Paul McCartney, “Wonderful Christmastime” (1979)
For two guys who wrote a lot of great music, John Lennon and Paul McCartney could churn out some awful concoctions separately. The prevailing wisdom is that Lennon without McCartney had too much bite; McCartney without Lennon, not enough. Or any, in fact. So the two went on to write two of the songs I dread the most this time of year. At least Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” has a decent message, which is still way too appropriate, decades later. The only message coming from McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” is to turn off the radio (or Spotify playlist) as soon as humanly possible, giving it the edge for this HateSong.
Maybe we can cut McCartney some slack for being too excited about his electronic synthesizer in 1979, as he crafted the song by himself by juggling varying degrees of spacey synth tracks with jingle bells. The lyrics battle these warbly tones for the ultimate level of insipidness, and nobody wins. “The party’s on / The feeling’s here / That only comes / This time of year” would fit right into a fourth-grader’s recital at a Christmas pageant. Hard to believe this is the same guy who wrote “Yesterday,” as this song lumbers on for nearly four vacuous, monotonous minutes.
Crafting a Christmas classic, apparently, is harder than it looks. The successful ones tap into the holiday to reach real emotionality, like in “The Christmas Waltz,” if they’re lucky enough to have a vocalist with enough pathos (Nat King Cole, Karen Carpenter) to pull it off. Here McCartney throws everything he can at the song—a droning children’s choir, a toast to raise a glass—but nothing works. It sounds like what it was, a guy monkeying around with an electronic music machine, except in this case the guy was Paul McCartney, which means that this song gets dragged out every single December, still netting him $400,000 a year. The rest of us are only gifted with an overplayed suckfest that sets our teeth on edge. Merry Christmas to you, Sir Paul.