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For decades, artists in the music business have made the obligatory Christmas album as a way to earn some extra money – mostly for their record companies. Some songs have become iconic – like Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You, or Wham’s Last Christmas or Elvis’ Blue Christmas or Bing’s White Christmas. Sometimes, artists use the holidays to collaborate with other artists to release holiday-themed music. And sometimes…those collborations seem borderline bizarre. Here’s some of those “unusual” ones (thanks Judy, for the idea!).
Ozzie Osbourne and Jessica Simpson – In 2003, MTV ran a television special titled The Osbourne Family Christmas Special. This low-brow program featured guests like Mike Myers and Britney Spears dropping in on the Osbournes to share a little Christmas spirit. The lowest point of the show was when a sultry Jessica Simpson hung around to sing Winter Wonderland with the Prince of Darkness himself. While singing the song, they build a snowman – with Ozzy removing the carrot nose and reapplying it to the groin area of the snowman. When Sharon Osbourne makes a brief cameo appearance, Ozzy screeches at her, and the happy couple of Ozzy and Jessica continue the song. Truly awful.
R. Kelly and Celine Dion – Before R. Kelly got famous for being a child pornographer, he got famous for writing and performing 90s R&B hits. At the same time, Dion came into her own as a 90s pop diva. It feels creepy now, but in 1998, it only made sense for Dion to include a duet with Kelly on her These Are Special Times holiday album. I’m Your Angel became a major hit, reaching #1 on the Hot 100 chart and charting on 25 charts all over the world. It even ended up as the #50 Hot 100 song for the entire 90s decade, and it was nominated for a Grammy award. Now with Kelly in federal prison, it’s not a high point in Dion’s squeaky clean legacy.
Barenaked Ladies and Michael Bublé – Tell me…why did the Canadian alt rock group Barenaked Ladies feel the need to release a holiday album? Sounds like a money grab to me – especially Canadian dollars, as the band has a special appeal to that great country. And what better way to appeal even more to Canada than to get help from one of Canada’s favorite sons, Michael Bublé? The Barenaked for the Holidays album was released in 2004. Just a year before, Bublé had his breakthrough in his native land, and the band knew that anything Bublé could bring to their Christmas album would be helpful. Bublé contributed co-lead vocals to the tongue-in-cheek Elf’s Lament, a song about how tough it is to be one of Santa’s elves – “…Toiling through the ages, making toys on garnished wages,There’s no union, We’re only through when we outdo the competition….” Ouch! Tough being an elf!
Justin Bieber and Busta Rhymes – Another television holiday special, another odd collaboration. In 2011, Christmas At Rockefellar Center featured 17 year old pop teen idol Bieber and 39 year old hardcore rapper Rhymes, belting out their amped up version of Little Drummer Boy. They took some liberties on the classic lyrics – turns out the the drum actually is a snare drum, and the duo rap about giving food and gifts to charities. At least they avoided the gangsta rap.
Cher and Rosie O’Donnell – Comedian O’Donnell actually has released two Christmas albums – A Rosie Christmas in 1999 and Another Rosie Christmas in 2000. It just goes to show you how much money there is to make on holiday albums – these albums charted at #20 and #45 respectively on the Billboard 200 album chart. I picked Cher as her unusual collaborator, but I could have chosen any of the other artists that O’Donnell sings with on these albums, including Celine Dion (again?), Billy Joel, Elmo, Elton John, Donny Osmond, Rosemary Clooney, Jessica Simpson (again?), Dixie Chicks, Ricky Martin, Barry Manilow, and many others. The track that features Cher is Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). Cher’s contralto singing voice sounds great! Rosie’s – not so much.
David Bowie and Bing Crosby – The unlikely pairing came about thanks to Bowie’s mom, who loved Bing Crosby and convinced her son to perform on Crosby’s 1977 TV special, Merrie Olde Christmas. Bowie refused to sing Little Drummer Boy, so the writers for the show quickly composed a new song, Peace on Earth. Bowie sang it in perfect counter-harmony to Crosby’s Little Drummer Boy. The result became a holiday classic. Bing passed away just a month after the show aired.
Here’s Bing and David’s surprising gem, Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy. Merry Christmas!