In Defense Of Paul McCartney’s ‘Wonderful Christmastime,’ A True Holiday Treasure

We're simply hearing a wonderful Christmas song.

If you're a responsible Christmas shopper, you've surely already spent hours in cozy seasonal shops, packed malls and retail stores crossing items off of your shopping list. Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, you've probably tagged along with a friend or strolled through the storefront scenes yourself to take in the ambiance. And if you have, you've almost certainly heard the No. 1 most-played holiday song in retail settings: "Wonderful Christmastime" performed by The Shins.

That song recently dethroned Mariah Carey's immortal "All I Want For Christmas Is You" as the go-to tune for yuletide shopping -- a huge feat, considering The Shins' stature as one of the preeminent indie bands of the 2000s (who make highly peppy, melodic music). Christmas shoppers might not consciously realize it, but low-key holiday pop pairs very well with retail experiences. The melodies are familiar enough. It's like muzak.

The Shins wouldn't be able to enjoy this glory at all, of course, without the original version of the song, written and released by Paul McCartney in 1979. It's a veritable classic Christmas song, and it's got a Beatle behind it, which makes it destined for complete ubiquity. But, apparently, this OG rendition sets so many ears ablaze with holiday-centric disgust

"Wonderful Christmastime" has, in the past few years, been labeled an "overplayed suckfest," "manic, stupid, and overstimulating" and indeed "the worst Christmas song ever."

But it's none of those things. The jingle bell-heavy, overly synthed, slow-rolling holiday tune is weird, yes, but wonky and wonderful. Believe it.

While the song's datedness could be chalked up to Sir Paul's presumed weekend locked in the studio with a #cool new synthesizer (maybe one gifted to him as an early Christmas present?), the bouncy chords sound unhinged and wobbly, like childlike glee transposed into music. And yeah, the jingle bell accompaniment might be overdone, but it's a staple of holiday songs for good reason: It sounds like musical snow.


Paul McCartney has a rich history of penning old-timey tunes that are full of more cheese than a Melt Shop, including dozens of beloved Beatles cuts -- "Martha My Dear," "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," "When I'm Sixty-Four" -- so for anyone to accuse "Wonderful Christmastime" of being overly precious or gooey is, quite frankly, baloney.

All Christmas music is gooey. Even Trans-Siberian Orchestra concerts.

The mere fact that this woozy-sounding Christmas gem is so popular means that people aren't just cool with its overall weirdness; they've actually come to expect it. This isn't some highly glossed, over-produced slice of studio perfection. This is Paul McCartney playing four to five instruments on an oddball Christmas carol -- a recipe for eternal holiday glory (and some unexpected indie cred, I'd argue).

When I was about 12 or 13, I confidently proclaimed to my mom that no matter how much snow falls in December or how many wreaths and decorations pop up around the block, it's not really the Christmas season until we hear "Wonderful Christmastime" organically at least once on the radio or in a store. I stick by my statement.


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