Though it’s not yet Thanksgiving, Christmas is already in the air. You’ve probably heard holiday music piped into the stores you’re shopping in or through the elevator you ride up to your office every day. Music is often the first thing to clue in the masses that it’s time to start taking out those holiday sweaters and putting up tinsel-lined decorations.
Christmas albums are often a good way for musicians to get in some added sales. The music is so popular that Billboard even has a separate chart for Holiday Albums every year. However, it’s not just the pop stars and country musicians that are churning out Christmas albums annually. Each year, there are at least a few surprising EPs thrown into the mix. These could be created by actors who are eager to show off their questionable singing abilities, or by bands who normally aren’t associated with such happy and uplifting tunes. Whatever the case, weird Christmas albums have been around for decades. They’re practically a staple of the season.
Today, we’re talking about those weird and surprising holiday songs. Read on for our list of 10 surprising and shocking Christmas albums. You can even still find some of these if you want an unorthodox playlist for your holiday party this year.
10. Hung for the Holidays by William Hung
No one capitalizes on embarrassment like American Idol reject William Hung. Despite being laughed out of the auditions in the third season of the reality singing show, that hasn’t stopped William from making bank on his unorthodox popularity. Hung for the Holidays, his Christmas album, is a good example of that. Though it features his less-than-stellar singing abilities, it reached 22 on the Billboard Independent Albums chart. It also made a bunch of “worst album” lists, too, but we doubt anyone is surprised by that–including William, himself.
9. A Twisted Christmas by Twisted Sister
With anthems like “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” Twisted Sister impressed the heavy metal-loving kids of the ’80s. While they released several successful albums during that decade, the band didn’t survive into the 1990s. Perhaps as a misguided way to get some of their fans back, Twisted Sister made a bold and surprising move by releasing a Christmas album in 2006. A Twisted Christmas featured nine classic Christmas songs and two songs with a heavy metal twist to the lyrics. Most of the songs were re-tooled to be sung to the tune of the band’s many early hits. Entertainment Weekly gave the album a D+.
8. Ho, Ho, Ho by RuPaul
Famous drag queen, RuPaul, seems to be a Jack (or Jane) of all trades. Not only has he made a living as an actor and reality TV host, he’s also made music. Most notably, he had the hit song “Supermodel (You Better Work),” back in 1993. What you probably didn’t know was that he also made a Christmas album. Ho, Ho, Ho came out in 1997 and was a tie-in for the Christmas special of his short-lived VH1 talk show, The RuPaul Show. It features 13 tracks of festive drag queen goodness.
7. Christmas on Death Row
Leave it to Death Row Records to come up with a silly and “shocking” album title like Christmas on Death Row. The album features a wide range of artists, all calling Death Row Records their home. For instance, Snoop Dogg sings “Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto” and J-Flexx sings “Party 4 Da Homies.” The album came out during the 1996 holiday season, selling 200,000 copies. It reached 155 on the Billboard 200. 1996 must have been a slow year for it to make it that high on the charts.
6. It’s Christmastime by Kathie Lee Gifford
Kathie Lee Gifford is most known for sipping cocktails while hosting a talk show. Few people would think of her as a singer. Intent on converting more of her talk show fans into music fans, Kathie Lee released a Christmas album in 1993. It has 13 classic songs for the holidays, including “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “White Christmas.” The album reached 125 in the Billboard 200. Since Kathie Lee hasn’t released any more albums since then, it looks like her Christmas album career is probably over.
5. The Regis Philbin Christmas Album by Regis Philbin
Not to be outdone by his former talk show co-host Kathie Lee, Regis Philbin felt the need to come out with a Christmas album, too. The Regis Philbin Christmas Album came out in 2005 and features several duets. He sings with his wife, Joy, in a few songs and even sings “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with Donald Trump, of all people. The holiday album hit 83rd on the Billboard 200, surprisingly beating Kathie Lee’s 125th position for her own Christmas album.
4. Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album
When it comes to merchandising, the Star Wars space fantasy movie franchise sure knows how to rake in the dough. Tie-in novels, action figures and t-shirts have all been a lucrative enterprise, among other things. A less successful Star Wars-themed opportunity was the Christmas album; Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album. The album, released in 1980, features nine festive songs and even has Jon Bon Jovi’s very first professional recording in “R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” The album wasn’t very well-received, though one song, “What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb)” did make it to 69 on the Billboard Hot 100.
3. A Rosie Christmas by Rosie O’Donnell
Rosie O’Donnell, the comedian and talk show host, definitely isn’t known for her singing ability. That didn’t stop her from releasing a Christmas album in 1999, though. A Rosie Christmas features Rosie singing holiday songs with special guests, including Elton John and Trisha Yearwood. But, most surprising of all, this album made it to the number one spot on the US Holiday charts. Because of it’s success, she also released Another Rosie Christmas in 2000, though it wasn’t as successful as the first.
2. Duck the Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas
Not only is it incredibly odd for a non-singing-related reality TV show to have a Christmas album, it’s especially surprising at how well it did. We’re talking about Duck the Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas featuring the cast of the ever-popular A&E reality show, Duck Dynasty. The popularity of the show must have helped the sales of this 14-song holiday album. It reached number one on both the US Country and US Holiday charts. It even earned platinum certification in the US and gold certification in Canada.
1. A Heavy Metal Christmas and A Heavy Metal Christmas Too by Christopher Lee
You’ve heard of Christopher Lee, but probably not when it comes to music. You’ll recognize this veteran actor from his roles as Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy or Count Dooku in the new Star Wars trilogy, among other notable roles. In a surpising move, Christopher released a Christmas album in 2012 at the age of 90. Even more surprising, his songs were heavy metal. A Heavy Metal Christmas had two Christmas songs. It was popular enough that he came out with a sequel in 2013 titled A Heavy Metal Christmas Too. One of the singles, “Jingle Hell,” even got to 22 in the Billboard Hot 100.