Perhaps that’s because musical artists have been forced off the touring circuit, leaving unscheduled time to work on albums or other projects, but 2020 has been a bountiful year for holiday music. We hope these holiday albums help you end this strange and difficult year on a high note.
“My Gift” (Capitol Nashville)
The current queen of country music takes her first holiday album in a decidedly spiritual / cult direction, approaching the material with a fitting reverence. Familiar hymns make up a big part of the album, but the biggest highlights come with the original songs – nothing more than “Hallelujah,” a song co-written by John Legend. He joins Underwood on this unusual ballad in which their impressive voice sends the song soaring to the heavens. This season’s most likely hit holiday release, ‘My Gift’ is a beautifully executed album that pays homage to the real reason for Christmas.
“LISTEN NOW: Carrie Underwood, “My Gift” playlist on YouTube
‘A Very Trainor Christmas’ (Epic Records Group)
Trainor brings its crazy charm to this 16-track album, especially marking the season with half a dozen original songs. A major highlight is his collaboration with Earth, Wind & Fire on the song “Holidays”, which literally illustrates the common threads between 70s R & B / pop and current pop. Trainor also adds some quirky touches to some of the album’s holiday standards, but the frothy instrumentation of these songs is pretty standard for today’s version of pop music. Still, ‘A Very Trainor Christmas’ is fun and more original than many holiday albums.
“LISTEN NOW: Meghan Trainor, ‘A Very Trainor Christmas’ playlist on YouTube
‘A Holly Dolly Christmas’ (Butterfly Records / 12Tone Music)
Parton makes ‘A Holly Dolly Christmas’ a bit of an event. For one thing, Parton wrote five of the songs and co-wrote a sixth for this 12 song album. While all of the original tunes are good, “Circle Of Love,” a particularly pretty and witty-themed ballad, is a highlight. Several famous guests – including Michael Bublé and Willie Nelson – also help “A Holly Dolly Christmas” sound like something more important than just a holiday album.
“LISTEN NOW: Dolly Parton, ‘A Holly Dolly Christmas’ playlist on YouTube
Leslie Odom Jr.
“The Christmas Album” (S-Curve Records)
The ‘Hamilton’ star is stepping out of the usual box of Christmas albums on her second holiday album. On ‘It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas’, he slows things down and gives the song a little jazzy treatment. “Little Drummer Boy”, with additional vocals from the Mzansi Youth Choir, puts a South African accent on this classic. Like Bing Crosby, Odom’s supple and mellow voice has a heartwarming quality, and it wouldn’t be surprising if “The Christmas Album” (as well as his holiday debut album, “Simply Christmas”) become eternal favorites that are played. in households every Christmas for many years to come.
“LISTEN NOW: Leslie Odom Jr., ‘The Christmas Album’ playlist on YouTube
Goo Goo Dolls
“It’s Christmas Everywhere” (Warner Bros.)
The veteran pop group’s first Christmas album is a satisfying effort that often strays from its signature pop guitar. A cover of Tom Petty’s catchy ‘Christmas All Over Again’ gives it a little Motown air. One of the best non-character songs is “You Ain’t Gettin ‘Nothin”, a humorous original that sounds like a mix of the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and the retro swing of Big Bad Voodoo. Daddy, while the jazzy medley ‘The Christmas Party’ is another festive surprise.
“LISTEN NOW: Goo Goo Dolls, “It’s Christmas Everywhere” playlist on YouTube
‘A Christmas Tori Kelly’ (Capitol)
For her first holiday album, the country / Christian music star teamed up with executive producer and R&B icon Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds, who brings an appropriate amount of groove to this album. “Silent Night” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel / O Come All Ye Faithful” have a relaxed influence that works well, while “Joy To The World / Joy Joy” gets a lively swing. Kelly, who can raise her voice to heights that many singers can only dream of, sings too much on occasion. Fortunately, quite often Kelly resists the temptation to overload her vocals, showing that she doesn’t have to go beyond the “American Idol” style to give a song wings.
“LISTEN NOW: Tori Kelly, ‘A Tori Kelly Christmas’ playlist on YouTube
For the king and the country
‘A Christmas Drummer Boy’ (Word Entertainment)
The sibling duo of Joel and Luke Smallbone bring a lot of weight to standards such as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, “Silent Night” and “The Little Drummer Boy”. In addition, they also markedly reshape the arrangements of many familiar hymns, adding creative instrumental segments and inventive vocal parts. This makes ‘A Drummer Boy Christmas’ the most refreshing, yet respectful, Christmas album of this season.
“LISTEN NOW: For King & Country, “A Drummer Boy Christmas” playlist on YouTube
“We need a little Christmas” (RCA Records)
This sixth vacation outing from this popular a cappella group suffers from sparkling vocal arrangements that sound like they were created in the 1950s and approved by television network censors. More than a few voices also sound overproduced and layered – “My Favorite Things”, “12 Days Of Christmas” and the title song are examples of this. Part of a cappella’s appeal is hearing the vocals sound like they do naturally and how they can be imaginatively woven together, but her album doesn’t sound organic. And whose idea was to superimpose the voice of Pentatonix on Bing Crosby and the London Symphony Orchestra on “White Christmas”. We might need a little Christmas, but we don’t need this imperfect album.
“LISTEN NOW: Pentatonix, ‘We Need A Little Christmas’ playlist on YouTube
“Give Thanks” (Di-Versatile Music Group LLC)
This duo brings their unique blend of classic and hip-hop to this 11 track album. Most of the songs are reimagined versions of holiday classics that contain hip-hop grooves and an elaboration of their familiar melodies with the violins of Kevin Marcus and Wil Baptiste. But a few originals – ‘Celebra’, featuring De La Ghetto and the humorous story of ‘Toy Soldier’ - uplift the ante on this enjoyable release.
“LISTEN NOW: Black Violin, “Give Thanks” playlist on YouTube
“Goodbye December” (Acrobat Records)
Nathanson deserves credit for picking covers such as “Father Christmas” by the Kinks, “I Believe In Father Christmas” by Greg Lake and “Snow” by Harry Nilsson. Sadly, Nathanson isn’t very imaginative with his releases, making it a well-meaning holiday album, but no exceptions.
“LISTEN NOW: Matt Nathanson, ‘Goodbye December’ playlist on YouTube
‘Bleak Midwinter’ (Blurple Music)
The Kansas City duo offer a collection of ballad-laden vacation dishes that has its share of sadness to go with hues of hope. Between the touching ballads’ If We Listen ‘,’ My First Christmas Eve ‘and’ Star Crossed Christmas’, the stoic versions of ‘Mary Did You Know’ and ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ and the jazzy acoustic tones of ‘Christmastime (Again ), ‘this makes an excellent, unique and beautiful Christmas album.
“LISTEN NOW: Barnaby Bright, “Bleak Midwinter” playlist on YouTube
‘The Birth of a King’ (Capitol Christian Music Group)
The producer / musician decided to make a Christmas album that sounded like an epic movie soundtrack. If you enjoy grand music and production in the vein of “Lord of the Rings”, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra or “Game Of Thrones”, Proffitt’s approach to “The Birth of a King” should be right for you. .
“LISTEN NOW: Tommee Proffitt, “Birth of a King” playlist on YouTube
Want more Christmas music this year?
I can recommend:
• the groovy and soulful tunes on JoJo’s ‘December Baby’
• “This Christmas” by Christian artist Francesca Battistelli
• Straight No Chaser’s “Social Christmas” with its creative interpretations of holiday music
• “This Christmas” by the country a cappella group Home Free
• smooth jazz with a touch of world music from “Christmas With My Friends VII” by Nils Landgren
• “It’s Christmas … Bravo!” by Terri Clark. and its traditional country style
• the energetic pop-rock soundtrack to ‘Happiest Season’, which features contributions from a cast of all-LGBTQ + artists, including Sia, Tegan & Sara, Anne-Marie and more
• the jazzy and often airy vocals of Simone Kopmajer on her album ‘Christmas’
• and the rather cheerful set of holiday originals that range from jazz to pop to Latin on “New Holiday Classics” by Adrian Cunningham and La Lucha.
Collage created with submitted images. (The Gazette)
Carrie Underwood, “My Gift” (Capitol Nashville)
Meghan Trainor, ‘A Very Trainor Christmas’ (Epic Records Group)
Dolly Parton, ‘A Holly Dolly Christmas’ (Butterfly Records / 12Tone Music)
Leslie Odom Jr., “The Christmas Album” (S-Curve Records)
Goo Goo Dolls, “It’s Christmas Everywhere” (Warner Bros.)
Tori Kelly, ‘A Tori Kelly Christmas’ (Capitol)
For King & Country, ‘A Drummer Boy Christmas’ (Word Entertainment)
Pentatonix, “We Need A Little Christmas” (RCA Records)
Black Violin, ‘Give Thanks’ (Di-Versatile Music Group LLC)
Matt Nathanson, “Farewell December” (Acrobat Records)
Barnaby Bright, ‘Bleak Midwinter’ (Blurple Music)
Tommee Proffitt, ‘The Birth of a King’ (Capitol Christian Music Group)