This Halloween, New Christmas Albums Are Sneaking Up On You Like “BOO!”
Nothing says Halloween like Christmas music. Every year, before October is even over, dozens of new Christmas songs and albums are announced. And for the past five years, I have been running them down on or before All Hallow’s Eve, mainly to spook those of you who can’t stand this stuff.
Without further ado, let’s get into this year’s crop of yuletide fare.
Smokiest: Norah Jones’ I Dream Of Christmas
Jones has spent much of her career in the jazz-pop milieu that yielded so many Christmas classics, and she sounds completely natural over the loose, vibrant arrangements on I Dream Of Christmas. It’s music I can actually imagine putting on at a Christmas party. (Out now on Blue Note/Capitol.)
Most Uncomfortable: Eagles Of Death Metal Presents A Boots Electric Christmas
Eagles Of Death Metal’s Jesse Hughes has an alter ego called Boots Electric, under which he has now recorded a six-song Christmas EP. Hughes spent the years after the terrorist massacre at the Bataclan burning through any and all goodwill with atrocious comments that make the idea of him ironically singing Christmas songs deeply unappealing. (Out 11/19 on UMe.)
Most Mysterious: Elton John & Ed Sheeran’s Christmas Duet
As of last week, Sir Elton was excoriating “big mouth fucking Sheeran” for revealing their secret holiday duet to an interviewer. Supposedly the duo is aiming to challenge for the UK’s vaunted Christmas #1. We don’t know when the song is going to drop, and John says it’s not even finished yet, but presumably it will be out by Thanksgiving — assuming Sheeran’s positive COVID test doesn’t complicate matters too much.
Most Likely To Make This Christmas A Hot One: Rob Thomas’ Something About Christmas Time
The Matchbox Twenty singer’s debut Christmas album includes a mix of covers and originals, with guest appearances from Ingrid Michaelson, BeBe Winans, Brad Paisley, and Abby Anderson — but not Carlos Santana, sadly. (Out now on Atlantic.)
Most Likely To Yield Actual Hits: Kelly Clarkson’s When Christmas Comes Around…
Clarkson’s 2013 Christmas album Wrapped In Red spun off one of the most successful holiday originals in recent memory, “Underneath The Tree,” and she has continued honing in on that market in the years since. Her new one seems primed to pop off, between the guest stars (Ariana Grande, Chris Stapleton), clever song concepts like “Christmas Isn’t Cancelled (Just You),” and lush, loud production that sounds ideal for TV ads. Plus now she has a daytime talk show to promote her music. I will not be surprised at all if one of these tracks climbs the charts. (Out now on Atlantic.)
Most Likely To Appeal To Indie Fans: Hiss Golden Messenger’s O Come All Ye Faithful
M.C. Taylor’s long-running folk-rock project has delivered “a seasonal record with vibe.” The vibe is good! (Out now on Merge.)
Most Unexpectedly Percussive: Pistol Annies’ Hell Of A Holiday
A surprising number of these Christmas songs by country supergroup Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley — mostly originals, with covers of “Auld Lang Syne,” “Sleigh Ride,” and Merle Haggard’s “If We Make it Through December” mixed in — are dominated by drums. It makes for an unusual but satisfying sound. (Out now on RCA Nashville.)
Most Theatrical: Kristin Chenoweth’s Happiness Is…Christmas!
Chenoweth brings all the Broadway showmanship you’d expect to a collection dominated by covers, with lots of piano balladry and a Keb’ Mo’ duet on “Merry Christmas Baby.” (Out now on Concord.)
Hardest-Edged: Amanda Shires’ For Christmas
Shires is known as a member of pop-country supergroup the Highwomen and the violinist for her husband Jason Isbell, but her own music errs on the romping, stomping side of the Nashville scene. Lead single “Gone For Christmas” rocks pretty hard where Christmas songs are concerned. (Out 11/12 on Silver Knife/Thirty Tigers.)
Most Likely To Make You Feel Wistful: Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album
Bennett’s classic Christmas album is out on vinyl for the first time since its original release in 1968. It arrives just as Bennett is retiring from performance due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Grab a box of tissues and have a listen. (Out now on Columbia Legacy.)
Most Likely To Feature Songs That Aren’t Actually Christmas Songs: Pentatonix’s Evergreen
A cappella superstars Pentatonix have a long history of putting non-Christmas songs on their Christmas albums, which sometimes works out OK (Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal”) and sometimes is egregious (Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which is not and never will be a Christmas song). Evergreen, the latest in their long line of holiday releases, pulls this trick with Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called To Say I Love You,” which at least mentions Christmas and New Years, I guess. (Out 10/29 on RCA.)
Most Likely To Ride Pentatonix’s Coattails: Voctave’s The Spirit of the Season: Deluxe Edition
Meet the GoBots to Pentatonix’s Transformers! Really, though, Voctave practice a slightly more traditional-sounding form of a cappella, an especially chipper traditionalist aesthetic that somehow makes Pentatonix seem less cheesy by comparison. (Out now via Club 44.)
Most Likely To Make Christmas Feel Haunted: A Sentimental Christmas With Nat “King” Cole And Friends: Cole Classics Reimagined
In the spirit of Cole’s posthumous “Unforgettable” duet with daughter Natalie, this collection situates his voice within new arrangements alongisde artists like Kristin Chenoweth, Gloria Estefan, and John Legend, who teams with Cole’s original vocals from 1946 on “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire).” It’s hard to imagine who would ever prefer this over the original. (Out 10/29 on Capitol.)
Most Likely To Feel Like A Blast From The Past: Blondie’s Yuletide Throwdown EP
“Yuletide Throwdown,” a rare Blondie Christmas tune from 1981 featuring Fab Five Freddy, has been released 40 years later as an EP also featuring a new Cut Chemist remix of the track. It’s as quirky and cool as you’d hope. (Out now via Capitol.)
Most Allegedly Memorable: Ryland James’ “A Christmas To Remember” (Feat. Ralph) & Steve Holy’s A Christmas To Remember
Ryland James has teamed up with Ralph on a cover of Dolly Parton’s “A Christmas To Remember.” Steve Holy just released his first new album in almost a decade, A Christmas To Remember. Which one is more memorable? Only you can decide. (“A Christmas To Remember” out now via 21; A Christmas To Remember out now via Thrill Hill.)
Most Swingin’: Kat Edmonson’s Holiday Swingin’! A Kat Edmonson Christmas Vol. 1
Vintage pop and jazz singer Kat Edmonson has covered a bunch of Christmas favorites like “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Let It Snow,” and “O Christmas Tree” for her first holiday album. She hasn’t actually released any of the music yet, so we will have to trust her that it swings as hard as promised. (Out 11/19 via Spinnerette.)
Most Darren Criss: A Very Darren Crissmas
This offering from American Crime Story actor Darren Criss stands apart for daring to include “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” among its mix of originals and classics. (Out now via Decca.)
Most Likely To Keep You Believin’: Steve Perry’s The Season
The former Journey singer has delivered a set of Christmas classics, including a Motown-inspired cover of “Winter Wonderland.” It doesn’t exactly get the most of Perry’s voice! (Out 11/5 on Fantasy.)
Most Likely To Leave You Longing For A Very Special Christmas: Wrabel’s merry christmas, merry christmas to you EP
This EP has a song called “This Christmas,” but it’s not the “This Christmas” you’re thinking of. It’s a new “This Christmas” that sounds like the Fray. Not very special if you ask me!
Tours, Tours, Tours
In this post-vaccine world, Christmas tours are back up and running. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra, whose live show is not nearly as rockin’ as that “Carol Of The Bells” would suggest, are back at it. So is violinist Lindsey Stirling, who is bringing her Christmas Program to cities across North America. And the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour will assemble assorted lineups of this moment’s real-deal pop stars including Dua Lipa, Jonas Brothers, Doja Cat, Lil Nas X, and Megan Thee Stallion — supposedly Ed Sheeran too, but again, he has COVID now, so.
Deluxe, Deluxe, Deluxe
For artists already deep in the Xmas game, one simple way to feed the fan base with fresh yuletide content is releasing a deluxe edition of a pre-existing Christmas release. Acts going that route this year include Michael Bublé (a super deluxe 10th anniversary limited edition box set of Christmas), She & Him (a 10th anniversary deluxe reissue of A Very She & Him Christmas), Ingrid Michaelson (a deluxe Songs For The Season), Billy Idol (a re-release of Happy Holidays with one new song) and Shaggy (a deluxe Christmas In The Islands featuring Shaggy’s new best friend Sting on “Silent Night”).
Last week Adele’s “Easy On Me” debuted at #68 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 after being released just five hours before the end of the tracking period. Now, in its first full week on the charts, the song easily soars to #1. It’s Adele’s fifth American chart-topper and seventh top-10 hit overall, and according to Billboard it makes the eighth-largest leap from elsewhere on the chart to #1. It also debuts at #4 on Billboard‘s Radio Songs chart, the highest-ever debut ranking since the chart’s inception as a measurement of all radio formats in 1998.
The Kid Laroi and Justin Biber’s “Stay” is at #2, followed by last week’s chart-topper “Industry Baby” by Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow at #3. That gives Columbia Records a monopoly on the chart’s top three spots with three separate acts, the first time one label has achieved such a feat since Def Jam Music Group did it with Kanye West and Jamie Foxx’s “Gold Digger,” Nickelback’s “Photograph,” and Mariah Carey’s “Shake It Off.” (Today I learned that Nickelback were part of Def Jam Music Group.) The rest of the top 10: Walker Hayes’ “Fancy Like” at #4, Ed Sheeran’s “Bad Habits” at #5, the Drake/Future/Young Thug hit “Way 2 Sexy” at #6, Olivia Rodrigo’s “good 4 u” at #7, Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” at #8, Sheeran’s “Shivers” at #9, and Doja Cat and SZA’s “Kiss Me More” at #10.
Over on the Billboard 200, Young Thug scores his third #1 album with Punk. According to Billboard, the project notched 90,000 equivalent album units and 12,000 in sales, good enough to bump Drake’s Certified Lover Boy back down to #2. The late Mac Miller’s 2014 mixtape Faces, which just became commercially available for the first time, debuts at #3 with 67,000 units and 34,000 in sales, including 32,000 on vinyl. It’s the seventh top-10 album for Miller.
Coldplay’s Music Of The Spheres debuts at #4 with 57,000 units and 37,000 in sales, becoming the band’s eighth top-10 effort. Thanks to a new deluxe special edition, the Beatles’ chart-topping 1970 swan song Let It Be climbs back to #5 with 55,000 units and 48,000 in sales, making it the bestselling album of the week. The rest of the top 10 comprises YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Doja Cat, Morgan Wallen, Olivia Rodrigo, and Lil Nas X.
Swedish House Mafia & The Weeknd – “Moth To A Flame”
I am enjoying these clubby Weeknd songs. “Moth To A Flame” is a little cold and distant compared to “Take My Breath,” but it portends well for this dance album he’s been teasing.
Majid Jordan – “Stars Align” (Feat. Drake)
Team “Hold On, We’re Going Home” has still got it!
Sean Paul – “Dynamite” (Feat. Sia)
Team “Cheap Thrills” has still got it too, though in this case I am less interested in the “it” they’ve still got.
DJ Snake, Ozuna, Megan Thee Stallion & LISA – “SG”
Not a bad entry in the overblown posse cut genre. Megan elevates it to a higher level.
Khalid – “Present”
This knocks a bit harder and is a bit more colorful than your average Khalid song.
NEWS IN BRIEF
- Ed Sheeran announced he tested positive for COVID, and SNL producers are reportedly scrambling to replace him for the 11/6 episode. [Page Six]
- J Balvin apologized for and took down his “Perra” music video, which featured Black women on leashes. [Billboard]
- The Weeknd is pushing his tour to 2022 “to do something bigger and special for you which requires stadiums.” [Twitter]
- Last Wednesday was officially Lil Nas X Day in Atlanta. [TMZ]
- Adele answered 73 questions for Vogue and showed off a framed piece of Celine Dion’s chewed gum that James Corden gave her. [YouTube]
- Justin Bieber leads the 2021 MTV EMA nominations with eight. [MTV]
- Drake unfollowed Kanye West on Instagram. [Twitter]
- Yeonjun and Taehyun of Tomorrow x Together covered Justin Bieber & Kid Laroi’s “Stay.” [YouTube]
- Billie Eilish announced her debut fragrance, Eilish. [Instagram]
- Olivia Rodrigo released a video for “traitor.” [YouTube]
- Kacey Musgraves released a video for “camera roll.” [YouTube]
- WILLOW and Avril Lavigne released a video for “G R O W.” [YouTube]
- Jack Harlow announced five hometown shows at different venues in Louisville. [No Place Like Home]
- Lil Nas X made a surprise appearance during Diplo’s set at Electric Daisy Carnival. [Instagram]
- Kenan Thompson, Pete Davidson, and others will roast the Jonas Brothers in a Netflix special next month. [YouTube]