It’s tradition: Every year, on Halloween, we publish a roundup of new Christmas albums and other assorted holiday music popping off this season. We did it in 2016, and again in 2017, and again in 2018, and we’re doing it again now. It’s tradition, OK?
Although you’d think we already have more than enough Christmas music, artists release a new round of holiday fare every year. By the end of October, most of it is announced and much of it is released. So, in a horrific Halloween twist, here is a roundup of Christmas music’s 2019 class, delivered via yearbook superlatives because scary can be fun too, right?
Most Woke: John Legend & Kelly Clarkson’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” Rewrite
In recent years the wintertime duet “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has come under scrutiny for lyrics that seem to describe sexual harassment at best and maybe even allude to sexual assault. Although a feminist defense of the song made the rounds a couple years back, it doesn’t really translate to the #MeToo era; despite its original meaning, in our modern context the song just feels rapey. So Legend, a deeply conservative musician who also happens to be a vocal advocate for progressive causes, has rewritten the “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” lyrics with Insecure’s Natasha Rothwell and recorded the new version with Clarkson, his fellow adult-contemporary mainstay and The Voice affiliate. According to a press release, the “modern and irreverent” rewrite goes a little like this:
I really can’t stay (BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE)
I’ve gotta go away (I CAN CALL YOU A RIDE.)
This evening has been (SO GLAD THAT YOU DROPPED IN)
So very nice (TIME SPENT WITH YOU IS PARADISE)
My mother will start to worry (I’LL CALL A CAR AND TELL ‘EM TO HURRY)
The new “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is one of four new tracks on Legend’s deluxe reissue of last year’s A Legendary Christmas, executive produced by Raphael Saadiq. It’s out next Friday, 11/8.
Most Likely To Be Released After Christmas: Kanye West’s Jesus Is Born
Kanye says he’s following up with the gospel-focused yet self-obsessed Jesus Is King with Jesus Is Born, a “Sunday Service album” set for release on Christmas day. No further details are available right now, but presumably it’s a live album built from the various Sunday Services he’s been hosting across the country this year? The one thing Kanye’s told us for sure about Jesus Is Born is its release date, and given his recent track record, that seems like the detail most likely to change. I’m guessing this one will be rescheduled for Easter.
Most Natural Tie-In To A Blockbuster Film Role As A Nordic Queen With Magical Ice Powers: Idina Menzel’s Christmas: A Season Of Love
On Christmas: A Season Of Love, Queen Elsa herself is supplying the usual assortment of Christmas classics with a light dusting of originals. Her Frozen friends helped out: Josh Gad (the voice of Olaf) duets on “We Wish You The Merriest,” and award-winning soundtrack writers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez wrote the jazzy “A Hand For Mrs. Claus,” which features none other than Ariana Grande.
Most Likely To Send A 25-Year-Old Song To #1: Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas Reissue
Ever since the advent of on-demand streaming, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” has been charting higher and higher each successive holiday season. Last year it climbed all the way to a new peak of #6, becoming the highest-charting Christmas song since “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” hit #1 back in 1958. This year, Carey is making a push for the top of the Hot 100.
This Friday, exactly 25 years after its original release date, Carey is reissuing Merry Christmas, the album that included “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” She’s also launching her All I Want For Christmas Is You Tour, beginning with a five-night residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and continuing with five more East Coast dates in December. A press release promises, “Mariah’s continued record-breaking achievements, celebrations and surprises are expected to escalate for the 2019 Holiday Season.” So you know the girl is gunning for that #1 spot.
Most Indie: You Wish: A Merge Records Holiday Album & Molly Burch’s The Molly Burch Christmas Album (TIE)
Most years you can count on an indie-rock artist or two releasing a Christmas album, and this year is no different. One of them comes from the venerable North Carolina label Merge Records, which continued its 30th anniversary celebrations with the recent comp You Wish: A Merge Records Holiday Album. It features William Tyler covering Big Star’s “Jesus Christ,” Lucinda Williams and Hiss Golden Messenger covering John Prine’s “Christmas In Prison,” a Mikal Cronin original called “Christmastime Heist,” plus contributions from Will Butler, Mike Krol, Shout Out Louds, Mac McCaughan, and more.
That comp’s indie-ness is matched only by The Molly Burch Christmas Album, almost certainly the only yuletide record to ever be released by Captured Tracks. Its tracklist combines traditionals like “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “Auld Lang Syne,” covers like “Hard Candy Christmas” (Dolly Parton) and “Snowqueen Of Texas” (The Mamas & The Papas), and two Burch originals. Comedians John Early and Kate Berlant guest on a cover of Wham!’s “Last Christmas,” and Jesse Woods features on “The Coldest Night Of The Year.” Will Patterson and Woods’ Jarvis Taveniere recorded the album in Austin and LA.
Most Likely To Be Gifted To Boomer Parents: Chicago’s Chicago Christmas
Chicago already released three Christmas albums before this year. There’s clearly a market for them, so sure, why not: Chicago Christmas, out now, features eight new original holiday tracks plus three seasonal classics. Looking forward to seeing hipster podcasters attempt to rehabilitate this one.
Most Likely To Be Gifted To Spanish-Speaking Boomer Parents: Los Lobos’ Llegó Navidad
Unlike Chicago, Los Lobos had never released a Christmas album before dropping Llegó Navidad this month. And this one actually sounds unique: a collection of 11 holiday favorites from the Spanish-speaking world, presented in Los Lobos’ signature style.
Most Inevitable: Pentatonix’s The Best Of Pentatonix Christmas
The a cappella vocal group Pentatonix owe much of their cultural staying power to their pile of relentlessly streamed holiday releases. This year, in lieu a whole new Christmas album, they’ve released The Best Of Pentatonix Christmas, a stack of their most popular holiday tunes topped off with four new ones. Most notably, it includes the year’s second posthumous Whitney Houston appearance on “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Nothing is sacred! But of course, the group that once performed John Lennon’s secular humanist anthem “Imagine” on their televised Christmas special might not understand “sacred” as a concept.
Most Likely To Portend An Eventual Appearance On A Pentatonix Christmas Album: Lea Michele’s Christmas In The City
Lea Michele was in Glee. She knows a thing or two about a cappella. Now that she’s moving into the realm of holiday entertainment with Christmas In The City — out now — a collision with Pentatonix feels predestined.
Most Unlikely Holiday Double-Down: Rob Halford’s Celestial
Believe it or not, former Judas Priest singer Rob Halford already had one Christmas album to his name, 2009’s Halford III: Winter Songs. As of this month, he has a second.
Most Duets: Dionne Warwick & The Voices Of Christmas
Out now, Warwick’s Christmas album finds her teaming up with a different artist on all but the first and last tracks, including Andra Day, Aloe Blacc, Johnny Mathis, the Oak Ridge Boys, Chloe X Halle, and more. Consider it the No. 6 Collaborations Project of the genre.
Most Unlikely Link Between Aretha Franklin & Thom Yorke: Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra’s Big Band Holiday II
Wynton Marsalis did a ’50s jazz cover of Thom Yorke’s piano ballad “Daily Battles” for Edward Norton’s new film adaptation of Motherless Brooklyn. Before that, he led the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra for their holiday concerts from 2015 to 2018, shows captured on the new live album Big Band Holiday II. Most notably, the album contains the late Aretha Franklin singing “O Tannenbaum.”
Most Average: Josh Rouse’s The Holiday Sounds Of Josh Rouse
Josh Rouse is the kind of folk-pop singer-songwriter who lingers for decades despite little to distinguish his music from all the other folk-pop singer-songwriters. I first encountered him on the Vanilla Sky soundtrack, and around the same time, he released a single called “Christmas With Jesus.” Now, two decades and a dozen albums into his career, he’s got an entire album of Christmas songs. They seem fine?
Most Likely To Be Streamed By Children And Gays: Peppa Pig’s “Bing Bong Christmas”
“Bing Bong Christmas” is an obnoxious yuletide celebration from Peppa Pig, the main character in a popular British children’s TV show, who accidentally became a queer icon this year. Enjoy?
Jammiest: Warren Haynes Presents: The Benefit Concert Volume 16
Haynes, of Gov’t Mule, hosts a Christmas benefit concert every year. Details for the 2019 installment are yet to be announced, but he’s ramping up to it by releasing a live album culled from the 2014 event. The release includes two hours of live music, with guests including Jason Isbell, the late Neal Casal, the Grateful Dead’s Bill Kreutzmann, and more.
Most Likely To Confuse Comedy Fans: Ana Gasteyer’s Sugar & Booze
On her second album of jazzy retro pop, ex-SNL comedian Gasteyer turns her focus on the holidays. Sugar & Booze, out now, is a mix of standards and originals, highlighted by “Secret Santa,” a duet with her fellow former cast member Maya Rudolph. It’s a satirical Cuban pop song about slipping on a banana peel, bumping your head, and getting woke — subtle comedy in a format these two would have played as outsized farce in their old TV gig.
Least Likely To Conquer America: Robbie Williams’ The Christmas Present
The UK icon’s first Christmas album is out 11/22, a double-LP with discs titled Christmas Past and Christmas Future (see what he did there?), featuring guest appearances from Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Jamie Cullum, and Tyson Fury and promoted by a massive holiday show at London’s SSE Arena — not that anyone on this continent cares!
Most Likely To Spark A George Michael Revival: The Last Christmas Soundtrack
Just like each year brings a new round of holiday music, each year brings a new round of holiday rom-coms. One of this year’s, Last Christmas, is directed by Paul Feig, co-scripted by Emma Thompson, and stars Game Of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke and Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding, with a soundtrack built entirely from the music of George Michael and Wham! It drops 11/8 (or 11/15 if you want it on vinyl).
Other Assorted Yuletide Fare
Liam Payne, the McCrary Sisters, and the Regrettes all have new Christmas singles this season, and Disney Channel a cappella crew DCapella are releasing a Christmas EP. There are holiday tours from Hanson, Chris Isaak, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and She & Him, among others. On 12/10, Cyndi Lauper’s annual Home For The Holidays benefit makes its LA debut. Lauper’s 1998 release Merry Christmas…Have A Nice Life is also one of several Christmas albums being reissued on vinyl this season, a list that also includes Home Alone Christmas and the Love Actually soundtrack. Feel it in your fingers and your toes: Christmas is all around you this Halloween!
After topping the singles chart in his native UK and elsewhere around the world, Scottish balladeer Lewis Capaldi has now gone to #1 in America as well. Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved” tops Billboard’s Hot 100 this week, preventing Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” from breaking a tie with Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” as the longest-reigning #1 by a female rapper. Per Billboard, the Capaldi song’s 24-week run from entering the chart to topping it is the fifth-longest such stretch ever. The four tracks that lingered longer before eventually hitting #1: Vertical Horizon’s “Everything You Want” (26), Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open” (27), John Legend’s “All Of Me” (30), and Lonestar’s “Amazed” (31). I guess shlocky ballads just rise slowly! (I say this as someone who’s on record about loving “Someone You Loved.”)
The rest of the top 10 is full of the same hits that have been populating the region for a while, in this order from #2 to #10: the aforementioned “Truth Hurts,” Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s “Señorita,” Post Malone’s “Circles,” Drake and Chris Brown’s “No Guidance,” Lil Nas X’s “Panini,” Travis Scott’s “Highest In The Room,” Lil Tecca’s “Ransom,” Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” and Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber’s “10,000 Hours.”
The Billboard 200 albums chart is fairly stagnant this week. With no major album debuts to challenge for the throne, Post Malone’s Hollywood’s Bleeding is back up to #1 for a fourth nonconsecutive week on the strength of 93,000 equivalent album units. After that come YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Summer Walker, DaBaby, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Young Thug, and Lil Tjay. Gucci Mane’s Woptober II is the week’s top debut at #9 with 31,000 units and only 2,000 in sales, becoming his second top 10 album of the year and seventh overall. Chris Brown rounds out the top 10.
Lizzo & Ariana Grande – “Good As Hell”
After taking a two-year-old song to #1 for seven weeks, Lizzo is now climbing the chart with a three-year-old song. And as she did with “Truth Hurts,” she’s adding fuel to “Good As Hell” in the form of a superstar guest remix. In this case it’s rocket fuel; guest stars don’t get much bigger than Ariana Grande. The brassy, sassy “Good As Hell” proves to be a winning environment for Grande’s melismatic acrobatics, even if the whole thing reeks more of strategy than inspiration.
Galantis & Dolly Parton – “Faith” (Feat. Mr. Probz)
What a time to be alive.
Y2K, bbno$, Enrique Iglesias, & Carly Rae Jepsen – “LaLaLa (Remix)”
Carly Rae Jepsen and Enrique Iglesias, together at last.
Noah Cyrus – “fuckyounoah” (Feat. London On Da Track)
Is London On Da Track gonna be for Noah what Mike Will Made-It was for Miley? Not without some manufactured controversy about drugs and sex! Despite its profane title and impeccable production from Young Thug and Summer Walker’s favorite collaborator, this gloomy trap-pop confection is probably not going to be the song that elevates Noah Cyrus to superstardom. Some kind of spark is missing.
Luke Bryan – “What She Wants Tonight”
Prediction: this song about about a man thinking he knows what a woman wants will get 90% more adds than songs from women about what they actually want https://t.co/jqGzF93ao1
— Marissa R. Moss (@MarissaRMoss) October 24, 2019
NEWS IN BRIEF
- Max Martin gave a rare interview to The Guardian. [The Guardian]
- Taylor Swift will receive the Artist Of The Decade Award at the AMAs. [E!]
- Swift revealed she auditioned for the 2012 film Les Misérables. [Rolling Stone]
- Swift will play Alibaba Group’s annual Singles’ Day shopping event in China next month. Wonder what she thinks about Hong Kong! [Bloomberg]
- And now for some Taylor Swift news: Her stalker faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty. [WSMV]
- Halsey did “Graveyard” on Ellen. [Ellen]
- Niall Horan announced a North American tour with support from Lewis Capaldi. [MTV]
- King Princess covered Lady Gaga’s “Speechless” for Radio 1 Piano Sessions. [YouTube]