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The Dan Band’s Dan Finnerty on why he hates “The Christmas Shoes”

In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.

The hater: As the frontman for The Dan Band, Dan Finnerty has entertained at some of the most famous (and funniest) fictional weddings, including on-screen affairs in both Old School and The Hangover. With covers of everything from “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” to “Milkshake,” The Dan Band could even be a killer real-life wedding band—something that the dozens of people who have actually asked the group to play their weddings have no doubt noticed. Unfortunately, Finnerty and company can’t make weddings all over the country, so the group has just put out a new and nuptial-centric LP, The Wedding Album. Packed with songs like “Bump N’ Grind” and guest appearances from acts like Rob Thomas and Train, the LP should give low-budget affairs the awkward and sexy nudge only the real Dan Band can provide.

The hated: NewSong, “The Christmas Shoes” (2000)

The A.V. Club: Why did you pick “The Christmas Shoes” as your least-favorite song?

Dan Finnerty: Every Christmas, we put the Christmas radio station on loop in our kitchen, and that song is on every three songs. It makes me crazy because the [narrator] is just so self-righteous, and, on top of being so sappy, he’s so proud of himself that the little boy comes in with all the change in his hand and wants to buy some pumps for his dying mom. Then “before she sees Jesus tonight” is the line. The guy is just so, so proud of himself. [Sings.] “So I laid the money down.”

It makes me want to kill myself every time I hear it. I’m like, “Oh, good for you, buddy.” The kid was like 20 cents short for these shoes and the guy wrote a whole song about what a hero he is. It’s a sweet story about a little boy who’s buying something for his sick mom, but it seems like the singer made himself the hero of the story by throwing in 35 cents.

AVC: The story’s already terrible enough.

DF: Yeah, I’m already depressed. I don’t need to feel good about you and your life choices.

AVC: But as the song says, that boy taught him a lesson that day.

DF: Right.

So then I wrote this song called “The Christmas Flip-Flop” which is based on a little boy who only needs one flip-flop because his mom’s got a wooden leg. That was my way of getting back at that song.

AVC: It’s amazing that “The Christmas Shoes” became popular.

DF: They even made a movie-of-the-week about it.

AVC: They did. It stars Rob Lowe, which is very sad.

DF: Oh, wow. I can’t believe you know that. Was it young Rob Lowe, or new Rob Lowe?

AVC: It was in 2002, so it was middle-age Rob Lowe.

DF: On his way to today.

“Christmas Shoes” also sounds like the same kind of thing as “Butterfly Kisses,” which also makes me equally uncomfortable. Do you know that one?

AVC: I do.

DF: That’s become everybody’s daddy-daughter dance or something. I was going to attack that one in my wedding album also, to make the worst daddy-daughter dance possible. But I’m a dad with a daughter, so I couldn’t commit. I’ll probably have “Butterfly Kisses” playing at her wedding.

I know I won’t. There’s no way I can. It’s the sound of that guy’s voice, too. [Sings.] “Butterfly kisses.” That whole thing. It feels like he sings into the mirror and just high-fives himself.

AVC: That song is gross in the same way “The Christmas Shoes” is gross. The narrator—or the singer, at least—seems like a giant creep. His voice gives me the willies.

DF: I think you’re right. [Laughs.] We’re right.

AVC: How did you try to capture that in your own song? What did you do to emulate it?

DF: It really was just sitting down with that hatred in my heart for that original song and then trying to think of how I could make the most ridiculous version of it. I sang the same thing—God, I wish I could remember the lyrics. I’m so unprepared right now. There was one line in there—it’s the same delivery. It’s like, [Sings.] “So I found the flip-flop Laverne had left behind.” It’s just the same “I’m so awesome and proud of myself” song.

Then, in the end, he doesn’t want to go shopping. That’s his whole thing. He hates Christmas. He wants to shop online, because that’s what the other guy says, too.

Okay, it’s all coming together now. [Laughs.] In the “Christmas Shoes” song, the other guy says something about how he hates the lines, and he’s all cranky, trying to deal with the last-minute shoppers. So that’s how my song starts out. [Sings.] “I was shopping online at Christmas time / Didn’t want to wait in line with all the fools.” He’s just cranky, but the little boy needs a flip-flop for his peg leg mother and that is teaching him a lesson about giving.

We made a video for it that’s pretty good. It’s a Claymation video so it looks like one of those Rankin/Bass Christmas specials. It’s a highlight for me.

AVC: I guess “The Christmas Shoes” is a Christian Christmas song. It’s meant for Christian radio, and I don’t often listen to Christian radio, so maybe it’s perfect for that genre.

DF: Yeah, but it has totally infiltrated mainstream. In California there’s this station called KOST 103 or something and they play a month of Christmas songs. I’m telling you, it’s every four songs. Normally it’s a soft rock station or something.

It’s a little kid’s voice, too. It’s like [Singing in a high-pitched voice.], “I want her to look beautiful if Mommy meets Jesus tonight.” Give me a break. Why don’t you pray that your mom’s going to get cured? Pray for that instead of praying for her to have some high heels.

AVC: He shouldn’t be out at the store. He should be home with his mom; I’m sure she would want that more.

DF: Exactly. She’s not going to wear the shoes. She could have used 10 more minutes with him.

AVC: Shoes don’t make you beautiful.

DF: They don’t, especially in a casket. Who’s going to see the shoes in a coffin? I hope he saved the receipt.

AVC: He can return them.

DF: He comes in the next day.

AVC: Yeah, he’s scamming that dude for money.

DF: That’s the end of our Claymation video. The little boy goes out, and it’s all a lie—she pops out her peg leg and they high five because they got the money.

Whatever. It’s a nice message.

AVC: There are six different books about “The Christmas Shoes.”

DF: That’s nice for Mom to read to her little kid on Christmas Eve. To make the little kid appreciate her. “This little boy’s mommy’s dying. She’s going to heaven in a minute. She needs some sandals. So you better be nice.”

It’s added to that fear of the lump of coal. Dead mom. It’s genius, actually.

AVC: Anything else about “The Christmas Shoes”?

DF: That was my ultimate payback, writing that song. You should look up the video; it’ll make you happy. It’s a nice palate cleanser after listening to “The Christmas Shoes.” I had my daughter sing the little boy’s voice on the album if that’s at all interesting. She played the role of Sean.

Did you hear that song at all, the one I’m talking about? I don’t care if you did. The lyrics are like “My name is Sean / My mama’s got a wooden leg / She wants flip-flops for Christmas”—I can’t believe I’m singing to you. [Singing.] “I don’t mean to beg / But if you have an extra flip-flop / I’ll give my Christmas tree to you / She’s only got one foot that works / So one flip-flop will do.”

It’s tender. It’s a tearjerker. Maybe if you get the word out there, somebody will at least make a coloring book for kids at Christmas.