I heard Kenny Rogers and Wynonna’s rendition of “Mary, Did You Know?” at the grocery store this weekend. I admit I got a little warm and fuzzy, right there in the cereal aisle. As a country fan, I’m familiar with quite a few versions but I’ve always had a soft spot for this one.
OK, it’s schmaltzy, and not for everybody. The Telegraph, the enduring London publication, now calls it one of the five worst Christmas songs of all time.
“A lot of country duets could have made the top five but Kenny Rogers gets the nod, not least for being a white-beardy Father Christmas lookalike,” journalist Charles Bogle wrote.
Alan Jackson’s take on “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)” didn’t fare much better. On the Al Jazeera America website, it ranks in the 10 worst Christmas songs of all time. Author Tom Maxwell says, “If sung as a joke it isn’t funny, and if it’s serious it’s a disaster. The party atmosphere of the sing-along at the end only makes this more of an emotionally compromised nightmare.”
Even poor Tennessee Ernie Ford gets served, due to “Jingle-O the Brownie.” Maxwell blames Ford’s “flop-sweat desperation to score a Christmas novelty hit.” Bless his pea-pickin’ heart.
Randy Lewis at the L.A. Times selected 12 of the worst Christmas albums of the last 20 years. He has no Christmas cheer to give Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill or Elvis Presley – well, at least the King’s duet partners.
Chesney’s 2003 album, All I Want For Christmas Is a Real Good Tan is “largely an exercise in saccharine overload,” while Hill’s 2008 project, Joy to the World, is summed up this way: “It’s easy to imagine Hill and her co-producers listening to their cast-of-thousands, cranked-to-11 recording of the title track and shouting, ‘Take that, Mormon Tabernacle Choir!’ Such vocal beauty, such a dearth of musical scale.” Personally, I do appreciate the play on words in the album’s closing track, “A Baby Changes Everything.”
As for Presley’s posthumous album, Fox bemoans “the posthumous Pro Tools-engineered pairings with Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, Wynonna Judd, Anne Murray and … Anne Murray? Is it too much to ask to let the poor man rest in peace?”
Over at the A.V. Club, John Schneider and Tom Wopat (a.k.a. Bo and Luke Duke) get blasted for Home for Christmas, which the site considers one of the least essential albums of 2014. It’s cited as “a hokey album of holiday tunes that may redefine the word ‘cheesy’ for generations to come.”
Whatever. I’m still going to hum along with “Mary, Did You Know,” and like every other year, I’ll pull out my copy of Jackson’s Honky-Tonk Christmas album, too. These aren’t guilty pleasures for me.
However, this classic ‘90s video below definitely is. Take a look at Vince Vance and the Valiants’ “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”