Every year, a handful of new artists try their hand at a Christmas album. It works for some (Mariah Carey, Michael Bublé), but for many others, it’s just kind of a weird experiment.
It’s more or less expected for a lot of country singers and mainstream pop stars to make at least some kind of holiday offering, but there are plenty of musicians and bands who do, even though it doesn’t seem to fit the general theme of their music. Here’s our list of 11 Christmas albums from artists who we really thought had no business making Christmas albums.
11. Glorious Christmas Songs That Will Make Your Black Label Heart Feel Good – Black Label Society (2011) This three-track Christmas album from Zakk Wylde and his heavy metal crew is comprised of rocking covers of holiday classics “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “Wonderful World.” While we didn’t see this one coming, it’s not all that surprising since Black Label Society released several covers on the album The Song Remains Not the Same earlier that year. Maybe Black Label Society is getting a little softer in its old age, or maybe Wylde is just a big fan of Christmas; either way, they get bonus points for the most descriptively and accurately named Christmas album on his list.
Reverend Horton Heat at Viva PHX 2017.
10. We Three Kings – The Reverend Horton Heat (2005) If anyone was going to make a psychobilly Christmas album, it was going to be the Reverend Horton Heat. As opposed to some bands, whose holiday “albums” only contain a few songs, RHH put out a full 13-song, 40-minute disc. We Three Kings is made up of a dozen classic Christmas covers and one new original song (“Santa on the Roof”), but they’re all unmistakably done in the outlandish style of RHH. Don’t act like you’ve never wanted to hear a spunky three-piece play through “Jingle Bells” and “frosty the Snowman” on an upright bass.
9. Christmas is 4 Ever – Bootsy Collins (2006) Without a doubt the funkiest Christmas album we found, Christmas is 4 Ever doesn’t exactly feature any holiday covers, but it does contain several re-imaginings of songs. Tunes like “Jingle Belz,” “Winterfunkyland,” and “Dis-Christmiss” might not be the exact versions of the classics you’ll hear elsewhere, but what else would you expect from the Parliament-Funkadelic bassist? If you’re looking to add a bit of funky flare to your holiday soundtrack, you should start here.
8. A Twisted Christmas – Twisted Sister (2006) What’s better than old guys in tons of makeup and hairspray rocking out to teenage songs of rebellion? Old guys in tons of makeup and hairspray rocking out to Christmas music. A Twisted Christmas is obviously a far cry from Dee Snider’s controversial lyrics from three decades ago (which led to the creation of “Explicit Content” labels on albums), but it still sounds exactly as you’d expect an aging hair metal band’s Christmas album to sound. It might be a good thing that this was the last Twisted Sister release (for now).
Photo by David Gahr
7. Christmas in the Heart – Bob Dylan (2009) Bob Dylan’s never been afraid to adopt a different persona to put out music from a different point of view, so it’s no surprise that the once-Jewish legend released a Christmas record for his 34th studio album. Dylan’s profits from the album went to charity, and thanks largely in part to Dylan’s instant name recognition, the album charted significantly higher (23 on the Billboard 200) than holiday albums typically do. Never afraid of covers, Dylan’s signature sound on classics like “Little Drummer Boy” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” works surprisingly well.
6. Songs for Christmas – Sufjan Stevens (2006) Technically, Songs for Christmas isn’t a Christmas album. It’s actually a set of five Christmas-themed EPs that Sufjan Stevens gave to his friends as Christmas gifts. The set contains 41 songs, with everything from traditional Christmas covers to foreign carols and original Christmas songs by Stevens. A second Christmas collection from Stevens Silver and Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10 was released in 2012, and contains another 58 songs. If you’re into obscure Christmas music, it’s going to be hard to beat the 99 songs released by the cult hero.
5. Christmas with Weezer – Weezer (2008) We’re willing to bet that Christmas with Weezer is the only Christmas EP by a major label artist to ever be originally released via iPhone game. The six songs were originally released as the “Christmas with Weezer” pack for the popular Tap Tap game on iOS, but they were remixed and improved for the EP. With Rivers Cuomo’s signature voice on each of the holiday classics, this album will surely make you feel nostalgic for all those late-’90s holidays you spent listening to Pinkerton on cassette.
4. A Dipset X-mas – Jim Jones (2006) For those who have trouble keeping their mid-2000s rappers named Jones straight, Jim was the one who was “Ballin’,” not the one who gave out his phone number (“Who? Mike Jones”). Why did the Harlem-based rapper make a Christmas album? We’re not sure, but we’re guessing it was to capitalize on his one-hit wonder status. Regardless, who doesn’t want to listen to instant classics like “Ballin’ on X-mas” and “Dipset X-mas Time.” At least he knows what he’s known for, as the remix of his hit “We Fly High” is also on the album.
Snoop Dogg always brings the party.
3. Snoop Dogg Presents: Christmas in tha Dogg House – Snoop Dogg (2008) We’ve never done Christmas with Snoop, but we’re thinking that it’s probably a pretty good time. For his Christmas album, Snoop isn’t even featured on every track, letting some of his friends in the rap game take over for about half of the album. It’s certainly not your grandmother’s Christmas album, but listening to Snoop and Nate Dogg team up on songs like “Twas the Night Before Xmas” brings us back to the good ol’ days of golden-age rap. Plus, how can you not want to hear a track called “A Pimp’s Christmas Song” at least once?
2. Punk Rawk Christmas – MxPx (2009) Although many believe the skate punk staples spent the better part of their career trying to distance themselves from their early categorization as “Christian punk,” they certainly embraced the Christmas theme with their December 2009 release. Plenty of pop-punk bands have put out Christmas songs, but few have committed an entire 14-song (16 if you got the limited edition) album to the holiday. Even though Mike Herrera was well into his 30s by the time the album was released, it still has that teenage humor and emotion that MxPx has been using for over 20 years.
1. A Colt 45 Christmas – Afroman (2006) There’s only one artist out there who would make an album full of Christmas parody songs like “Deck My Balls,” “12 J’s of X-Mas,” and “O Chronic Tree.” That’s right, the West Coast rapper most famous for “Because I Got High” put out the Christmas album that you’ll definitely never hear at a church’s holiday party. It takes some effort to find a Christmas record that comes with a “Parental Advisory” sticker, but Afroman has done that and then some. Next time you’re with one of those people who blast Christmas music obnoxiously loud in their car, pull this up on your phone instead.
Editor’s Note: This article originally published on December 1, 2014, and was updated for publication on Decemeber 22, 2016.