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.

First of all, despite what the e-mail forward said, this never happened. Maybe the kid was experimenting with crossdressing and this “Christmas Shoes” nonsense was his cover story — that’s believable.

But he definitely didn’t buy his mom a pair of shoes to go meet Jesus. Why? Because we don’t live inside your grandma’s Precious Moments snow globe. You know what a kid really does when his mom is dying? He cries. With his family. At the hospital! He’s certainly not by himself running around Wal-Mart looking for a new pair of pumps.

And not only is the premise ridiculous, but the morality of the song is nauseating. It turns the systemic problem of poverty into a sentimental character trait, as if the poor exist only so middle-class people can feel good about themselves for even the most minimal acts of charity. More egregiously, however, it blames God for this horrible song’s existence.

Here’s how “Christmas Shoes” closes:

I knew I’d caught a glimpse of Heaven’s love

As he thanked me and ran out

I knew that God had sent that little boy

To remind me just what Christmas is all about

What? I don’t think we’re supposed to believe that God killed this kid’s mom just so this bourgeois dink could feel like a saint for tossing the kid a couple bucks.

If the narrator meant the meaning of Christmas is a child’s love for his mother, then that should’ve made him reflect on a parent’s love for his or her child.

If he’d done that, he might’ve stopped rhapsodizing about his incredible self-sacrifice for a moment and thought: “Man, I should probably call child services. This kid’s running around all by himself on Christmas trying to buy shoes for his dead mother. Clearly he’s not in a good place right now.”

Address correspondence to Jeremiah Tucker, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.

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