It seems like everybody and their mom and dads has released a Christmas album. For some artists, like Mariah Carey, it means selling millions of copies. But who wants to hear Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas” when you can hear a former reality show loser sing it? ‘Tis the season to forgo listening to your traditional holiday songs and opt for something a bit more unusual.
1. HUNG FOR THE HOLIDAYS // WILLIAM HUNG
Hung appeared as a contestant on American Idol in 2004 and blew the world away with his rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs.” Actually, he did not advance to the next round, but a cult following soon manifested. His career culminated (ended) in October of 2004, when he released his second album, Hung for the Holidays, which only sold 35,000 copies. He sings, off-key, “Winter Wonderland,” “Little Drummer Boy,” and then randomly covers Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” After the failure of this record and the release of a third and final album, Hung retired from music.
2. CHRISTMAS ON DEATH ROW // VARIOUS ARTISTS
Released 20 years ago, Christmas on Death Row is a compilation of various artists on the Death Row label. The music isn’t the worrisome thing here—it’s the album cover depicting Santa in the electric chair. (Don’t show it to grandma or the kids.) Songs include hits Snoop and Nate Dogg’s "Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto" and 6 Feet Deep's cover of “Silent Night.” If you like your holiday tunes filled with curse words, this one’s for you.
3. CHRISTMAS WITH COLONEL SANDERS // VARIOUS ARTISTS
Honestly, this album has nothing to do with the finger-lickin’ Colonel except for the awesome album cover of him smiling while wearing a Santa hat (he could easily be mistaken for Santa, so maybe that’s the point). The album, released in 1969 (vintage!), features musical legends Chet Atkins covering “Jingle Bell Rock” and Harry Belafonte singing “Mary’s Little Boy Child.”
4. IT’S A WAFFLE HOUSE CHRISTMAS // VARIOUS ARTISTS
Spending Christmas at the Waffle House sounds like fun. They’re open 24/7, you know. According to AllMusic.com, this is the second album the legendary chain has released, and it was compiled by Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia, the guys responsible for the 1982 novelty song “Pac-Man Fever.”
There are traditional songs on the album, but few can top “Waffle House 12 Days of Christmas,” in which a couple sings, “My true love gave to me, 10 cups of coffee, eight chicken sandwiches, seven T-bone steaks, four eggs a fryin’, three sausage patties, two waffles baking, and a bowl of delicious hot grits” without a bit of irony.
5. MR. HANKEY’S CHRISTMAS CLASSICS // VARIOUS ARTISTS
On December 1, 1999, South Park aired a holiday-themed episode that featured a literal piece of crap coming alive and singing Christmas songs. One week before the episode’s premiere, the album was released. It includes songs from the episode, and a festive cover featuring Mr. Hankey chilling by the fire. Choice cuts include Mr. Garrison's “Merry F---king Christmas” and Mr. Hankey himself—“howdy ho!”—singing “Santa Claus Is On His Way.”
6. A ROSIE CHRISTMAS // VARIOUS ARTISTS
This album was just an excuse for then-daytime talk show host Rosie O’Donnell to brag about how she was buddies with Celine Dion, Elton John, and Elmo, then sing middling duets with them. Cher contributes (read: butchers) a dance-electro version of Darlene Love’s already-perfect “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” while Gloria Estefan and Rosie sing “Gonna Eat for Christmas.” Lauryn Hill’s funky “Little Drummer Boy” seems to be the only saving grace—until Rosie chimes in and ruins it.
7. MERRY, MERRY CHRISTMAS // NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Released in 1989, at the height of NKOTB’s fame, this holiday record sold two million copies. You have to at least give the boy band props for writing a few original songs such as the sappy “This One’s for the Children”—which was a top 10 hit—and “Funky, Funky, Xmas,” which tries a bit too hard to emulate “Christmas in Hollis.” *NSYNC and Hanson also released Christmas records, so having boy bands release holiday albums is not an anomaly; the fact that NKOTB took the material so seriously is what makes it an oddity.
8. A HEAVY METAL CHRISTMAS EP // CHRISTOPHER LEE
The heavy metal lover never released a full Christmas album, but he did release the EP, A Heavy Metal Christmas, in 2012, containing metal covers of “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Silent Night.” The following year the prince of darkness released A Heavy Metal Christmas Too, including the song “Jingle Hell.” Last year he contributed “Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing," which would sadly be his last metal Christmas song, as he passed away in June 2015 at the age of 93.
9. JINGLE BABIES // ROCKABYE CHRISTMAS
First we had Jingle Cats, which was annoying but somewhat cute. Then the same guy behind Jingle Cats and Jingle Dogs released Jingle Babies in 1997, which is baby sounds edited together into super annoying “songs.” The babies aren’t singing as much as they are cooing and whining through “Jingle Bells,” “Up on the Housetop,” and “Carol of the Bells.” The album’s tagline reads “Real babies sing holiday classics,” but it’s unknown if real babies approve.
10. AND 11. YULETIDE DISCO AND DISCO NOEL // MIRROR IMAGE
Disco was huge in the 1970s, and apparently so were disco Christmas albums. Mirror Image released at least two Christmas records: Yuletide Disco and Disco Noel. The former features saxophone-enhanced versions of “Good King Wenceslas” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and aren’t as disco-y as you’d hope. Then there’s "Dear Santa, Let’s Disco" by Snowflake, which should get the holiday festivities started. While you’re at it, you might as well listen to “Disco Duck.”
12. CHRISTMAS AT LUKE’S SEX SHOP // LUKE CAMPBELL
The Miami rap group 2 Live Crew created a lot of controversy in the 1990s, so why not add fuel to the fire with a Christmas record? Throughout the 1994 album, MC Luther Campbell raps untraditional Christmas songs, such as “Ho Ho Hoes,” “2 Live Christmas, “Christmas Spliff,” and “Christmas F---in’ Day,” which sounds a lot like “Gin and Juice.” Campbell went legit and now writes for the Miami New Times.
13. THIS CHRISTMAS // OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN AND JOHN TRAVOLTA
The friends sang together in Grease and the guilty pleasure film Two of a Kind, and one morning in 2012 they woke up and decided that, because it had been 30 years since they had worked together, it was time to put out a Christmas album. The couple duet on the standards “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” featuring Barbra Streisand. But Travolta can’t sing, and the album cover is just plain scary.
14. A COLT 45 CHRISTMAS // AFROMAN
A parody Christmas record, from a Grammy-nominated rapper? Yup. In 2006, Afroman took a debauched look at Christmas with songs named “Deck My Balls” and other titles we shouldn’t repeat, plus the new classic “O Chronic Tree”: “O Chronic tree, oh chronic, I want you all for me.”
15. THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR // SCOTT WEILAND
In 2011, the late Stone Temple Pilots frontman released this bizarre album. The fact that he released a traditional Christmas album isn’t even the weirdest part though; it’s that he, for some reason, infused reggae and steel drum on “Oh Holy Night” and croons through the rest of the record. Listening to the songs, you wouldn’t know it was from a former grunge singer.