10 Worst Rock Covers of Christmas Songs
Every year, musicians try their hands at holiday classics. A few of the covers become memorable, most of them are quickly forgotten, but then there are the ones so cringeworthy, they cannot be ignored.
Below, we've ranked the 10 Worst Rock Covers of Christmas songs. Somewhat surprisingly, the list if full of acts who (for the most part) we adore. There are Rock & Roll Hall of Famers, platinum selling artists and true icons who -- for reasons we still can't figure out -- decided to cover classic holiday tunes and failed. Miserably.
As you prep your holiday playlists, be sure to keep these tracks out of rotation.
10. Bob Dylan, "Must Be Santa"
We genuinely believe that Bob Dylan, perhaps the greatest songwriter in history and one of rock’s true icons, was just showing his silly side with this 2009 holiday tune. How else can you explain the frenzied and bizarre rendition of “Must Be Santa”? The arrangement is not what you’d expect from Dylan – is that polka we’re hearing? – but at least he seems to be having fun. Still, that doesn’t make it good.
9. Weezer, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is a nearly 300 year old carol, based upon the Bible verse Luke 2:11-18. It is traditionally performed in a soaring, soulful and moving way. Weezer’s version is none of those things. Instead, the alt-rockers transform the tune into generic riffing, with almost no unique or distinguishable elements. This one is simply too boring to make it into our holiday playlist. Heck, we’d rather listen to “My Name Is Jonas” one more time (the name has a Biblical origin, after all).
8. Twister Sister, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"
For the most part, we enjoyed Twisted Sister’s 2006 holiday album. Sure, it wasn’t groundbreaking, but the band was in fine form as they put their hard rock spin on many festive classics. Still, the weakest track on the LP was their version of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” The uninspired, tediously chugging tune feels more like the product of a b-level cover band than one of '80s metal's greatest acts.
7. Bon Jovi, "Back Door Santa"
From the second those very ‘80s synths kick in, you know this is going to be a bad time. Bon Jovi’s cover of “Back Door Santa,” a tune released by Clarence Carter in 1968, is heavy on cheese and low on substance. While Carter’s original is superbly funky – with a great horn part that would be sampled for Run DMC’s "Christmas in Hollis" – Bon Jovi’s rendition has about as much flavor as plain yogurt. Making matters worse, the cover – which was featured on the A Very Special Christmas charity compilation – finds frontman Jon Bon Jovi sounding hoarse. At some parts, he seems to be painfully stretching for the notes. The rest of us are just stretching to hit the skip button.
6. Iggy Pop, "White Christmas"
There may be no two singers in history who were more different – both personally and stylistically – as Bing Crosby and Iggy Pop. Yet in 2009 the punk icon decided it was high time to cover the holiday classic. Pop croons the tune in a deep baritone, singing for most of the track, but at times breaking into spoken word. It’s strange, creepy and generally unsettling. It’s possible that Iggy wanted that exact reaction from listeners. In that case, mission accomplished.
5. Steve Kudlow, Bumblefoot, Chris Chaney and Kenny Aronoff, "Frosty the Snowman"
The 2008 compilation album We Wish You a Metal X-Mas boasts some highly enjoyable collaborations from rock legends. We’re partial to Lemmy, Billy Gibbons and Dave Grohl teaming up on “Run Run Rudolph” and Ronnie James Dio delivering a predictably epic rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” alongside Tony Iommi. However, things fall apart on "Frosty the Snowman.” Though former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal gets in some emphatic riffs, it’s hard to get past the vocals by Steve "Lips" Kudlow. The Anvil singer feels woefully miscast alongside Thal, Jane’s Addiction’s Chris Chaney and John Mellencamp drummer Kenny Aronoff. From first note to last, Kudlow sounds like he’s straining to be heard.
4. Tiny Tim, "O Holy Night"
We rarely ever think of Tiny Tim. The singer and ukulele player – real name Herbert Butros Khaury – was a novelty act whose popularity burned out quickly following his only hit, 1968’s "Tiptoe Through the Tulips.” That why its somewhat astonishing to discover that Tiny Tim released a total of 14 studio LPs in his career. Among them is 1996’s Tiny Tim's Christmas Album, which sees the singer utilizing his shrill falsetto on many holiday standards. Nothing here is what you’d call “good,” but the worst offender is "O Holy Night.” Usually a powerful and uplifting tune, Tiny Tim warbles his way through the classic to the pint that it’s painful to listen to.
3. Korn, "Jingle Bells"
If that one-horse open sleigh had been pulled by the devil himself, it’d probably sound something like this. When Korn decided to take on the bright and cheery holiday classic “Jingle Bells,” the nu metal band decided to go as heavy as possible. Pummeling riffs, demonic tones, guttural growls – every element was used. The result was weird (and a little disturbing). Korn stuck true to the original lyrics, but changed the name of the song from “Jingle Bells” to “Jingle Balls.” Does that forgive the horrible reinterpretation of a beloved classic? Not by a long shot.
2. Maroon 5, "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)"
Even people who like Maroon 5 can’t defend this giant lump of coal from 2007. When you’re going to cover a song that A) Ranks among the most universally loved holiday tunes ever recorded and B) Was originally written and performed by one of rock’s greatest stars, you’ve got to bring something special to the table. To say Adam Levine and company did not would be an understatement. The stark version lacks any emotion whatsoever – it's not dreary enough to be melancholy, but not hopeful enough to be cheery. Instead, it just plods along, letting Levine’s incessant falsetto squeal butcher John Lennon’s timeless words.
1. Bon Jovi, “Fairytale of New York”
Ok, we don’t mean to pick on Bon Jovi. We really don’t! It’s just that “Fairytale of New York,” released by the Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl in 1987, may be the world’s greatest modern Christmas carol. Generations of fans continue to adore the song, largely because it painted an honest picture of lower class holiday struggles, with drinking, fighting, bickering and even moments of hope all rolled into one. Bon Jovi’s version of the track robbed the song of its many emotional layers and instead just turned it into generic, assembly line rock. Listeners tore the cover to shreds upon release it 2020, commenting everything from “You give Christmas songs a bad name,” to describing Bon Jovi’s rendition as “Graffiti on a Van Gogh.” Even Steve Lillywhite, who produced the original “Fairtale of New York,” felt the need to chime in. "The worst ever version of this song," he tweeted. "Sorry Jon ... embarrassing and pointless."
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Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso