The deterioration of public discourse on Twitter has given us boatload after boatload of terrible, unthinking hot takes in the form of memes. This impulse is best encapsulated in the “alignment chart” meme. First made for Dungeons and Dragons as a way to create ingame characters along ethical and moral axes, the alignment chart is now little more than a way for people to tabulate their likes and dislikes across a genre. It’s almost as if the material world were infinitely more complex than what a roleplaying game might tell you.
But you know what? The alignment chart is still fun, and also a pretty great way to bring in the holidays. So without further ado, after a careful, scientific examination of all the songs the holidays have to offer us jaded, miserable folks of all religious denominations, I am happy to present the definitive alignment chart for Christmas songs.
Lawful good: Boney M - “Mary’s Boy Child / Oh My Lord” (1978)
This Boney M cover of what is now a classic carol is a funky, soulful, heralding redemption for even the most debased of us. The song covers the well-known story about how Mary gave birth to a tiny tot, who turns out to be the Lord God himself. “Let everyone know, there is hope for all to find peace,” Boney M sings. Listening to the extremely popular quartet, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt for having been so blasphemous that I got a D in Religious Studies at my very Christian high school. So it goes.
Runner-up: None. Everyone’s a heathen. Merry Christmas!
Neutral good: Wham - “Last Christmas” (1986)
‘Tis the season to be nostalgic, to ruminate on the ephemerality of relationships. In the cold, wind, and snow, you can’t help but feel like a hugely complicit, guilty piece of shit about your past relationships. It’s not called cuffing season for nothing! Wham’s “Last Christmas” offers all of that and more as it documents George Michael’s determination to move on and fling himself into the arms of another. Maudlin? Perhaps, but so is the past.
Runner-up: Dan Fogelberg - “Same Old Lang Syne” (1980). Dan Fogelberg’s soft-rock tendencies spawned a really sentimental ballad that can only be played during the holidays when there’s almost a feet of snow outside, you’re completely alone, and you’re nursing a hot toddy underneath gauzy lights.
Chaotic good: Mariah Carey - “All I Want for Christmas is You” (1994)
The chaos comes from the fact that way too many atonal assholes try to sing this in karaoke bars around the world. I was in such a bar this weekend; everyone, including the singer, failed. This has everything you’re looking for in a holiday song: A dash of longing, a touch of desperation, uncompromising boisterousness. Even Mariah wouldn’t saddle her kids with the burden of living this one out.
Runner-up: Destiny’s Child - “8 Days of Christmas” (2001). When I was a tween sporting a Walkman, I was convinced the girl-group was singing “money, money, my baby,” instead of “my man, my man, my baby” which, like, fair, given the eyebrow-raising list of things Bey, Kelly, and Michelle’s beaux give them for Christmas.
Lawful neutral: “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” (1966)
Despite the proliferation of Grinch remakes and an alleged Tyler, The Creator cover of this holiday classic, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” remains a hilarious song to hurl at the grumpiest of your festive partygoers. There are some excellent insults in this one — “you have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile” is probably my favourite — save for some slanderous comments about garlic, which is an excellent condiment.
Runner-up: Amy Grant - “Grown-up Christmas List” (1992). There’s a lot of sermonizing in this one, including the most white-washed list of desires this side of “Imagine”: “No more lives torn apart / that wars would never start / and time would heal all hearts / and everyone would have a friend / and right would always win / and love would never end.” Save it for mass.
True neutral: *NSYNC - “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” (1998).
It’s such a cute relic of the 90s; Justin Timberlake even has his ramen hair. The boy band tries to make the traditional Christmas carol a little more inclusionary with the bridge, “no matter what's your holiday, it's a time to celebrate,” and the music video shows the multicultural, post-racial future we were once promised. They make sure to remind you they still love God, though.
Runner-up: Miley Cyrus - “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” performed on SNL. Miley Cyrus recently covered John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s cheery anti-war anthem on SNL and changed the controversial lyric “for yellow and red ones” to “for left and right ones.” Trump supporters are going to get off the hook with no self-reflection and it’s going to be the worst shit ever.
Chaotic neutral: Bob Dylan - “Must Be Santa” (2009)
Dylan’s polka version includes a itemized, rhyming list of past presidents, and nothing is more chaotic than homework.
Runner-up: Band Aid - “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, the original 1984 version. U2, Duran Duran, Sting, Spandau Ballet and other Big Name British and Irish acts came together to raise awareness and money for famine relief in Ethiopia. It’s a heartwarming idea, until you notice that the lyrics construe Africa, the whole continent, as a place “where nothing ever grows / no rain or rivers flow.”
Lawful evil: Michael Bublé - “Santa Baby” (2011)
Bublé’s infamous cover of Eartha Kitt’s sultry ode to Santa features the phrases “Santa buddy” and “Santa pal-ly”. It’s essentially the Christmas equivalent of *two bros, sitting in a hot tub, five feet apart ‘cause they’re not gay*. No homo, Santa, it’s just that I’d really like to have some nice things.
Neutral evil: All versions of “Baby It’s Cold Outside”
Is “Baby It’s Cold Outside” problematic? Are its critics ignoring context clues and feminist agency? Is MasterCard a queer ally? Probably, possibly, no. Let’s just agree it’s creepy that the Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé version features two children in the music video.
Runner-up: Dropkick Murphys - “The Season’s Upon Us” (2012). I quote: “Dad on the other hand's a selfish old sod / drinks whiskey alone with my miserable dog / who won't run off fetch, sure he couldn't care less / he defiled my teddy bear and left me the mess.” Very charming.
Chaotic evil: Jackson 5 - “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (1970)
The little shit in this song is going to get his parents divorced.
Runner-up: The Killers - “Don’t Shoot Me Santa” (2007). In this song, Santa is a vigilante brandishing a gun and accosting Brandon Flowers since the latter has been “killing for fun.” They could have just skipped the song, waited a decade, and covered a Vine instead.