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8 Christmas Songs By Unexpected Artists: Pink Floyd, Kanye West, And More

by Joey DeGroot   Nov 29, 2014 14:37 PM EST

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Christmas music is typically the territory of Christian artists, country singers, or pop singers looking for a quick cash-in between proper studio albums (though that doesn't mean these cash-ins can't be great). However, there have been some strange cases where artists in other genres, such as rap, metal, and indie rock, have tried their hand at Christmas music as well. Here are eight Christmas songs or albums from unexpected artists.

1. Pink Floyd - "Merry Xmas Song" (1975)

This super rare Pink Floyd Christmas song was recorded for BBC radio in 1975, but anyone expecting a typically psychedelic Floyd composition might be thrown off by the shambling, goofy nature of the song, which features drummer Nick Mason on lead vocals.

2. Run-D.M.C. - "Christmas in Hollis" (1987)

Before hip-hop became engulfed in violence, grit and politics, rappers could still get away with writing upbeat Christmas songs like Run-D.M.C.'s "Christmas in Hollis," with sweet messages like "if you steal from Santa Claus, he won't give you a huge sack of money for Christmas." Don't let Fox News find out about the black Santa Claus in the music video.

3. Eazy-E - "Merry Mutha*****kin' Xmas" (1992)

If you want to understand the difference between '80s and '90s hip-hop, just compare the lighthearted "Christmas in Hollis" with Eazy-E's "Merry Mutha****kin' Xmas," which fuses Christmas cheer with a healthy dose of gang violence and misogyny.

4. Type O Negative - "Red Water (Christmas Mourning)" (1996)

Halloween was probably Type O Negative's favorite holiday, but that doesn't mean they couldn't write a great Christmas song. This being Type O Negative, though, even their Christmas songs are going to be gloomy as hell and preoccupied with mortality.

5. Low - Christmas (1999)

Low's music isn't exactly synonymous with cheer, let alone Christmas cheer, but what their 1999 Christmas EP does convey beautifully is the more mythical, Biblical side of Christmas. It also doesn't hurt that their sparse, somber music is perfect listening for desolate winter nights.

6. Yo La Tengo - Merry Christmas from Yo La Tengo (2002)

What makes Yo La Tengo's Merry Christmas EP so surprising isn't the fact that they're an acclaimed indie rock band with an experimental streak, but rather because Yo La Tengo is quite famously Jewish, even going so far as to perform an annual eight-night Hanukkah residency at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey for 12 years.

7. Kanye West - "Christmas in Harlem" (2010)

Somewhere in between "Christmas in Hollis" and "Merry Mutha****kin' Xmas" is Kanye West's 2010 Christmas single, "Christmas in Harlem," which still tackles the realities of inner-city life but in a more reverent and less goofy way than Eazy-E does, aided by an effective sample of Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me."

8. Mark Kozelek - Mark Kozelek Sings Christmas Carols (2014)

On the most recent Sun Kil Moon album Benji, Mark Kozelek wrote songs about the Newtown massacre, his sexual history, and his cousin burning to death in a freak accident, so he's not exactly the first person you'd expect to record an album of Christmas songs. Mark Kozelek Sings Christmas Carols isn't quite a bundle of sunshine, but it's in the same beautifully somber vein as Low's Christmas EP.

What are some other Christmas songs by unexpected artists? Let us know down in the comments section!

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