The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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December 17, 2009

Jeremiah Tucker: 'Christmas Shoes' is the worst holiday song

I don’t know how I escaped “Christmas Shoes” for such a long time, but I did. I didn’t hear it until this year, and yet, the fact that I’ve heard it umpteen times in the past three weeks at work where the radio station has been tuned to a non-stop Christmas music station worries me, because that means it’s entered the canon alongside such seasonal mainstays as Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and Jim Jones’ “Dipset X-Mas Time.”

Recorded by the Christian vocal group NewSong in 2000, “Christmas Shoes” went to No. 42 on the Hot 100, and that’s surprising for a couple of reasons. For one, the song is based on a popular e-mail forward, which is not a conventional source for hit songs, and according to Wikipedia, the group wrote “Christmas Shoes” in four minutes.

But what I find most notable, considering the song’s unexpected popularity, is that it’s tuneless garbage, five minutes of gentle splashes on the drums, generous worship-band keyboards and gravely whisper singing slathered in soggy production so indistinct and sentimental it’s the acoustic equivalent of smearing Vaseline on a camera lens.

“Christmas Shoes” is simultaneously the worst holiday song I’ve ever heard, and the weirdest, and considering the genre is saddled with countless novelty songs made by lazy recording artists looking for an easy cash-grab, that’s no easy feat. Aside from the song’s ability to immediately trigger my gag reflex at the first plaintive plinks of the keyboard, its biggest problem is its premise. It’s so bizarre!

The narrator of “Christmas Shoes” tells the story of a kid who walks into a store because his mom is dying and he wants to buy her a new pair of shoes so when she gets to Heaven, Jesus won’t dislike her for looking poor. The kid can’t afford the shoes — He counted pennies for what seemed like years, then the cashier said, “Son, there’s not enough here” — and the narrator purchases the shoes for him.

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