Though artists from Mariah Carey to Insane Clown Posse have released holiday singles, very few of those songs make it to holiday playlists year after year. Here are just a few of the more interesting Christmas songs released by some artists you’re surely familiar with.
1. "Christmas Tree" // Lady Gaga featuring Space Cowboy
Back in 2008, before Lady Gaga had quite as many Little Monsters as she does now, she did a little Christmas ditty that’s ... well, in her own words: "'Christmas Tree' is about the spirit of celebrating the most joyous holiday and I'll tell you why: because Christmas is the holiday that most makes boys and girls feel randy."
2. "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)" // The Beatles
Even The Beatles have a Christmas song that didn't take off. Well, to be fair, it never even made it out of the gate. The song was recorded in 1966 and 1967, but it wasn’t officially released until 1995, when it showed up as a B-side to "Free as a Bird."
3. "Don’t Shoot Me Santa" // The Killers
No matter how good it is, a song about a Santa who kidnaps the kids on the naughty list and shoots them is bound to get limited airplay.
4. "Ho! Ho! Ho! Who’d Be a Turkey at Christmas?" // Elton John
This was the B-side to a more popular Elton John song called “Step Into Christmas.” With lyrics like “There’s a pair of large-sized Wellies coming down my flue and the smell of burning rubber, oh, is filling up the room,” it’s slightly less warm and fuzzy than the A-side.
5. "Heavy Metal Christmas" // Twisted Sister
Would you believe Twisted Sister didn’t release their first holiday album until 2006? The whole album is made up of classic Christmas songs with a Twisted Sister, well, twist. “Heavy Metal Christmas” is a spin on “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” but instead of partridges, pear trees, and pipers, the gifts are pentagrams, platforms and spandex pants.
6. "Back Door Santa" // Various Artists
The song was written by Clarence Carter, but the most famous part of the tune is definitely the horn part that was sampled by Run D.M.C. in “Christmas in Hollis.” The full song has been covered by everyone from The Black Crowes to Bon Jovi, but it’s safe to say you’re probably not going to hear it blaring over the loudspeaker at your favorite big-box store this year.
7. "Kentucky Homemade Christmas" // Kenny Rogers
This came from Kenny’s first holiday album, Christmas, released in 1981.
8. "Father Christmas" // The Kinks
In 1977, The Kinks told the sorry tale of a Santa Claus beaten black and blue by a gang of kids. All they want for Christmas is cash, jobs for their daddies, and machine guns to "scare" the kids down the street. Dark!
9. "Cherry Cherry Christmas" // Neil Diamond
Neil Diamond's fans were surely thrilled when the singer wished his listeners a "Cherry Christmas" instead of "Merry Christmas" on his 2009 holiday album.
10. "All I Want for Christmas Is a Real Good Tan" // Kenny Chesney
Anyone who is even remotely familiar with the musical stylings of Mr. Chesney is probably not too surprised by this one.
11. "Early Christmas Morning" // Cyndi Lauper
Haven’t heard this one? Not many people have: It was only officially released in Japan, though it has since surfaced on some compilation albums in the UK and Canada.
A version of this story ran in 2011; it has been updated for 2021.