Christmas songs in general are overplayed, cheesy, and at times nauseatingly saccharine. With only some exceptions such as The Pogues’ classic ‘Fairytale of New York’, a wonderfully miserable song about two bickering bitter exes, you can’t walk into any shopping centre this time of year without being met by the same cheery playlist chiming out of every speaker.
For this reason, some of us would welcome a change in tone this Christmas season. And what better way to change the record by swapping a lovely carol such as ‘O Holy Night’ for ‘Merry Christmas I Fucked Your Snowman’ by Showcase Showdown?
Anti-Christmas songs are the perfect antidote to festive cheer. An eclectic bunch in both tone and genre, they range from moody jazz pieces, to dark realist rap, to downright crude and ridiculous punk rock. Rebellious and niche, these songs are outcasts in the cheery jingle bell world of Christmas music.
In fact, very rarely do any of these songs feature that classic jingle bell sound, and if so it’s underpinned with a sardonic irony such as in the opening of Showcase Showdown’s track.
Whilst they do tend to feature at least one Christmas element, be it an abusive father dressed as Santa Claus or what I can imagine is now a very traumatised snowman, the songs ruminate on unflinchingly dark themes such as empty consumerism, greed and even child molestation. Unsurprisingly, you don’t find any of these topics mentioned in your typical Christmas playlist. They are about as anti-festive as you can get.
Which begs the question, who would willingly listen to such miserable and hard hitting music at the supposedly happiest time of the year? There is a reason why adverts don’t play ‘Fuck Christmas’ over joyous images of smiling families gathered round a merrily lit tree: it doesn’t quite strike the right tone for lifting spirits and selling gifts.
But isn’t this capitalist, consumerism-driven thinking exactly what some of our anti-festive artists are critiquing? (‘Blue Xmas’ by Miles Davis is a worthy mention here.)
Of course, nobody really wants to confront social issues and feel depressed at Christmas time, myself included. Personally, I know I won’t be changing my family’s usual Christmas playlist almost exclusively consisting of songs from Kate Rusby’s Christmas album ‘Sweet Bells’ (a lovely album for those who would enjoy renditions of classic Christmas carols with Yorkshire folk tunes) for something as bleak as De La Soul’s ‘Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa’.
However, this won’t stop me from appreciating these songs for what they are, be they liberatingly silly or broodingly dark and poignant. Music after all is about expression and breaking convention, and Christmas music should be no exception.