Three Reasons Why Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmas Time" Is Way Better Than You Think It Is
Tis the season, y’all. And I’m not talking about the time of season where we all go to stores we don’t like to buy things for people we sort of do, while hoping those people will take a great meaning from the things we bought them. I’m talking that that time of season where we stop to consider what truly matters in our lives: What is the worst Christmas song of all time?
It’s more fun/relevant to Google metrics to try to figure out the worst Christmas song of all time, because the best Christmas song of all time isn’t even debatable: It’s “Sleigh Ride” by the Ronettes, because that song is the best application of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound ever, and it’s harder than any grindcore song you can throw at it while still prominently featuring jingle bells. So every year, we have this debate about what’s the worst. A lot of publications even run lists about which songs are the biggest stinkers. The usual suspects are always there: Wham’s “Last Christmas,” “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” that recording of dogs barking “Jingle Bells,” “Santa Baby,” and 99 percent of the time, Sir Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time.”
It’s that last one I have a problem with: Only unimaginative Grinches who parrot opinions they think they’re supposed to have would find “Wonderful Christmas Time” anything other than the catchy, wavy, totally great song that it is. Sure, it’s a bit cheesy, but anyone that hates it for that reason is ignoring the only truth about Christmas music: All of it is cheesy. Every single Christmas song. They’re songs devoted to a holiday involving a bearded Norseman dropping off wooden toys in every house on earth in a single night (or Jesus, or whatever). The subject matter doesn’t have to be stone serious: It’s about decking halls, hanging with family, and making out under mistletoe, a plant that has no other known medicinal uses other than to make people poop.
But I realize it might be difficult to process “Wonderful Christmas Time” actually not being a terrible song. So here are three scientific reasons you need to stop kidding yourself and realize that “Wonderful Christmas Time” isn’t as bad as everyone says.
1. It’s the original--and by far best--Chillwave song.
This is a point that is so glaringly obvious that it's sort of surprising that it hasn’t been discussed ad nauseum. Chillwave, as we have come to accept it, is a genre heavy on analog synths, a dose of detached irony, and lyrics that are nostalgic to the point of treacle. Is this not how you’d describe “Wonderful Christmas Time?” Paul McCartney, in addition to being in the Beatles, invented a genre that wouldn’t even come into existence until 30 years later, and all for a throwaway Christmas single. Dude is next level.
And think about it: Has any Neon Indian song even come close to being better than “Wonderful Christmas Time”? Would Memoryhouse even exist without Sir Paul’s watery synths? Are you really telling me you’d pick any song by Com Truise over “Wonderful Christmas Time?”
2. It proves Paul McCartney is the best songwriter of all time.
One of the most recurring criticisms of “Wonderful Christmas Time” you’ll read is that it sounds like it was written and recorded in ten minutes, and Paul just said to his producer, “Cheerio, fuck it. Good enough. Print that shit.”
I’m willing to concede that maybe happened. But think about what that would actually mean: Paul McCartney wrote that thing in 10 minutes, and came out with a lasting Christmas hit that has been played every holiday season since 1979. He was shrewdly able to nail that feeling of Christmas time cheer, and make one of maybe five original, brand new Christmas songs from the last 35 years that has had any staying power. He was able to write a song that brings him in, allegedly, upwards of $500,000 per year, in ten fucking minutes.
Granted, a lot of the staying power has to do with Paul McCartney being Paul “I Wrote ‘Hey Goddamn Motherfucking Jude’” McCartney. But what kind of Christmas song could you write in 10 minutes? Would it even be half as memorable as “Wonderful Christmas Time?" Which is why I sort of think “Wonderful Christmas Time” is a more impressive achievement than Revolver.
3. It’s a better song than John Lennon’s “Happy X-Mas (War Is Over)”
The best Christmas songs--“Sleigh Ride,” “Run Rudolph Run,” “Walking In A Winter Wonderland,” “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” and, obviously, “Wonderful Christmas Time”--have no overarching message. Their ultimate “point” is trying to articulate how awesome it is that it’s Christmas time again, and that Christmas is, all things considered, about the raddest time of the year. That’s it.
The worst Christmas songs, however, forget that, and try to attach some message to the proceedings, like what we want to listen to when we’re traveling great distances to see our loved ones are songs that reminds us that things are horrible, that people are poor, that people are at war, and that things could be better if no one ever died.
John Lennon’s “Happy X-Mas (War Is Over)” is one of those songs. It’s a song about it being Christmas time, but ultimately, it’s about how, like, we could end war if we only loved each other more and “wanted it” hard enough. That’s pretty stupid, obviously, and it ignores many, many geopolitical realities that John Lennon was smart enough to have understood and subsequently ignore. Its overall message is one of John & Yoko’s most hippie-dippy--I don’t think anyone “wants” war, no matter how much time you spent in a bed trying to prove otherwise.
At the most, Christmas songs are allowed to throw you a reminder to volunteer a little time to the less fortunate this time of year. Anything beyond that, they’re using a sacrosanct platform--the Christmas song--to cram a message down our throats. When that happens, Al Qaeda wins.
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