Believe it or not, one of the wonderful things about Christmas is that each year, for about three or four weeks, you get inundated with about 50 songs total, each with hundreds of different versions. And then you don’t hear them for another 11 months. So the response is almost Pavlovian: Hearing Christmas songs immediately invokes warm, fuzzy feelings, sugarplums, insert yuletide vision here.
At least most of the time. Sometimes you hear something on the radio that sounds like a Christmas classic, only it sucks. Practically every artist and celebrity has recorded a Christmas album, from Regis Philben to Lynyrd Skynyrd. And most have no business being in print.
The result? Thousands of horrible renditions of Christmas songs. I’ve picked 10 truly awful covers, almost at random, as examples:
“Silent Night” – Christina Aguilera. I’ve never understood the desire of artists to try to “make a song their own.” Some people can get away with it, but there are some songs that you shouldn’t mess with. “The Star Spangled Banner” is one, “Silent Night” is another. You don’t hear the New York Philharmonic adding runs to Handel’s “Messiah”, do you? That being said, I have to wonder why Christina has to sound so aroused while singing a song about the birth of Christianity’s messiah. All of the moans, groans and purrs is inappropriate and, well, strange.
“Deck the Halls” – Mannheim Steamroller. My cousin commented on Facebook recently that he is still trying to figure out the appeal of Mannheim Steamroller. Yeah. Me too. This version takes a jaunty, happy carol and turns it into a New Age soundtrack to a Dr. Who episode. And flattening the note for the second-to-last “La” just turns my stomach.
Anything by Michael Bolton. Give a song to Mr. Bolton to sing, and he does two things: Yell, and try to cure his constipation. Neither of which I want to hear during Christmas.
“Do You Hear What I Hear” – Whitney Houston. As mentioned with Ms. Aguilera, “making it your own” does not mean disregarding the entire melody. You hear the backup singers trying to stay on message every once in a while, but Whitney…I don’t know what song she’s singing.
Anything by Kenny G. I think I’ve said everything that needs to be said there.
“Deck the Halls” – Twisted Sister. This is just wrong on so many levels. It sounds exactly like you’d think it sounds, with Dee Snyder’s screech and pounding guitars, only the “Fa-La-La-La-La”‘s are sung by what sounds like the local Teamster’s Union.
“The Little Drummer Boy” – Wyclef John. This is such a beautiful song – one that only needs one version, the one by the Harry Simeone Chorale. Why we have to have a pirate version from Wyclef John is beyond me.
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – Bob Dylan. I saved the best for last. I could easily have put his entire Christmas album on this list (In stores now, folks!). Before I heard this, I was expecting to make fun of his tuneless bleating, but his voice has changed in his later years; he now sounds like Tom Waits, only drunker. His off-pitch voice is now gravelly, deeper and even more creepy. If this guy’s telling you he’ll be home for Christmas, leave the house. Immediately.
Let’s go. What versions really drive you crazy? Tell us in the comments.