What do Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Mariah Carey, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Vince Guaraldi all have in common? They’ve recorded classic Christmas songs that dominate radio airwaves from Thanksgiving through the New Year. What do the following artists appearing on this list have in common? They did not. Have a good chuckle this Christmas by sampling songs from 15 of the worst Christmas albums ever recorded.
Twisted Sister released A Twisted Christmas in 2006. Among the Yuletide horrors contained on the disc is “Heavy Metal Christmas (12 Days Of Christmas).” What’s even worse is the band just released a live version of the record, A Heavy Metal X-Mas, recorded in Las Vegas. Clearly the city of sin has been extra naughty this year…
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A glam metal band like Twisted Sister doing a Christmas album isn’t too much of a stretch, but Billy Idol? A few years back the 80s punk rocker traded in his sneering, rebel yell persona for a Bing Crosby-style Christmas album. Happy Holidays is a bewilderingly, bland entry in Idol’s discography that will not give fans a whiplash smile.
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Gene Autrey’s take on “Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer” is seminal. There’s not much improving on the novelty song— what made Regis Philbin thing he could innovate it? The nasal voiced single below is just one of the crimes committed against the holiday season on Regis Philbin: Christmas Album. It’s not all bad, though, as listeners at least get a Claymation version of Philbin in the accompanying video.
John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John
The only thing that makes This Is Christmas less of an embarrassment for Travolta is that it comes on the heels of his recent legal troubles. The actor’s reunion with Grease co-star Olivia Newton-John does its best to ruin whatever goodwill the two may have with their fans. The album’s key single, “I Think You Might Like It,” is a country-pop ditty that sounds like it was recorded with a 1980s Casio Keyboard as the backing band. It doesn’t help that it looks like Travolta edited the music video on his Macbook’s FinalCut suite. Here’s to hoping both singers asked for a new agent this Christmas…
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Rick Springfield continues the parade of washed-up 80s stars attempting to comeback through a Christmas album. Springfield’s Christmas With You is a collection standards recorded in an overblown, soft-pop style with the exception of the title track. “Christmas With You” is a tribute to America’s troops fighting overseas during the holiday. A touching sentiment, but one that’s dragged down Springfield’s cringe worthy songwriting and a VH1-adult contemporary style. Ironically, this brand of songwriting is about ten years behind Springfield’s contemporaries. Is it possible to make an adult non-contemporary song? Check it out below to see for yourself…
From the makers of Aqualung comes Secret of Christmas. The 2003 album is just about what you might expect from Tull tackling a Christmas Album—lots of flute solos, smooth guitar riffs, and original songs with titles like “Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow.” Tull fans ate it up with the spoon. The rest of us sit back and hope it doesn’t make the playlist during the office Christmas party.
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Christmas Time Again should be retitled The Album That Probably Made Chuck Berry Cry. Listening to their Southern rock cover of “Run Run Rudolph” is downright painful—from the jangling piano to the clichéd children’s choir opening. It works about as well as Toby Keith covering Run DMC’s “Christmas In Hollis.” Which is to say, not well at all.
New Kids On The Block
A decade before Justin Bieber would mine the holiday season for a quick album, the New Kids On The Block would create the cash-grab that was Merry Merry Christmas. For proof of the album’s badness, check out the album’s not-so-timeless single “Funky, Funky Christmas.”
“You better not pout, you better not shout—I’ll slap your grandmamma’s dentures out.” This is the opening rhyme of “Afroman Is Coming To Town” from the rapper’s A Colt 45 Christmas. Other tracks include “12 J’s of Christmas”, “O Chronic Tree”, and “Violent Night.” I can think of no better anti-drug message to kids out there than the one contained in this album. Though it isn’t explicitly stated, the message is pretty clear—marijuana abuse makes rappers record bad Christmas parody albums.
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“Hung For The Holidays” is a cruel joke. Whether or not its being perpetrated on American Idol-reject William Hung is debatable. In fact, one could look at Hung’s off-key warbling of “Little Drummer Boy” as the work of some sort of a satirical comedic genius. The song might just be a straight faced parody of your typical celebrity Christmas album with the joke clearly on the listeners who bought it. Then again, that may be the rationalization of someone trying not to feel really sorry Hung. Choose your point of view with the video below.
Yes, even the ‘Hoff tackled a collection of Christmas standards. The Night Before Christmas seems like a typical holiday album upon first glance. Then you get to hear the ‘Hoff drunkenly slur a sketch rendition of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” to his children. His cheeks aren’t rosy just because of the cold, kids.
Jessica Simpson’s Happy Christmas would be a typical Christmas album if it wasn’t for the singer’s breathy reinterpretation of John Lennon’s Vietnam protest song “Merry X-Mas (War Is Over).” While the number has become a radio standard around the silly season, Simpson’s cover loses all the context and meaning John Lennon intended. The result is more than a little embarrassing…
Death Row Records
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Dr. Dre’s departure from Death Row Records can be felt throughout the label’s Christmas compilation. Death Row Christmas took on the holiday season in a way that only artists like Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg and Six Feet Deep could. What should be a subversive album marrying hardcore rap with Christmas conventions misses the mark due to an uninspired production. Cuts like “Santa Clause Goes Straight To The Ghetto” feels like label head Suge Knight’s sad attempt to imitate the distinctive sound Dre took with him. The finished product is definitely not the Christmas-rap standard it was intended to be…
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The Star Wars holiday album, Christmas In The Stars, was produced by disco-soundtrack remixer Meco Monardo. As such it featured tracks like “R2-D2 Wish You A Merry Christmas” and “Bells, Bells, Bells.” The grating latter track is sung by effeminate android C-3P0 (voiced by Anthony Daniels) and makes you feel a lot less sorry for the character when he gets dismantled in Empire Strikes Back. For whatever reason, George Lucas felt it important to give himself credit for conceiving the concept and slapped his name across the front of the album. Clearly he didn’t actually listen to it, or he would have found the second-worst Star Wars-Christmas crossover in the history of the series (see the Star Wars Christmas Special for the first).
See the picture above? You may think that’s a still taken from The Shining. Sadly, it isn’t—that’s a picture of Shelley Duvall taken right after she heard the fruits of her labor on Hello, I’m Shelley Duvall… Merry Christmas. To see your own face twist into a screaming visage of horror, simply stand in front of a mirror and play “A Very Merry Christmas,” which you can find below.