Were Charles Dickens searching for a new threat to haunt Scrooge more than his three Yuletide ghosts, he might start by strolling the CD aisles at Wal-Mart and grabbing a handful of discs that purport to contain "Christmas music." Among the new offerings, he'd find an acoustic ditty by Christian artists Shane &amp; Shane called "Born To Die."
That's right. A Christmas song called "Born To Die."
True, some theologians believe baby Jesus came into this world knowing that he'd suffer a horrible death. That said, "Born To Die" sounds awfully inappropriate for the season and would likely halt your Christmas bash. What's worse, it follows a version of "It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas" that sounds like a musical-forced grin.
10. Shane &amp; Shane's "Glory in the Highest" (inpop) clambers onto our Top 10 list of worst Christmas albums with all the stealth of, say, how you'd fall off a ladder while stretching to slap a star atop the tree. It comes in at No. 10.
Here's the rest of the swill that stirs our cup of holiday jeer:
9. "A Winter Symphony," Sarah Brightman (Manhattan). She could harp on and on. You can never have enough harps at Christmas. But what better accompaniment than . . . jungle drums? "Symphony" sounds as if Brightman sang the whole thing through a frosty glass window in a VH1 video, barely holding back the tears. Or, even more harps.
8. "Natty and Nice: A Reggae Christmas," various artists (Rhino). Christmas dread. Think of it as Christmas in July -- a hot, sticky, dopey sort of July that'll make you hanker for Chicago winter year-round.
7. "Merry Christmas," Mariah Carey (Sony). Really Mariah, you shouldn't have. And you thought Carey's Christmas gift to the world involved passing out popsicles on MTV. Maybe Mariah should set the bar higher -- and team with Celine Dion and Whitney Houston to produce the Blandest, Most Melodramatic Pop Christmas Disc Ever.
6. "A Twistmas Story With Twitty Bird and Their Little Friends," Conway Twitty (Tree Productions). No country for old jokes. His last name sounds like "Tweety," and there's a song called "Christmas Is for the Birds" -- get it? Cheesy backup singers abound, and numbers such as "Happy the Christmas Clown" give us one more reason to fear pasty-faced circus jesters.
5. "This Is the Time: The Christmas Album," Michael Bolton (Sony). I'm dreaming of a whine Christmas. For those who like their Yule treacle super-size, there's Michael Bolton.
4. "Christmas on Death Row," various artists (Death Row/Interscope). Bad rapping job. Nothing says "Happy Holidays" like the words "Death Row" and "EXPLICIT CONTENT." As one artist sings, "'Christmas time is a time for chillin'." And as one amazon.com reviewer put it, "Spending Christmas actually on Death Row would be better."
3. "Christmas Song," Mannheim Steamroller (American Gramaphone). Grandpa got run over by a Steamroller. Having forever infected the holidays with his synth-laden "Deck the Halls," Chip Davis found his encore on this 2007 disc. He surrounded an aging Johnny Mathis (on "The Christmas Song") with enough machinelike percussion to pummel a fruitcake.
2. "A Twisted Christmas," Twisted Sister (Razor &amp; Tie). We're not gonna take it (for a gift). Twisted Sister retrofits "O Come All Ye Faithful" to the melody and arrangement of their one-and-only hit, "We're Not Gonna Take It." This is rawwwk -- as in "I got a rawwwk in my stocking."