Two days before Halloween, Liam Payne unleashed a frightening new catastrophe into the world: his Christmas pop song “Naughty List,” featuring social media personality Dixie D’Amelio. The duet follows two people who go home together after a party and end up “on the naughty list” for kissing.
Commonplace Christmas songs are relatively low stakes — they’re generally wholesome, festive and lighthearted. “Naughty List,” as denoted by its title, is none of those things. What was intended to be a fun, sexy holiday song is nothing more than a monotonous mush of languor. With no nuance to its flirtatious angle, the song rapidly devolves into what feels like a sloppy page of Christmas-themed Mad Libs set to music.
Opening with jingle bells over guitar strums, the heavily auto-tuned single quickly lays down the basic framework for a standard Christmas love song. It’s a fair attempt to create a festive atmosphere typical of holiday tracks, fitting the mold of a song you would hear walking into Target during the holidays. The production’s uncreative monotony, however, should not be mistaken for meaningful consistency.
Holiday jingles being overstuffed with wintry imagery is acceptably characteristic of the genre, and the chorus rhyme “Now we’re on the naughty list/ Must have been the way we kissed” along with inevitable mentions of snow and mistletoe are tolerable. However, the song’s failure to merge festive cheer and romance results in its undisguised innuendos feeling somewhat uncomfortable. With repeated lines such as “Next thing you know it, we were drying our clothes/ But I didn’t mean to get you in trouble” and “You round my place/ We’ll misbehave/ With kisses like snowflakes all over your body,” the song’s spiritless lack of innovation is especially dreary.
Unfortunately, this agonizing absence of creativity isn’t the single’s only flaw. Although Payne sings quite passably throughout the song, D’Amelio’s lack of singing experience on the single is so evident that it’s distracting. The TikTok star made her musical debut this summer with the popular single “Be Happy,” in which she dejectedly sings “Sometimes I don’t wanna be happy/ Don’t hold it against me” — and somehow, she manages to carry this glum sentiment over to her verse on “Naughty List.”
At 19 years old, D’Amelio is still developing her singing style and deserves some leeway, but her feature on the track feels ridiculously unnecessary. She stumbles with her delivery of simplistic lines, and she sings with an unusual unease as if someone unexpectedly changed the lyrics right before her live recording. Her straining voice is dull and flat, and with her characteristically low range, she struggles to bring any pep to a song that’s already suffering.
Nevertheless, the duo’s star power has earned the track over 7.8 million streams, a number likely to grow with the holidays just around the corner. Their collaboration is unmistakable proof that truly any song — no matter how insipid — can succeed with the support of a dedicated fan base. And while “Naughty List” doesn’t deserve a place on any Christmas playlist, Payne and D’Amelio might have indeed just earned a spot on Santa’s naughty list with this offense to the holiday season.