I recently rewatched "Love Actually," and the story line about the aging rock star recording an incredibly cheesy Christmas album really made me laugh. A couple of days later, I was shopping in a store that had some kind of modern holiday mix playing, and it featured exactly this sort of horror. It got me thinking about the remakes of Christmas songs that work (the minority) and those that make my teeth hurt.
I'm not going to try to do a "worst ten" list because, in a field that includes albums by William Hung (I kid you not -- his album is called Hung for the Holidays), Roseanne Barr (and you didn't think "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" could get any worse) and Twisted Sister (you seriously do not want to hear their version of "Oh Come All Ye Faithful") it would be impossible to stop at ten. So I'll just mention a few highlights.
Christmas Covers That Just Can't Measure Up
Let me begin by saying that I love Billy Idol. But his version of "Jingle Bell Rock" is just embarrassing. Seriously, I'll bet he cringes every time he hears it.
If you've accidentally eaten tainted fruitcake, and need some help throwing up, I recommend David Hasselfhoff's version of "Silent Night." It could save your life. Really.
The cover that annoys me the most is Madonna's version of "Santa Baby." The thing is, I'd probably like it--or it least find it mildly entertaining--if I'd never heard Eartha Kitt's original. Madonna sings the verses in the tone of a whiny child with a particularly pricy Christmas list. Eartha purrs her outrageous requests, making us believe that the deed to a platinum mine is a perfectly reasonable expectation, considering what a good girl she's been.
Christmas Song Covers that Work
As much as I love Charles Brown's original 1960 version of "Please Come Home for Christmas," it's got to be one of the better covered songs. Aaron Neville, The Eagles, B.B. King, Martina McBride, and especially Johnny & Edgar Winter have all done excellent covers.
Looking for something in the hard rock category? Then Gary Hoey is for you. His original album of rock guitar covers of traditional Christmas songs, Ho Ho Hoey, was so popular that he made two more, and has appeared on numerous holiday compilations. There are a lot of holiday songs to love in this collected work, but my favorite is his hard-driving rendition of "Deck the Halls."
Recorded long enough ago that recent generations may think it's the original (it's not), the Jackson 5 rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is just too much fun. Okay, so Justin Bieber did a fair job with this one, too.
Christmas Song Covers that are Better than the Original
I only came up with one. And it's possible that the video is at least half the reason I love it so much. Enjoy.
YouTube 2007-The Drifters-White Christmas