‘Tis the season to be jolly! Falalalaaaaa! Etc. I dunno about you guys, but I have spent the lead up to Christmas working in retail (because blogging don’t pay, yo) and have thus been forced to listen to terrible Christmas carols on repeat. For 10 hours at a time. From overly meaningful interpretations of Little Drummer Boy to Mariah Carey, my shop’s mix CD (or iPod, I dunno, I don’t deal with the sound system) has it all. In honour of my eardrums finally exploding into rivers of blood and sadness, I have decided to bring forth the 12 shittiest Christmas albums I could come up with for your listening pleasure (because 12 days of Christmas. Geddit? I am so very clever.)
Helping me out on this blog is my very good friend Wesley, who gave me some hot tips for my “songs about bitches” blog earlier in the year. Wes is co-owner of the biggest CD collection known to man (or to me, anyway), so he helped me source 12 terrible albums to talk about, although he wanted me to emphasise that he is only actually in possession of one of them. Because listening to and reviewing 12 albums is a GIGANTIC undertaking and I leave everything until the last possible moment, we’re going to be reviewing 6 albums each. Anyway, without further ado:
- Rod Stewart – Merry Christmas, Baby – (Alex) Oh Rod Stewart. Please to be stopping with the career now, thank you. This album is the kind of thing that they really hammer the advertising for in the daytime TV slot so that housewives across the country can remember when Rod was a hot young thing and they were hot young things and wanted to marry him. To his credit, he does have some fairly epic features on this hot mess, including Cee Lo (who makes an appearance later in this list), Trombone Shorty, Michael Bublé and Mary J. Blige. The Michael Bublé feature on Winter Wonderland, really emphasises the fact that Rod’s not as young as he used to be and his voice is definitely not aging particularly well.
Standout Track: It’s so hard to choose, but I’m probably going to have to go with Santa Clause is Coming to Town just because his voice sounds like it’s really on its way out with this one and the American accent is just appalling.
Standout Lyric: They’re all pretty standard Christmas songs, so I’m probably going to have to go with We Three Kings because it’s one of my favourite carols and the opening line of “We three kings of Orient are/ Bearing gifts we traverse afar/ Field and fountain/ Moor and mountain/ Following yonder star” makes Stewart sound like he’s about to choke. Thankfully Mary J. Blige takes over not long after and actually adds some oomph to the occasion.
- The Beach Boys – Christmas Album – (Wes) Early in the their career, The Beach Boys were America’s surf-rock answer to The Beatles. Yet at the end of 1964 they decided it would a great idea to release a surf-rock Christmas album. Commercially speaking, they were right and they made a shitload of money. Artistically, it’s probably the biggest cock-up of their career. Every track is vomit-inducing. Apparently the fun of the Beach Boys and the fun of Christmas cancel each other out. Who knew? I am so very glad this album only plays for 28 minutes.
Standout Track: Doesn’t give me much to work with but Little Saint Nick is probably it.
Standout Lyric: Gotta run with Little Saint Nick again and the line “Christmas comes this time each year” sung with so little excitement it’s as though the Beach Boys regret its very existance.
- John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John – This Christmas – (Alex)This is a just a shitshow. I don’t even know where to start. I couldn’t get through the album. I tried. It was impossible. Instead I am going to take this opportunity to show you the video and we can have a chat about that, OK? It’s called I Think You Might Like It. Spoiler alert: I do not.
Right. So. Uhhh. Where to start? How’s about with the fact that these two are like, the least convincing couple ever to fake it on screen? They are so far past their use by date that I can’t even think of something to finish off that sentence because I’m just so flabbergasted that either of their PR teams let this be made. They line dance. THEY LINE DANCE BADLY. Why does Olivia Newton-John Drive so slowly? Why is there a tiny creature clinging to John Travolta’s chin? Who are all these people standing in what is very obviously a private airport? Are they lost? Why does the whole thing look like a used car commercial? Somone send help.
Standout Song: Since this is the only one I made it through, I guess this has to be it, doesn’t it? Sigh.
Standout Lyric: “I’ve got a little plan for you/ I think you might like it/ Let’s do that little dance we do/ I think you might like it/ And then we’re gonna hide away/ Makin’ love all night/ And we can cry tomorrow/ Watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life'” Call me crazy, but does that not sound like the worst Christmas ever? Succumbing to Olivia Newton-John’s ‘plan for you’, then being made to do the little dance, which I can only assume is the poorly co-ordinated line dance they’re having a go at, THEN after all that, being hidden away to ‘make love’ to John Travolta and his chin fuzz all night. After the love-making is finished he forces you to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, whilst weeping. Eurgh. I feel unclean.
- Cee Lo- Magic Moment – (Wes) Cee Lo brings the funk to Christmas on this album, channeling the Motown vibes and creating actually a pretty decent album. Kind of. More realistically, it’s a hit and miss collection of some rocking versions of classic songs, a couple of originals with lots of guests. Christina Aguilera ruins the second track, The Muppets featuring on the 6th (Mahna Mahna is sampled and doesn’t work at all) and Rod Stewart features on Merry Christmas, Baby (great move from both artists putting the same version of the same song on both their Christmas albums). It’s so obviously a cash grab or a contractual obligation but it really does sound like Cee Lo genuinely is feeling the Christmas spirit so you can’t help but enjoy at least most of it.
Standout Track: This Christmas. Fantastic version, a really funky horn arrangement makes it a pleasure to listen to.
Standout Lyric: “Your heart is full of unwashed socks/ your soul is full of gunk” from You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. Just great to hear Cee Lo singing those lyrics to be honest.
- Neil Diamond – The Christmas Album – (Alex) It’s funny. I start playing these and I’m like “Surely nothing can be as bad as that” and then I keep going down my list and listening to stuff and it just keeps being awful. If I haven’t clawed by own ear drums out after this we’ll be very lucky. Anyway, Neil Diamond, who is kind of terrible anyway, did a bunch of overly sentimental Christmas songs and it is (unsurprisingly) not very good. One of my flatmates insists that Hot August Night is immortal, but if that’s the case 1992 was not kind to Neil and the Fountain of Youth had definitely worn off.
Standout Track: I’m a big fan of covers of Little Drummer Boy because people tend to do it in the most dramatically meaningful way possible when in reality it’s a song about a kid playing a drum at a baby, which is clearly not appropriate behaviour for around a new born, and is mostly just the words “pa rum pa pum pum” over and over again. Anyway, Neil really gives it his all and even goes so far as making video clip, which features some epic shoulder pads and some very meaningful lip-synching.
Standout Lyric: These are all covers, so I don’t know if you can really pick a standout lyric, but there is a truly tragic cover of John Lennon’s Happy Christmas (War is Over) which is a song that I usually love. The sound of Neil Diamond trying to drape more sentimentality onto the words “And so this is Christmas/ And what have you done?” is just too much.
- David Hasselhoff – The Night Before Christmas – (Wes) It was never going to be good or easy to listen to but I never expected it to be anywhere near as awful as it actually is. I seriously struggled to get past the first track which features what I assume are The Hoff’s kids singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (not joking) before The Hoff presents a spoken word version of The Night Before Christmas that would bore William Shatner into a coma. Once you get past that it’s classic, cheesy 80s production and Hasselhoff’s over enunciated vocals right through the album. Except that the album isn’t from the 80s. It’s from 2004. Claire Danes understands my feelings:
I hope that there is no one in existence who likes this album and I feel sorry for anyone who spent money on it.
Standout Track: Silent Night. Drum machine, electric piano, chimes and over-produced backing vocals. It stands out for the wrong reasons. Seriously, fucking awful.
Standout Lyric: Spoken word monologue in the middle of Silent Night. I don’t even want to write it down. Please don’t make me listen to it again.
- Justin Bieber – Under the Mistletoe – (Alex) Excellent marketing ploy making a Christmas album the tweenies will actually buy/ force their parents to buy for them. Having said that, it’s bloody awful and I hate everything. I think it’s the fact that you can almost hear the smug smirk in his voice as he sings. It’s like he’s saying “I could just say my name over and over again and you would still buy this album. Instead I have Usher and Boyz to Men and Busta Rhymes and Mariah Carey.” Speaking of Busta Rhymes his feature on this is really something special in terms of lyricism, but I’ll save that for later.
Standout Track: Oh I’m gonna have to do with Drummer Boy on this one. Essentially what Bieber has done is make himself a dancey little tune about how much swag he has (how swag he is? How do you construct that sentence? I’m not sure), but then change it halfway through to a lecture on dealing with other people’s poverty at Christmas time. Yes. Good. Thank you, Bieber.
Standout Lyric: As mentioned before, Busta Rhymes is really something special here. It sounds kind of like he ran out of things to rap about almost immediately, so he just tells the story of how he ended up featuring on the track and how he likes his egg nog. Seriously. Take a look at this verse:
“Lemme get straight to it. Yo./ At the table with the family, havin’ dinner/ Blackberry on our hip and then it gave a little flicker/ Then I took a look to see before it activates the ringer/ Came to realize my homie Bieber hit me on the Twitter/ Then I hit him back despite I had some food up on my finger/ Sippin’ eggnog with a little sprinkle of vanilla/ Even though it’s kinda cold, pullin’ out a chinchilla/ Bieber hit me back and said, “Let’s make it hot up in the winter.” I said, “Cool.”/Ya know Imma deliver/ Let’s collaborate and make the holiday a little bigger/ Before we work I gotta get this off/ See the other family members and drop gifts off/ Then I’m headed to the studio cause ain’t nothing stopping how/ You know we bout to turn it up and really get it poppin’ now/ People everywhere and all our Twitter followers/”Merry Christmas, Kwanza, happy Hanukkah! “
- Bob Dylan – Christmas in the Heart – (Wes) Some people like Bob Dylan. I’ve heard people claim that his songs are exceptional and he sings them with a fiery passion. Personally, I think he’s written some great songs in his career but he sings them like a drunk in a pub. Not surprisingly then, Christmas in the Heart sounds exactly like a drunk in a pub singing traditional Christmas songs. I find this album absolutely hilarious. I honestly can’t work out if this is Dylan being a sardonic jerk or if he genuinely thought this was a good idea. I have had trouble listening to it because I keep have to stop and laugh.
Standout Track: Must Be Santa, which is performed as a polka which puts Weird Al Yankovic to shame. The accordians are out in force on this track, which comes complete with this hilarious video.
Standout Lyric: Being all traditional songs we already know the lyrics but I really think the highlight is Dylan half howling, half moaning “Hark the herald angels sing/ Glory to the newborn king.”
- Twisted Sister – A Twisted Christmas – (Alex) Alright, I have a confession. I actually flipping love Twisted Sister. Like a lot. So their inclusion on this list is essentially an excuse for me to enjoy some Twisted Sister times without copping flack for it. I also love, given the amount of hate that the band copped in that 80s “metal is the Devil, oh Lord those men are dressed as ladies” period of US censorship, the soothing sounds of Dee Snider singing Oh Come All Ye Faithful. Because that is hilarious and definitely not getting old any time soon.
Standout Track: Oh Come All Ye Faithful is a definite highlight in terms of listening value. I also highly recommend their Heavy Metal Christmas, which is the band’s take on 12 Days of Christmas.
I also really enjoy the video clip for this, because it was released in 2006 and Dee Snider still decided to stick with what he knows and go the full face of make up and hair. Also, just “lol” at the drummer’s face with the wind machine. Actually just “lol” at the drummer’s face the whole time.
Standout Lyric: The entirity of Heavy Metal Christmas is a standout. For the record, the true love’s shopping list for a “heavy metal Christmas” involves: “12 silver crosses/ 11 black mascaras/ 10 pairs of platforms/ 9 tattered T-shirts/ 8 pentagrams/ 7 leather jackets/ 6 cans of hairspray/ 5 skull earrings/ 4 quarts of Jack/ 3 studded belts/ 2 pairs of Spandex pants/ And a tattoo of Ozzy!” My only complaint with this list is that 6 cans of hairspray is blatantly not enough.
- Tori Amos – Midwinter Graces – (Wes) Midwinter Graces is a weird experience. Tori Amos took inspiration from Christmas songs and made her own from them. Some of the songs share elements with the originals but all of them have new arrangements and lyrics and so I find myself in two minds about this album. On the one hand it’s a pretty awful Christmas album, on the other hand it’s a pretty awful Tori Amos album. I don’t think it’s any harder to listen to than any other Tori Amos album – which is why I didn’t make it all the way through.
Stand out track: Pink and Glitter. A fairly sultry experience with some great horn lines. If you get that far through the album, it’s a welcome change.
Stand out lyric: “Shower the world / shower the world / shower the world / with pink if you please” from Pink and Glitter. No real reason. Just cos.
- N Sync – Home for Christmas – (Alex) This one is noteable mainly because the songs were, for the most part, written for the album and aren’t just covers of traditional Christmas songs. It sounds exactly like 1998. To be honest, I don’t even know what more to say. Listening to this many Christmas songs in a row was exhausting. This was a terrible idea. I don’t know why I agreed to it. If anyone needs me I will be weeping quietly in a corner.
Standout Song: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays. Co-written by Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez. God is sending us his love at Christmas, apparently. I think this might have been an attempt and writing an upbeat track, whilst maintaining some “meaningful” lyrical content. Needless to say, it failed.
Standout Lyric: This one starts out as as a track about being thankful for friends at Christmas and then takes a bit of a turn when it turns out it’s actually about gettin’ down. “So thankful for/All of our friends/When the party is over/The night’s just begun/I promise the best part/Is yet to come/Slow dance together/Two become one/That’s what we’ve waited all day for/No one else but me and you/Nothing I would rather do/Then hold you all through the night/Under my tree.” In other news, the phrase “two become one” was my favourite euphemistic term from 90s boy bands about having the sex.
- Lynyrd Skynyrd – Christmas Time Again – (Wes) Lynyrd Skynyrd as a band have always appealed to a certain demographic. I find their country infused rock hard to listen to and it really shouldn’t translate well to Christmas songs. But fuck me, this album is exceptional. Why does it exist? WHO CARES! These hicks sure know how to have a rockin’ Christmas shindig and you can’t help but enjoy it. I really wanted to review this album and tell everyone how shit it was and now I can’t so I’m disappointed.
Stand out song: Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’. Need I say more?
[Quick note from Alex: Oh. My. GOD.]
Stand out lyric: “Now Christmas is for the children / and I want them to be real pleased / but right now Mama it’s Christmas Eve come make your Papa happy please” from the same track.
Anyway kids, that’s it. That’s the Christmas blog. Big ol’ thanks to Wes, without whom I would have been up until 4 in the morning instead of just 1 in the morning. Have yourselves a Merry little Christmas and various other cliches. As a parting gift have some of me and my mad MS Paint skillz wishing you a good time.