For the Holidays: Mariah Carey, Indigo Girls, and Glee
Mariah Carey, Merry Christmas II You
Sequels usually suck, but Mariah Carey’s not going down with that sleigh on her cleverly titled offshoot to her Merry Christmas behemoth. That 16-year-old album spawned “All I Want for Christmas is You,” a modern-day classic whose new “Extra Festive” version is, well, extra-noisy or something. More obviously, the diva’s “Auld Lang Syne” sounds ready to ring in the New Year on a gay disco ball, as its slow preface surges into an arms-up thumper. Beats percolate on first single “Oh Santa!” too, with its old-school bounce and school-yard chant, but this wouldn’t be a Mariah album without big, goopy ballads —and Merry Christmas II You is padded with them: “One Child,” one of two new tracks produced by Hairspray composer Marc Shaiman, builds to a belting climax; there’s also opera-singer mom, Patricia Carey, on “O Come All Ye Faithful” and a live, chill-propelling “O Holy Night.” But part two’s no classic, especially with the awkward Michael Jackson-borrowed “Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane).” The spirit’s there, though—and that goes a long way.
Indigo Girls, Holly Happy Days
That the Indigo Girls recorded their first holiday album in Nashville is only appropriate—they’ve never sounded this downright country. “I Feel the Christmas Spirit,” a bluegrass sing-along, is a toe-tappin’ good time. What follows is similar in style but stripped to their much-adored acoustic sound: “It Really Is (A Wonderful Life),” written by Chely Wright, adds a jazz twist, while “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is simple and understated, intertwining Emily Saliers and Amy Ray’s voices like holiday magic (Janis Ian, Brandi Carlile and Mary Gauthier add harmonies to the album, too). But what’s really special about the refreshing Holly Happy Days (besides the cool packaging with lyrics of the three new tunes written on ornament cut-outs) has more to do with the duo’s rarely recorded song selection. One of those, Beth Nielsen Chapman’s “There’s Still My Joy,” is stunningly bittersweet—just how we like our Girls.
Glee: The Music—The Christmas Album
Before Glee conquers the world (because it will), it’s conquering Christmas—the gay way, with a dude duo doing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” together (aw, cute!). On the holiday-themed release from the cast of TV’s biggest, queerest drug, Kurt (Chris Colfer) and possible-new-loverboy Blaine (Darren Criss) charm in a refreshingly gay take on the classic. Otherwise, Glee plugs carols into the show’s formula for frothy bouncers and over-the-top ballads: a jazzy, dance-made “Jingle Bells”; pop fave “Last Christmas” and a soaring “O Holy Night,” sung by pipe queen Lea Michele (duh). Even the show’s knack for mash-ups gets play on this disc with “Deck the Rooftop,” a groovy romp. “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is an odd fit, especially since Glee is known for, you know, singing, but it’s the only real coal in this collection—one sure to make the yuletide gayer.
The Superions, Destination... Christmas!
Something weird’s to be expected from B-52s’ Fred Schneider, whose side project with two other musicians— known collectively as the Superions—is one strange, creepy, horny, electro-fused spin. The perverted “Santa Je T’aime” answers the question, “Why did Ol’ Saint Nick favor Rudolph?” And other novelty songs are just as whacky. If Christmas got punk’d, this would be it.
Katharine McPhee, Christmas Is the Time… (To Say I Love You)
Back to basics, and out from the trendy trench, is where the American Idol loser lands on her simple 10-tracker. The songs on her third album, mostly made of classic carols, are structured to conjure pre-fad-following McPhee, who sings her little heart out and, with sole original “It’s Not Christmas Without You,” pulls at ours.
Reach Chris Azzopardi at firstname.lastname@example.org.