If you’re old enough to be reading this piece, then you probably already know certain depressing truths about Christmastime: Santa Clause was real but died in a freak tobogganing accident back in ’57 (since then, it’s been your parents); Grandma’s famous, homemade Christmas cookies are actually store bought; Christmas is just a divide-and-conquer corporate ploy to encourage the masses to bloodily slay each other at retail outlets over flat screens, dolls that enjoy being tickled, and next-gen gaming consoles; polar bears drink Pepsi, not Coca-Cola; and, most importantly, there is no such thing as a Norman Rockwell Christmas.
Of course, you wouldn’t know any of this from tuning into your favorite radio station during the holiday season, where the worst thing that happens is Grandma gets run over by a reindeer (karma for decades of cookie prevaricating) or Mommy gets caught necking with Santa. Yes, Christmas music has been an effective tool for distracting us from the seamier side of the season. However, while Bing and Burl have been insisting for decades that Christmastime is white and holly jolly, others have made a point to write and record songs that suggest the 25th of December isn’t only about jingle bells, chestnuts roasting, and talking snowmen.
Here are our 10 favorite songs that shed some light (and truth) on the less merry side of Christmas.
10. Lyle Lovett – “The Girl with the Holiday Smile”
After six eggnogs and a cursory listen, you might peg Lyle Lovett’s jazzy “The Girl with the Holiday Smile” as a bit of innocuous yuletide naughtiness. Hell, your girl might even lean into your ear and sing, “Whoa my, whoa me/ I look so good beneath a Christmas tree.” And while you’re fantasizing about what she might look like wrapped in nothing but a shiny bow beneath your tree—and debating whether or not a shiny PS4 would be a better gift—just be sure not to mention to her that the song’s about a hooker. –Matt Melis
9. Advance Base – “Christmas in Oakland”
Tank tops and board shorts don’t conjure Christmas like falling snow and sugarplums, especially when you’re stranded on the west coast, distant from family in both the literal and figurative sense. But hey, sometimes instead of presents you get laid. And that might be the greatest gift of all. -Randall Colburn