A STOCKING FULL OF COAL
Yeah, there are some really fun Christmas recordings out there — Vince Guaraldi's original tracks from A Charlie Brown Christmas, the '60s AM-radio masterwork A Christmas Gift for You (produced, unfortunately, by convicted killer Phil Spector), goodies from Sinatra and Elvis, Death Row Records' hip-hop compilation — but isn't digging the truly awful stuff so much more fun? Here are some of our picks for holiday recordings that have missed the mark for one reason or another, in no particular order:
Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album
Not to be confused with the only-aired-once primetime TV monstrosity The Star Wars Christmas Special, this disc was a separate project that was re-released in the '90s by Rhino with the blessings of Lucasfilm, amazingly enough. (See, George Lucas wants anyone with a copy of the TV special dead. Do you hear me? DEAD.) This 1980 masterpiece features works composed by Tony-award-winner Maury Yeston (sometimes you need whatever gig you can get when the rent comes due) and was produced by one Tony Bongiovi, the very same genius who somehow figured out how to perfectly capture the Ramones' live sound on Rocket to Russia. Tony's kid brother Jon Bongiovi made his debut on the album, singing lead on "R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas" before he changed the spelling of his last name to "Bon Jovi".
Neil Diamond, The Christmas Album
Christmas songs from the Jewish Elvis? Oy gevalt.
Bad Religion, Christmas Songs
Bad Religions EP of punk covers of classic Christmas tunes (plus "American Jesus", just to let you know they're still Bad Religion, dammit), has an interesting charity wrinkle: 20 percent of the proceeds from the recording go to a charity called SNAP, or Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests. Beyond that noble gesture, it's BAD RELIGION doing CHRISTMAS SONGS. DO YOU GET IT? The cover imagery seems to invoke a tune they didn't cover, the absolutely awful ditty by NewSong called "The Christmas Shoes" — and for the full horror of that number, dig up Patton Oswalt's standup bit on the subject. Or...
NewSong, The Christmas Shoes
Hey, when a two-week-long survey on Gawker.com awards you the title of "Worst Christmas Song Ever," the next logical step is simple: create a whole album of tripe. (The song itself was originally just a bonus track on NewSong's The Sheltering Tree.) The best part? You don't really have to find any new material, just drizzle copious amounts of Velveeta over cherished classics — including a complete and utter destruction of "You're a Mean One, Mister Grinch." (If you ever want to hear that tune covered properly, dig up Grinch by a band called "The Whirling Dervishes". Or just stick with Thurl Ravenscroft's original performance.)
William Hung, Hung for the Holidays
American Idol joke contestant releases joke album but does not appear to be in on said joke. Which makes the whole exercise incredibly sad.
Christmas with the Bradys
Florence Henderson, from Dale, Indiana, an accomplished actress and vocalist and Indy 500 singing fixture, appears nowhere on this album. Nowhere. It's the kids singing, and Johnny Bravo doesn't even fit the suit here. (Ask a true Brady fan to explain that reference.) The performances from the Bunch range from mediocre to really, really awful.
David Hasselhoff, The Night Before Christmas
Maybe he'll stop singing if we give him enough cheeseburgers.
Absolutely ANYTHING by The Trans-Siberian Orchestra
What is the opposite of the message brought to mankind by a humble child born in abject poverty? Lazer-riddled prog rock, that's what. Look, if you want to listen to Rush, have at it, but holy cow, folks, don't make it a Soundtrack for Jesus. This stuff has one use: providing the musical accompaniment to the over-the-top, carbon-sucking, electricity-wasting synced-out holiday light display from someone's batshit-crazy neighbor that's gotten 40 million hits on Youtube.