister X due to a glitch in uploading archives of old Manic Expression material.
A few years ago, Lindsay Ellis, aka the Nostalgia Chick, released a video where she gave her picks for the top 10 Most Disturbing and Inescapable Christmas Songs. Her criteria for this were that the songs had to be songs that one can’t avoid hearing if they have the radio on for any length of time or do any Christmas shopping, and that they also are in some ways disturbing when you think about them. In many cases, it’s the subtext that’s disturbing.
Â Of course, she admits that in some cases, the inescapability of some songs depends on where you live. Some songs might get played ad nauseum in some areas, but not receive as much airplay in others. But many of the songs on her list are ones that are everywhere.
Still, as good as Lindsay’s list is, there are a few that didn’t make it that I feel fit the criteria. I’m going to list four of them now.
4. Christmas Eve – Sarajevo by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Yes, it’s an instrumental piece. But it makes the list because, taken out of context, it seems very out of place with the holiday spirit of peace on Earth and goodwill to men. If you don’t know the story behind this (admittedly awesome) piece, it sounds like something from the soundtrack of an explosion-filled action movie that happened to be set at Christmas (like Die Hard or Reindeer Games). It’s ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman’ suddenly merging with a dramatic, tension-filled re-imagining of ‘Carol of the Bells’, and if you hear it on your radio after something solemn and calm like ‘Silent Night’ or ‘Little Drummer Boy’, or something more cheerful like ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Sleigh Ride’, the Mood Whiplash can be jarring.
However, when performed live, there’s an introduction that puts this piece into context. It’s inspired by a cello player who returned to Sarajevo during the Bosnia conflict. According to the story, he had become a very respected musician and toured the world. But when he returned to Sarajevo during the Bosnian War, he was saddened to find the city of his birth in ruins.
Heartbroken not just at the destruction, but by the fact that it was caused by his own people, he took to the ruined town square, took out his cello, and started playing Christmas songs. All while parts of the city were still being bombed to bits. His stated reason for doing this was to prove that despite all evidence to the contrary, the spirit of humanity was still alive in that place.
The whole thing was such a powerful image that the Trans-Siberian Orchestra was inspired to compose this piece.
However, when you hear this on the radio, the story behind it is usually left out, and all you get is the piece itself. And, taken out of context, this is certainly an eyebrow-raiser. That being said, this IS an awesome piece of music, and after hearing the story behind it, I began to appreciate it even more.
Moving on …
3. ‘Last Christmas’ by George Michael and WHAM, covered by Taylor Swift
Â My local radio stations and some local shopping centers play this one all the time. But why? It’s not really a song full of Christmas cheer, or expousing peace and goodwill. Let me quote the chorus for you.
Â Last Christmas I gave you my heart
But the very next day you gave it away
This year To save me from tears
I’ll give it to someone special
Â As you can probably tell, this isn’t really a Christmas song at all. It’s a breakup song that happens to be set at Christmas. But yet, I keep hearing this song placed among Christmas songs — and by that, I mean normal Christmas songs, not anti-Christmas songs like ‘Who Took The Merry Out of Chrismas’, ‘Lonely Christmas Call’, ”Christmas in Jail’, Weird Al Yankovic’s ‘Christmas At Ground Zero’, or any of that crowd. It’s as if radio DJs think that since the song has ‘Christmas’ in the title, it’s good for playing over and over during the holidays.
Okay, now we come to two songs that are definitely Christmas songs that are both disturbing and inescapable. Both of these songs have been around for a long time, and neither appears to be going away any time soon. And I’m surprised neither of them made Lindsay’s list.
Â 2. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
I’m sure most of you have heard this one. Originally recorded by Jimmy Boyd in the 1950’s, and covered by several artists since then, this song is the one where a kid sees his mother kissing Santa Claus under the mistletoe (or at least that’s what he believes). What makes this disturbing is the line “What a laugh it would have been if Daddy had only seen Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night”.
Now, those of us who aren’t kids probably come to the conclusion that the ‘Santa’ in the song is really Daddy dressed up, though it’s never outright said that it is. So for all we know, the kid is right — Mommy is cheating on Daddy with Santa Claus, or someone dressed up as him. And it’s all played for laughs.
Now, let’s suppose Mommy really was kissing Santa Claus. Would it REALLY be a laugh if Daddy had seen Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night? I don’t think so. Here’s what I think would have happened…
Â “Then I saw Daddy killing Santa Claus
He took his gun and shot him between the eyes
Santa hit the floor … amidst a pool of gore
Then Daddy said to Mommy now you better not cheat no more…”
Yeah. Adultery … a nice, kid-friendly topic for a Christmas song.
1. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Now this song is inescapable. If you want to avoid hearing this song, you’d better steer clear of anywhere Christmas songs are played. Avoid Christmas celebrations altogether. It’s almost as inescapable as images of Santa Claus himself.
And it’s one of the most disturbing Christmas songs ever.
You know how it goes. It’s all about telling us to be on our best behavior because Santa Claus is going to be coming soon. He’s making a list and checking it twice, and going to find out who is naughty and nice.
So yeah, parents probably like this song because it tells kids to behave and not be whiny spoiled brats. But why is this song so disturbing? Do I even need to spell this one out for you? I’m sure you all know where I’m going with this.
It’s these lines: “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.”
Someone spying on you at ALL times is bound to make one paranoid. I don’t know whether it occured to the writers of the song or not, but this sort of lack of privacy is the sort of thing we associate with cautionary tales about dystopian futures that may become our world if we’re not careful.
This disturbing implication is not lost on other people who have written songs about Santa probably inspired by this. There’s one song I heard on the Dr. Demento show many years ago performed by an artist called Victor Banana entitled ‘Here Comes Santa’, that goes something like this…
Â “He’s keeping tabs on you just like he was a private investigator
He is an impartial judge of all your moral behavior
Here comes Santa … Santa in his sleigh”
All done in a dark, creepy style. I wish I knew where to find this song, because my description doesn’t do it justice. I believe it was on Victor Banana’s ‘Split’ LP, but as far as I can tell, it’s been out of print for years.
And then there’s Ray Stevens’ ‘Santa Claus is Watching You’
“Now you children better be good
And act like all good children should
Be careful of what you say and do
Cause Santa Claus is watching you
(He’s EVERYWHERE! He’s EVERYWHERE!)”
Ray Stevens’ 1985 revisiting of that song goes even further, suggesting that Santa does more with his super-spying ability than just make little children behave. He implies that ALL would-be cheaters or other wrongdoers should be warned. They may think they can get away with something, but they’re not going to.
“Well you may think you can sneak around and get away with something but there ain’t no way
Cause Santa’s no fool, he’s really super cool.
He’s the secret head of the CIA.
Eesh, Iish, crime don’t pay
(You can’t do nothin’ cause you’re never alone …)”
Well, I think Santa Claus could probably be a better head of the CIA than certain other people I could mention. Though I’d advise Mrs. Claus to keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t cheat on her with his biographer just in case. (And that’s my Topical Joke of the Day).
And all those songs were inspired by ‘Santa Claus is Coming To Town’, a song that’s been used in plenty of more innocent contexts, such as the Rankin Bass special. But one cannot deny its unsettling implications.
However, I think it’s safe to say that this song’s probably going to keep getting airplay on radio stations and at shopping centers for a long time to come.
Anyway, those are my Four More Disturbing and Inescapable Christmas Songs.
Oh, and if you haven’t already, go see the Nostalgia Chick’s video that inspired this. She’s got even more disturbing songs that we’re subjected to all the time from Thanksgiving up until Christmas.
When originally posted, this article received 10 comments.Â 12 Comments counting my replies.
12:56 AM on December 3, 2012 I loved the Robot Chicken take on “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, I’m suprised no other sketch show did something like that before.
9:15 PM on December 2, 2012 I’ve never heard the story behind Sarajevo before, but i never felt like it was out of place myself. I always thought it was awesome. In fact its my ringtone at the moment.
As for last christmas ……. I’ll be taking my own stab at that one very shortly.
Good work on this article
That Long-Haired Creepy Guy
7:02 PM on December 2, 2012 I had thoughts about numbers one and two for years. Being raised in a religious household, my mother was all for handing out threats of doom and gloom raining down from upon high at the slightest misbehavior. The idea of a fat guy in a red suit spying on me twenty-four/seven throughout the year wasn’t such a huge shock. I was already being spied upon by angels ready to report even the teensiest bit of wrong-doing.
The one about adultery, though… yeah, that’s a little weird.
2:00 PM on December 2, 2012 Well, Last Christmas is actually one of my favorite songs for this time of year but I do agree on the rest.
1:15 PM on December 2, 2012 Your comments on Santa Claus is coming to town remind me of a moment in my media ethics class when we were discussing privacy. The teacher asked who invades our privacy. It was December so I quipped “Well, in the spirit of the season, Santa Claus invades our privacy.”
1:07 PM on December 2, 2012 I like the nod to that disturbing Ray Stevens song. I have to admit that the one getting me this year is Jeff Foxworthy’s 12 Redneck Days of Christmas. I have already heard it three times. Good list
1:05 PM on December 2, 2012 Another good installment. I think all of these Christmas songs become even more disturbing when you hear them played 6 times a day on the radio… they drill into your head. I’ll just stick with Bob Rivers’ parodies.
12:11 PM on December 2, 2012 What? No kidnap the Sandy claws? Than again…I suppose that could be looked at as 3 badass children actively taking a stand against the evil that is Santa Clause…huh….great list.
11:53 AM on December 2, 2012 Hi Chris Lang. Excellent picks. I think Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes said it best. Santa Claus: Kindly old elf, or CIA spook? You be the judge. I’d actually go one further and say Santa Claus: Big Brother of Christmas! Peace.
2:14 PM on December 2, 2012 @Fusionater — I think that’s where Lindsay’s disclaimer that some songs might not be as ‘inescapable’ in some areas as they are in others comes in. I for one haven’t heard ‘Kidnap the Santy Claws’ on radio or in shopping centers or otherwise grouped in with normal Christmas songs at all, let alone often enough to qualify for this list.
@BigBlackHatMan Well, the reason songs like Jeff Foxworthy’s 12 Redneck Days of Christmas exist is because, as Lindsay notes in her video, we’re all tired of the original 12 Days of Christmas song with gifts of animals and ‘ten lords a leaping’. So of course lots of people have done parodies. But the original still gets plenty of airplay, making it a seasonal Undead Horse Trope.
@Moviefan12 As I said, it’s a breakup song, and not exactly the sort of thing I expect from a Christmas song. And it’s played so many times on the radio in my area that it made my list.
3:14 PM on December 2, 2012 Kind of disagree with you on #1, it’s a kids song and meant in that light. That’s cool, and I always preferred Here Comes Santa Claus anyway.
Â Chris Lang
3:20 PM on December 2, 2012
Kind of disagree with you on #1, it’s a kids song and meant in that light. That’s cool, and I always preferred Here Comes Santa Claus anyway
Just because it’s a kids song doesn’t disqualify it from being disturbing. I mean, that line is intended to scare kids into going straight. It’s the reason the Krampus retired as the seasonal kids-scarer — he wasn’t needed once it became clear that Santa could see everything kids did and would put them on his naughty list if he saw them doing anything even remotely wrong.
Edit, July 30th, 2014: Oh, and if you don’t get my Topical Joke of the Day, it involved a scandal that was making headlines in the months prior to December of 2012.