Alec Compton ’22
Arts & Culture Editor
Christmastime is an anomaly in terms of music charting and music culture.
It is really the only holiday that has a truly large effect on people’s listening habits (Halloween music is barely a thing) and continues to be an extremely profitable creative endeavour for many musicians, despite saturation.
Everyone has heard Christmas songs, but few—including myself until recently—have heard full Christmas albums.
I decided to embark on a listening journey through ten Christmas records by various popular artists. Some records were good and some were not.
Justin Bieber: Under the Mistletoe (5/10)
Justin Bieber’s 2012 release Under the Mistletoe is a fairly standard affair instrumentally for the chart-topping pop singer.
Bieber pretty strictly only sings on acoustic tracks or R&B-inspired cuts on this record, with a couple of piano ballads sprinkling in.
While the record starts and finishes relatively strong, with the smooth “Only Thing I Ever Get for Christmas” for an intro and Bieber delivering a stellar cover of “Silent Night” as the closer, the middle portion is a slog.
The saving grace of the middle portion is “Drummer Boy” but only because it’s so bad that it’s good. Some would consider Bieber claiming people should be surprised his Hip Hop-inspired cover of the song isn’t in the Bible, but to his credit, the original “Little Drummer Boy” didn’t come equipped with a Busta Rhymes feature. Eat your heart out, Harry Simeone.
Mariah Carrey: Merry Christmas (6/10)
Mariah Carey has, in my memory, the most recent Christmas song I would consider a classic with “All I Want for Christmas is You,” which still nets her a whopping one million dollars every year due to how excessively overplayed it is.
I commend Carey for not simply trying to recreate it ten times and calling it a record. The rest of the record is basically standard Christmas music, with a backing choir for most of the track list, aside from a few solo ballads.
Despite the boost from Mariah Carey’s stellar vocals, it is basically just a normal Christmas album, save for her cover of “Joy to the World” which she decided to make into a disco track, which is truly a power move for the ages.
Weezer: Christmas with Weezer (4/10)
Christmas with Weezer sounds like what I’d imagine Weezer’s Christmas music to be, which is disappointing.
Weezer has always been a pretty interesting and exciting band and I came away from this LP with little feelings for it. It was short, lasting under fifteen minutes, and none of the songs are really highlights.
The Beach Boys: The Beach Boys Christmas Album (6/10)
For The Beach Boys and their California-beach style, making a Christmas album is a risky venture.
The standard harmonies are the same as a normal Beach Boys album, but overall the vocal performance and overall eccentricities are toned down. Nothing on the album is bad, but it is consistently mediocre, with the few exceptions being “Santa’s Beard”, “Frosty the Snowman”, and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipmunks Christmas (0.5/10)
Listening to all 40 minutes of Chipmunks Christmas was torture.
It is bland and subpar, with a majority of the vocals pitched up to an annoying extent. It is truly a desecration of art and music that doesn’t even deserve a three-sentence review.
Sia: Everyday is Christmas (8/10)
Sia’s Christmas album is a modern gem.
It is consistent across the tracklist, going from bouncy Christmas tunes to slow piano ballads. “Snowman” is the crown jewel of the record. Sia’s vocals are perfectly suited for a Christmas endeavour with the sole exception of “Puppies are Forever.”
Pentatonix: A Pentatonix Christmas (6.5/10)
A Pentatonix Christmas is a Christmas favourite; I can certainly see the appeal.
Their acapella take on classic Christmas songs is quite refreshing on first listen. But after a couple plays, their style grows a tad tiresome and I started to crave actual instruments.
There aren’t really any low points on the tracklist, but it grows weary over time. It is still well-produced, though.
Frank Sinatra: A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra (9.5/10)
This is probably the best traditional vocal Christmas album.
Frank Sinatra is perfect for singing Christmas songs. Paired with lush instrumentation, it’s hard to imagine a better-sounding Christmas album that stays within the traditional boundaries.
Every track is fantastic and the record transports you to a true winter wonderland with its beautiful instrumentals and peak vocal form. To be frank, it’s a masterpiece.
Boney M: Christmas with Boney M (8.5/10)
This is another classic Christmas record that puts a creative spin on classic songs.
The tracks have a feel that resembles reggae. The tracklist is practically watertight, which makes for an excellent complete listen.
My only criticism is that there aren’t a lot of truly incredible moments on the record, but it’s just so entertaining and interesting that the lack of standouts isn’t really an issue.
Vince Guaraldi: A Charlie Brown Christmas (10/10)
Truly saving the best for last, this album is nothing short of stellar.
It was hard to find one of my peers who hadn’t listened to and loved this record, which just speaks to its brilliance. It has some of the best earworm jazz—not for just a Christmas album, but arguably any jazz album.
No album truly emulates what Christmas feels like than this one. Every moment of the album is perfection, pure Christmas bliss for the whole 44 minutes. I would consider it the best Christmas album of all time.
Photo credits: Spotify