Choosing a favourite Christmas song is like choosing a favourite Quality Street. You could go for The Pogues (AKA The Green Triangle) – arguably the best and probably the most popular, a safe and uninspired choice. You could go for Mariah (AKA The Strawberry Delight) – sweet and indulgent, another household fave. Or you could go for something like Bing Crosby (AKA The Toffee Penny) – strictly for grown-ups who voted for Brexit.
The point is, just like the chocolates in the box of Quality Street, the same old Christmas tracks are wheeled out year after year. Ask anyone what their favourite Christmas song is and you can be sure they’ll pick from the same selection tin as everyone else, a tin of Wham!, Slade and Shakin’ Stevens.
But for every Quality Street favourite there’s a sweet that was discontinued, banished from the box and pushed to the back of our memories. For example, who remembers when the tin contained the Peanut Cracknell, the Montelimar Nougat or the Almond Octagon? No one does, because just like that time one of The Tweenies dressed up as Jimmy Savile, we’ve forgotten the whole thing. Amidst all the nostalgia of the festive season, we somehow overlooked one of the greatest Christmas singles ever released.
Academics universally agree that Girls Aloud are the best pop group of the millennium but their 2005 Christmas track ‘Not Tonight Santa’ is woefully underappreciated.
Is this the first track ever to liken Santa to a randy sex pest, a bloke who harasses women (albeit in a festive way) to the point that they have to actually write a letter asking him to desist? ‘Not Tonight Santa’ is a peculiarly rapey addition to the Christmas jukebox, a track that suggests Saint Nick is a bit of a lech who won’t bring presents unless he can cop a feel before scooting back up the chimney. I mean I’m reading between the lines a bit, but I’m pretty sure that’s what Girls Aloud are getting at.
Elsewhere, Girls Aloud make the mortal error of combining Christmas and sex. When will pop stars learn there is nothing sexy about giant, comedy-sized stockings, heavy turkey dinners or listening to your gran tell you that immigrants are ruining the NHS? Trying to sex up Christmas is always a bad idea – just listen to ‘Santa Baby’ – a song that I’m pretty sure is about trying to fuck Father Christmas, for a masterclass in how laboured puns do not a boner make.
But Girls Aloud are mavericks, and they ignore this advice. “I’m sure you’re hiding something hot / You wanna give to me / And not another pair of socks / From underneath the tree,” they sing in perhaps music’s first sock-based sex lyric. But what is the ‘something hot’ Girls Aloud are craving? A hot penis? Presumably not a new curling iron but Girls Aloud leave the lyrics open to interpretation.
‘Not Tonight Santa’ is great because it is bad. It is a ropey, clumsy Christmas track that mixes terrible sex metaphors with the controversial hot take that Santa is a cad. It’s catchy and it’s dumb, it’s ham-fisted and it sounds like it was written after several bottles of red. If ‘Not Tonight Santa’ were a Quality Street chocolate it would be the Gooseberry Cream – weird, fruity, almost entirely forgotten and definitely completely unnecessary. But for all its faults, ‘Not Tonight Santa’ is the only track I want to listen to this December.