Top 10 Heartbreaking Holiday Covers
Last week we took a look at some of the most holiday spirit-dampeningly awful songs ever recorded. We aren't quite done ruining your holiday spirit just yet however, as this week we have compiled ten of the saddest holiday cover songs ever recorded.
These artists have managed to take the source material and twist the knife just enough to eek out just a little bit more Christmastime melancholy. Enjoy!
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10. Far (Feat. Chino Moreno and Grady Avenell), "Do they Know It's Christmas?" Much sadder than the actual tone of this charity-pop monstrosity is the laughable ethnocentric lyrical content that assumes the poor bastards on the dark continent don't even know it's Christmastime. Who knew the whole world wasn't Judeo-Christian? Hell, they're really lucky just to be alive at all, the song opines -- as if the rest of us aren't?
The whole mess is topped off by Bono's parting kick to the collective nuts: "Tonight, thank God it's them, instead of you!" Really? Sad is it also that post punk metal acts like Far -- not to mention Avenell's post hardcore outfit Will Haven -- didn't gain the critical acclaim their predecessors in Helmet and Quicksand did, nor the lasting popularity fellow vocalist Chino Moreno of The Deftones still enjoys.
9. Simon & Garfunkel, "Silent Night/7 O' Clock News" Punk before it was punk, this folk track is a simple version of "Silent Night" laid bare over an imagined news feed featuring news of Lenny Bruce's death and coverage of the arraignment of serial killer Richard Speck. It's a stark and harsh contrast and its brutal message still packs a punch today.
8. Florence + The Machine, "Last Christmas" It takes a powerful voice to re-interpret what has been called by some the worst holiday pop song ever written. While Rocks Off doesn't think Wham! deserves such harsh criticism, this retelling manages to pack a wallop George Michael and Andrew Ridgely just couldn't muster. Why this hasn't seen an official release is a mystery to us.
7. Bing Crosby & David Bowie, "Little Drummer Boy" Keeping our morose little theme right on chugging, this song may very well have been one of the last things the legendary Bing Crosby recorded before his death in 1977. "Little Drummer Boy" isn't the best song, we readily admit -- as did Bowie, who petitioned for a different song -- but the harmonies alone more than make up for it; besides, it's Bowie and Bing on the same track. Recorded for television, no less. "Surreal" doesn't begin to describe this duet, one that makes those hackneyed studio mash-up jobs seem laughable by comparison.
6. The Carpenters, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is a bittersweet song without Karen Carpenter's hauntingly beautiful vocals. Take the Carpenters' 1978 release and set it in front of the tragedy that would become Carpenter's death and legacy, this song is simply crushingly sad.
5. Death Cab for Cutie, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" Rolling Stone ranked the original Darlene Love version the greatest rock Christmas song of all time, and few artists since have been able to match Love's sheer power and sense of longing.
Reliable holiday workhorse and vocal powerhouse Mariah Carey's version falls flat, while Joey Ramone simply doesn't have the range to offer the song any emotion, odd given his strikingly beautiful take on "What a Wonderful World." Ben Gibbard's slowed-down take finally serves up "Christmas" the way it was meant to sound: Lonesome and forlorn.
4. Florence Welch and Billy Bragg, "Fairytale of New York" Arguably the most heart-rending Christmas song ever composed, no one has ever been able to capture the energy, rage and sheer heartbreak of the Pogues' original. Please don't watch Katzenjammer's happily-sung version unless you want to ruin "Fairytale" for yourself forever.
Similarly, Coldplay's version does what Coldplay does best, literally sucking the very life out of the song and replacing it with what we imagine a musical version of Kmart sounds like. The only version up to snuff is the track Billy Bragg and Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine laid down for BBC Radio 1 a few years back. Florence proves that, even at the height of her popularity, her voice may be underrated still.
3. Fear, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" Released in 2011 for Record Store Black Friday, this 7-inch is one of the most hauntingly mournful takes on the classic we've ever heard. Borrowing equally from various versions of the song, Fear front man Lee Ving shows a side that those only familiar with Fear's punk classics like "I Love Living in the City" may not recognize. You can read up on Fear and hear the song here.
2. Otis Redding, "White Christmas" It takes a giant like Otis to begin to approach the foundations laid by Bing Crosby on the original recording. This version is hampered by a subpar recording and lackluster accompaniment and by hampered we mean it's one of the few tracks in his career Otis doesn't absolutely knock out of the park.
Given more time and a few more recordings, we would all likely consider "White Christmas" to be Redding's own. No such luck, as this record was released ten months after his death.
Elvis Presley, "Blue Christmas" Written in 1948, "Blue Christmas" was a chart-topper from its inception, with Ernest Tubb's version hitting No. 1 at Christmas 1949. The trimmed-down and reworked version released by Elvis almost a decade later would prove to be the lasting version, however, as it charted in the UK Christmas week upon its release as a single some seven years after the King's version appeared on his Elvis' Christmas Album.
That same year, 1964, The Beach Boys covered Elvis' version on their own Beach Boys' Christmas Album. But even today, Presley's version remains the standard by which all forlorn Christmas tunes are measured.
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