I’m always astounded at the fresh crop of Christmas albums released each year. How many different versions of “Jingle Bells” can the Christmas economy handle?
Although I love Christmas just as much as anybody, my Christmas album collection ended in the 1960s and consists of Nat King Cole, A Charlie Brown Christmas and Bing Crosby.
Looking at hundreds of new Christmas albums is intimidating. I can immediately rule out Merry Twismas: A Twismas Story with Twitty Bird and their Little Friends, which was rereleased this year.
However, when faced with thirteen CDs promising to sing “I’ll be home for Christmas” and “Silent Night” how do I pick the right album for $6.99 on iTunes? Do I really want to hear Lady Gaga belt out “White Christmas” as I deck my Christmas tree this year?
To help in the search for the perfect new Christmas album of 2011, I’ve reviewed three of the top selling releases.
Michael Bublé Christmas: Perhaps it’s my traditional stance on Christmas music that makes me like this album as a whole. Michael Bublé has a rich full tone that songs like “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Cold December Night” really need. Unfortunately, his voice doesn’t help him on his rendition of “Santa Baby.” This song is supposed to be pure seduction as the singer uses her sex appeal to get all her favorite toys from Santa Claus. When Michael Bublé, a heterosexual male, sings it, the song is just plain awkward. He attempts to keeps the sultry rhythmic patterns of the original version, but instead sounds confused and off-beat. Bublé also changes the lyrics including “Santa Baby” to “Santa Buddy” which adds to the confusion. However, if you skip this song on your Christmas playlist, I’d say this album’s a winner. I give it four out of five stars.
Justin Bieber Under The Mistletoe: I know I can’t convince many people on this one: people either love or hate JBiebs. I am personally on the “hate” side of the argument, but I have to admit his Christmas album Under the Mistletoe is fairly solid. There are two reasons why it works. One: covered with his bedazzled name, Justin Bieber strays very far away from the traditional Christmas route. He knows he’s not Nat King Cole and so he doesn’t attempt to sing like him. All of the songs (except the ending track “Silent Night”) are jazzy, synthesized and teenybopper, just as we expect from the generation-late for a boy-band boy. Second good aspect of this album: Justin is helped out by many more established artists including Boyz II Men and Busta Rhymes, which at least breaks up the time we’re listening to Bieber. I give this album a two out of five.
She & Him A Very She & Him Christmas: I remember when Elf came out and Zooey Deschanel sang a thirty second clip of “Baby it’s Cold Outside” in the shower and I thought, “holy smokes, this is beautiful—I wish she finished singing!” Well, four years later she did. Her crystal-clear light voice is tragically stunning as she sings “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas” softly. Accompanied by a M. Ward’s vocals and hallow guitar, I instantly craved some hot cocoa and a snuggly warm blanket. Although this album epitomizes what I think Christmas is all about, I could easily listen to it year around. I give this album five out of five stars.