Shelby’s 10 Worst Christmas Songs #2

This one goes in the “are you kidding me???” category:

#2 Do They Know It’s Christmas (by various celebrity do-gooders)

I’ve said it before–I’m a child of the 80s, and I love 80s music. LOVE. But you know, there’s some really bad stuff floating around out there, and this song is one of them.

Do They Know It’s Christmas was recorded by a group of British and Irish pop stars as a part of Band Aid (the name always cracks me up) to raise money for famine relief. Recorded in 1984, it represented an era of rock stars who thought that getting a bunch of famous people together and singing a song could eradicate world hunger (see also: “We Are the World” and “Hands Across America”).

This song is truly awful, but it does have two good things going for it: 1) it apparently raised a lot of money, so, yay! and 2) the video is unbelievably awesome:

And first, a few notes about the video. It’s a real trip down memory lane seeing some of those faces. Boy George’s shoulder pads are so huge he probably had to turn sideways to get through doorways. The hairstyles are, as always, classic 80s (and I’m personally convinced that the 80s is in a large part responsible for the hole in the ozone layer due to its massive overuse of Aqua Net, and I don’t exclude myself here). George Michael sings, which marks his second appearance on Shelby’s Worst Christmas Songs like. George, just stick to non-holiday music, okay? And even among this group of highly talented and fashionable men, George Michael STILL has the best mullet.

My heart melted a little at the sight of all of the original members of Duran Duran. I went to one of their concerts in the last few years where they’d replaced a few members and oh my god, it was horrible. So seeing Duran Duran in its original configuration was wonderful. Over there on the drums was Phil Collins, which prompted me to think “Dude, he didn’t have any hair all the way back in 1984???”  And seriously–Sting? STING! He looks so young! I mean, I know it’s almost 30 years later (!) but Sting looks like a toddler version of himself in this video, and according to my lazy research, he was 33 at the time of taping. It’s awesome to see a young Bono too.

But that’s where my praise of the song ends.

Because really, let’s take a good look at it.

It’s Christmas time
There’s no need to be afraid
At Christmas time
We let in light, and we banish shade

Okay, that’s no so bad.

And in our world of plenty
we can spread a smile of joy
throw your arms around the world
at Christmas time

Yes! Every Christmas I just want to give the whole world a great big hug!

But say a prayer
pray for the other ones
at Christmas time, it’s hard
but when you’re having fun

It’s hard?

There’s a world outside your window
and it’s a world of dreaded fear

Oh god, that’s cheery!

Where the only water flowing
is a bitter sting of tears

Okay, yes, Africa (specifically Ethiopia) was, at the time, experiencing a horrific drought, but Africa is a BIG continent.

And the Christmas bells that ring there
are the clanging chimes of doom

Clanging chimes of doom? Seriously?

Well tonight thank God it’s them
instead of you

Whoa, whoa, whoa–wait a minute here. Thank god it’s them instead of me? Like every year, right after I declare I want to give the whole wide world a big hug, I think “Thank God, there are starving people in Africa…and I’m not one of them!!” yep, that sounds about right.

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time
the greatest gift they’ll get this year is life

Again, Africa = Big Place. There may not be snow in the flat lands of Ethiopia, but that doesn’t mean there’s no snow at all. And isn’t life the greatest gift we ALL get?

Where nothing ever grows
no rain or rivers flow
do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

No rain or rivers flow? Except, like, the NILE??? You know, the longest river in the world? And do they know it’s Christmas? Do YOU know they’re not all Christians?

Here’s to you
raise your glass for everyone


Here’s to them
underneath that burning sun


Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

The real question is, do they care? No, because they’re all dying.

Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmas time
(repeat several times)

Or, I have an idea–how about we just feed them every day of the year? Like “Hey, here’s some rice, since you’re a human being enduring unimaginable suffering” instead of “Hey, here’s some rice–Merry Christmas!”

Perhaps my favorite part of this whole story is that Bob Geldof, one of the people who wrote the song, now completely hates it. My favorite quote:

He said: ‘I am responsible for two of the worst songs in history. One is Do They Know It’s Christmas? and the other one is We Are The World.

‘Any day soon, I will go to the supermarket, head to the meat counter and it will be playing. Every ****ing Christmas.’

Heh. So why do people keep playing it, and an even bigger question–why do people keep re-recording it???

Do me a Christmas favor and retire this one.
#10 Santa Baby (Madonna)

#9 Jingle Bells by the Singing Dogs

#8 Feliz Navidad

#7 Last Christmas (Wham!)

#6 The Chipmunk Song/I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas

#5 The Chanukah Song (original version) by Adam Sandler

#4 Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer

#3 Please Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas

10 responses to “Shelby’s 10 Worst Christmas Songs #2

  1. Kristen K. :) December 21, 2011 at 1:16 am

    OH MY GOSH, I make this argument all the time and people think I’m heartless. It’s a really bad song!!!! Thank you!

  2. Tanya Post December 21, 2011 at 1:43 am

    Ok ok ok ok. To dislike the song is one thing. To rip it apart and critique it is something else. You have to put it in context. This song came at the height of the materialistic greed and excess that was the eighties. This song was about getting people to spend some of their money at that particular time on others in need instead of on themselves.

    In the United Kingdom we have this huge focus on Christmas Songs, and it is a big deal to be number one at Christmas time. Sales at this time of year show a ridiculous increase on record sales at any other time of year, so it was the perfect chance to make money for Africa. It wasn’t about changing the world so much as getting money quickly to get food to those in need.

    The whole thing was a hurried last minute idea, and the studio was booked without any idea of who was going to show up to sing, and without a song having been written. Bob Geldof and Midge Ure wrote that song as they went along, and as bits were recorded throughout the day.

    Yes Africa is a big place – and the money was not just for Ethiopia. That money – (which is still being raised by rereleasing different versions of the song, and through royalties from airplay which annoys you all) is being spent all over Africa on a massive range of projects to feed, educate and provide medical care.

    Band Aid and Live Aid have changed many pockets of Africa – and I think that when the song comes on and annoys you – instead of hating it, or deconstructing it line by line, I would encourage you to instead think – “wow – not the greatest song – but look what it did. Look what Bob Geldof andMidge Ure did with it. They gathered all of the top names in music from that time, wrote a song quickly, divided up the lines, did not have to deal with any ego’s – everyone just came together for a cause – and the song became the biggest selling single of all time. That is more important than a perfectly constructed, and lyrically thought-through song”.

    • Shelby December 21, 2011 at 9:41 am

      Hm, seems like I’ve ruffled a few feathers. I’m not saying that Do They Know It’s Christmas hasn’t done good things for the world–it certainly has. I’m saying that despite that, it’s just not a good song, and the reason why it’s not a good song is because the lyrics are terrible, not because their motivations were flawed or the outcome was ineffective. Geldof and Ure wrote a lot of great songs, but this is not one of them. It’s great that it has been so successful in raising money and awareness, and my dislike of the song isn’t going to change the thousands of people who love it, as evidenced by its continued remaking and airtime. But if Geldof himself can say that it’s an awful song, I can’t feel too badly about concurring with that.

  3. Sprite's Keeper December 21, 2011 at 5:02 am

    I can see both sides on this. Sure, the song raised money, yes, it did good, but it is still bloody awful. The lyrics are completely self serving, with runs given to each star to “showcase” their talent. They were basically trying to mimic “We Are The World”. Every time I hear it, I cringe at the words. I can understand it was written at the last minute, but ten minutes more to consider each verse wouldn’t have killed them.

  4. RedRosie December 21, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Who cares if it’s bad. It’s fun to remember 1984! I dare you to read the second verse without hearing “tiiiime” in your head. I can now finally get the hippopotamus out of my head!

  5. WordyDoodles December 21, 2011 at 10:21 am

    The schmaltz!!! Yeah, I always found this song so patronizing. YES, ya big jerks, just because people are poor doesn’t mean they’re unaware of the calendar. Or the fact that other people have more. In fact, they are probably more painfully aware it’s Christmas and all that it means than many more privileged folks. Ugh- shudder. As someone whose parents came from a poor place filled with brown people, I can’t stomach it. Yay, it made money that helped people, but they did it with a terrible song that lives on, and I’m glad Bob G acknowledges that. Because, YIKES.
    Also, your commentary cracks me up. 🙂

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