15 unconventional Christmas albums from the past 50 years

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December 11, 2020
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15 unconventional Christmas albums from the past 50 years

Remember The Singing Dogs? It was a band made up of dogs, and all the songs were spliced-together dog barks. The group's Christmas song, "Jingle Bells," hit the top of Billboard's Christmas singles chart in 1972.

But don't be fooled—The Singing Dogs' Christmas album is far from the quirkiest piece of holiday music out there. Many famous musicians have released some pretty unique versions of holiday songs. Sufjan Stevens took it to another level and released 100 songs in two installments six years apart. Afroman has a quirky Christmas album with lyrics tailored to his image and some of his favorite pastimes. Even Arcade Fire put together a secret DIY Christmas album.

Stacker dug into the recesses of Christmas or holiday-themed albums to find the best of the best. These 15 unconventional holiday albums stand out as both cultural and musical anomalies in their addition to the much-beloved sub-genre of music.

These original albums represent some of the quirkiest, weirdest, and most unique holiday songs out there. And at least one of them is X-rated. To compile this slideshow, Stacker didn't look at singles; just LPs and EPs were considered.

Read on to discover the artist, the album, and what makes this collection of songs stray so far from the norm.

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'Christmas Interpretations' (1993) by Boyz II Men

This Christmas album was another wildly popular installment in the Boyz II Men discography. The band put their standard spin of soothing vocals and flawless harmonies on a full slate of new material, with only one cover: "Silent Night," all a cappella. The rest of the songs on the album aren't all as full of joy as traditional Christmas tunes, covering topics like depression, poverty, and love.

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'Natty Christmas' (1978) by Jacob Miller

Transport to Jamaica with this reggae Christmas album. The record became a Christmas classic, with lyrics like "We bring you an Irie Christmas" and lots of references to marijuana. Plus, most of the songs are set to traditional Christmas tunes, so everyone can easily sing along.

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'A Very Arcade Xmas' (2002) by Arcade Fire

This album can't be bought in stores—Arcade Fire supposedly made it for friends, hand-delivered it as holiday gifts, and then someone leaked it online. The album was recorded in 2001 live at a party. 

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'Songs for Christmas, Vols. 1-5' (2006) and 'Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10' (2012) by Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens's epic two-part album is split into 10 volumes of 100 songs. Half of the songs were released in 2006 and the other half in 2012. The albums reflect Stevens' changing style throughout his career, with some songs appearing multiple times, differentiated by style and arrangement.

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'Christmas' (1999) by Low

Low built its reputation on the sad, melancholy sounds and lyrics that are the hallmark of slowcore music, and this Christmas album is no exception. The eight original and cover songs are minimalist, spare, achingly slow, or just a little creepy and odd. For example, "If You Were Born Today," says that Jesus would almost immediately be killed if he were born today. The cover of Elvis' "Blue Christmas" is also just a little off, clocking in at a minute longer than the original because it's so much slower.

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'My Morning Jacket Does Xmas Fiasco Style' (2000) by My Morning Jacket

This six-song EP is a mix of originals and covers with some experimental vocals and riffs. Listen for the heavy electric guitar and beautiful harmonies the band is known for while still being left with a relaxed holiday soundtrack.

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'A Glimpse of Stocking' (2010) by Saint Etienne

This limited release album wasn't too surprising for those already fans of Saint Etienne. It was a fun collection of past fan releases and covers of other Christmas songs, in the standard style anyone came to expect from the band. But only 3,000 copies were made, and for an extra expense, buyers could get a signed Christmas card and a personalized song.

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'A Heavy Metal Christmas' (2012) by Christopher Lee

Actor Christopher Lee (as seen in "Lord of the Rings" and "Dracula") was 90 when he released this two-song heavy metal EP. The classically trained singer loved heavy metal, and the EP, which includes "Little Drummer Boy" and "Silent Night," reflected his talent for the genre.

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'Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album' (1980) by various artists

"Star Wars" and the real world merged in this Christmas album—which made many people hate it. The characters in the "Star Wars" universe sang such holiday gems as "What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)" and "R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas." However, the songs were all tied to earthly events and characters like Santa Claus instead of characters in "Star Wars."

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'A Very Spidey Christmas' (2018) by 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' cast

What started as a joke in "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" became a reality a week after the movie premiered. This EP, previewed in the film, is only five songs and about 11 minutes total. It features the cast singing holiday songs as their characters with newly appropriate lyrics, like this: "And literally I don't get paid / Kinda weird that I don't get paid / I make my own web-fluid and it's not free, OK?"

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'Eban Schletter’s Cosmic Christmas' (2009) by Eban Schletter

Those who've never heard a theremin can get their fill with this album, which is an electronic sensation and so popular it has a Facebook fan page. The album description says it all: "A military satellite finds itself in the midst of a musical 'transmission' which forces it to rethink its primary directive." What follows is electronic, synth, and theremin version of holiday classics.

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'A Colt 45 Christmas' (2006) by Afroman

Afroman's albums generally contain parental advisories, and this one's no different. The rapper decided to put his spin on Christmas classics, turning out songs like "I Wish You Would Roll a New Blunt," "Afroman is Coming to Town," "Deck My Balls," and "O Chronic Tree." Each song showcases Afroman's trademark musical humor.

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'Christmas Is 4 Ever' (2006) by Bootsy Collins

Bootsy Collins, funk artist, released this album on Halloween. None of the songs sound like the original (imagine a funky bass line on "Silent Night"), and some of them have unique collaborations. Snoop Dogg and George Clinton lend voices on "Happy Holidaze," and "Sleigh Ride" features Charlie Daniels.

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'The Most Wonderful Time of the Year' (2011) by Scott Weiland

Stone Temple Pilots' frontman Scott Weiland departed his rock lifestyle with this kitschy Christmas album of covers with a twist. "O Holy Night" is reggae-style, "Silent Night" has some Spanish flair, and the singer croons Sinatra-style for a few of the more classic holiday tunes.

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'Merry Christmas Baby' (1971) by Rudy Ray Moore

Rudy Ray Moore was a crass comedy legend, and he brought that into this album. The A-side is relatively benign, with the smooth namesake song "Merry Christmas Baby." However, those who turn the record over will be hit with a wildly X-rated B-side, with lyrics that match the album sleeve art: five mostly nude women and one very naked Moore, strategically blocked by someone's head.

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