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10 Bad Versions of Christmas Songs

Christina Aguilera

nbc.com

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 bad versions of Christmas songs, almost at random, as examples:

  1. “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 the moans, groans and purrs are inappropriate and, well, strange.
  2. “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.
  3. 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.
  4. “The Little Drummer Boy” – Bob Seger. See above. Seger’s voice is like gravel in my eggnog.
  5. “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.
  6. Anything by Kenny G. I think I’ve said everything that needs to be said there.
  7. “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.
  8. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Christina Aguilera. Just sing the damn notes, Christina.
  9. “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.
  10. “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.

Those are my 10 bad versions of Christmas songs. Let’s go. What versions really drive you crazy? Tell us in the comments.

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Peter Lee

14 Comments

  1. Oh man, I love Twisted Sister’s “Deck The Halls”, and I generally don’t like Dee Snyder and pals.

    I’ll whisper it, but I really like Whitney’s version of “Do You Hear What I Hear”. Perhaps because I picture her as a crack whore as she’s singing it.

    Nice intro to a really entertaining post.

  2. i agree with not only the list but the reasons why…bobby bobby bobby when i first heard about this ‘effort’ i thought it was a joke then i heard IT and the entire album was horrible and when i made mention on another blog about there being alot of hungry kids on xmas day the response was less than kind it was as if i made bob do this…i didnt. bobby i love your music more now then when i was younger but i guess age hasnt brought me wisdom because i just cant see the logic behind this mess…if bob want to feed the world he will have to start taking folks to arbys What a lump of coal he gave us

  3. Good…er…bad list. Although there is one amazing version of “The Star Spangled Banner” that disqualifies your statement. The acapella version by The Knudsen Brothers…if you want to hear, I will send you an mp3.

  4. Any version of “Little Drummer Boy” is a slow death by monotony.

  5. So much for the new arrangements (if you call them that) of the Christmas music. Bring back Elvis, Gene Autry, Bing, and Lawrence Welk 🙂

  6. I just heard an old Lena Horne version of “Rudolph” that I LOATHE. The whole thing is about Rudolph’s affinity for alcohol–thus, the red nose. Now, really! Why defame a poor, innocent reindeer who saved Santa from disaster??

    And then in one huge lump I put any version of a Christmas hymn done by any country-western singer/pop singer/Christian artist. Jazz up ANYTHING (okay, I agree with you on the SSBanner) except traditional Christmas carols, please!!

  7. Kelly Clarkson’s “Oh Holy Night,” in which she sings the first verse three times, presumably because nobody involved with the recording realized there’s more than one verse.

    “Baby’s First Christmas” by Connie Francis, which makes me want to commit random acts of violence against passersby.

    Madonna’s version of “Santa Baby,” which proves that some people are just immune to embarrassment.

  8. okay i’ll be the first to say it i hate springsteen’s verison of santa claus is coming to town hate it always did always will there i said it whew !! i feel better now thanks for the list and this platform to ‘sing’ out

  9. This list reminds me of the old Saturday Night Live Weekend Update when Dennis Miller was still doing it. There was a bit years ago when he referred to a new Kenny G Christmas album. He said something along the line of “the title should be ‘Happy Birthday Jesus, I Hope You Like Crap.'” I always thought that was more than appropriate.

  10. One of my favorite bands is Chicago. A few years back they re-released their 1998 Christmas album (aptly titled XXV) with 6 extra songs. For the most part I thoroughly enjoy the album. One of the exceptions… Feliz Navidad. Robert Lamm takes an upbeat fun Christmas song, turns it into a funeral dirge and sings it like a cross between Wayne Newton and Englebert Humperdink. I love Lamm’s vocals on Chicago classics like Skinny Boy and Saturday In the Park. So his vocals on most of the songs he sang on the Chicago Christmas album left me wondering what the f**k happened!? His melancholy lounge singer vocals actually work for the Vince Gauraldi Christmas Time Is Here and The Christmas Song but the rest of the songs he sings on sound limp, phoned in, and completely devoid of any passion or emotion. Luckily Bill Champlin, Lee Loughnane, and Jason Scheff SAVE the album and make it considerably more enjoyable.

  11. I don’t know all the versions of Christmas songs you refer to, but I love the ironic commentary! I agree wholeheartedly with your comment in an earlier post: don’t try to “make the song your own”; just sing the song as it was written, with only a few individual stylistic flourishes!

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