Best, worst Christmas albums to celebrate the season
Unless you’re living under a piece of coal, your ears have already figured it out: Christmas music has paved its way down the candy cane road and into the radios and iPods of fans of the holiday season.
Here are some notable and not-so-noteworthy Christmas musical releases from the last few decades.
“Noël” by Josh Groban (2007)
America’s choirboy opens his mouth and out comes a jaw-dropping, sky-soaring, pants-wetting baritone. At least that’s what a Grobanite thinks — and on Groban’s multiplatinum Christmas album, we couldn’t agree more thanks to holy ballads like “Silent Night” and “Ave Maria” that are about as adult-contemporary as it gets.
“Merry Christmas II You” by Mariah Carey (2010)
Say what you want about Mimi, but she sure knows how to put out a good contemporary Christmas record. Twice, actually. Carey recorded the entire album over the summer as a thematically structured sequel to her first Christmas album, “Merry Christmas.” She notably knocks it out of the park with “O Come All Ye Faithful/Hallelujah” in a spine-tingling final duet with her mother, opera singer Patricia Carey.
“Home for Christmas” by *NSYNC (1998)
Not all musical cheese is delicious, especially when mixed with Christmas eggnog. Case in point: *NSYNC’s pop-saturated single “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” that exemplifies the entire uninspired album trying to pass off as a worthy collection of Christmas favorites marked toward the typical teenybopper.
“The Gift” by Susan Boyle (2010)
Given both Boyle’s famous track record with otherworldly ballads like “I Dreamed a Dream” and “Memory,” and the remarkable sacredness of Christmas music, we dreamed a dream that by holiday season, she would challenge the world with her voice one more time. Instead, “The Gift” is wrought with silence. The brassy, middle-aged Scot’s soaring vocals should be where a digitized chorus now is, and that feels empty and unnatural.
“Merry Christmas” by Bing Crosby (1945)
Recorded way back in the dark ages of Christmas in the 1940s when commercial holiday music was just getting its sleigh off the ground, this album has been a standout of seasonal standards since the legendary crooner first sang “White Christmas.”
“Elvis’ Christmas Album” by Elvis Presley (1957)
No Christmas list is complete without including the King’s top-selling Christmas album of all-time. Anyone in the Christmas spirit can listen to the short collection of classic favorites that range from blues to rockabilly to traditional gospel.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” by Vince Guaraldi Trio (1965)
The legendary album of jazzy music from the “Peanuts” TV special introduced a young generation of cartoon fans to something quaint and innocent in music. Pianist Vince Guaraldi composed and arranged a dozen jazz and choral pieces that retain the childlike charm of the “Peanuts” cartoons, most famously the lively “Linus & Lucy” and the soft lullaby “Christmastime Is Here.” Both the special and album are a Christmas treat for everyone while sitting in front of the tree, drinking peppermint hot cocoa and opening presents on Christmas morning.
“Glee: The Music – The Christmas Album” by Glee Cast (2010)
Fox’s “Glee’s” fifth album released this year is neither a great nor awful compilation of seasonal music selections for next week’s Christmas episode. Sprinkled with both the usual Christmas carol and contemporary numbers, the album brings together the show’s chorus-heavy Broadway flavor with the holiday catalog’s jingle bells. The haunting classic “O Holy Night” stands in opposition to the overproduced gloopiness that drags down the rest of the album’s second half.
“Christmas With the Beach Boys” by the Beach Boys (1964)
This not-so-little Christmas party album put the twist into even Santa Claus’ jelly belly with the Beach Boys’ trademark simple charm. Members Al Jardine, Love, and brothers Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson carry their always-present vocal harmonies over the silver bell jingles and light snare taps in light fare like “Little Saint Nick” and “Santa’s Beard,” with the same to be said for softer and slower numbers later on the record.