By Natalie Eaton
It is that time of the season once again! The radios, shopping centers, and local areas blast the old-timey songs and carols everyone knows and loves.
As a fellow Christmas enthusiast, I am obsessed with any type of holiday music. Traditional, slow and peppy, trap music, or acapella, are all included on my personal Christmas playlist. I also strongly believe that holiday music can be played annually. Yes, I listen to Christmas music all year round, and for good reason. Every year, artists release fresh new holiday music to be listened to. There is always something to look forward to!
With so many different variations of Christmas music each year, I decided to listen to four new albums of 2019 by artists David Gokey, Pentatonix, Lea Michele, and Idina Menzel, to see what makes them so special.
While listening, I kept in mind of originality, best covers, and the amount of holiday spirit! Likes, dislikes, and an overall review of the album will be included.
Rankings are based on a 1 to 4 scale of my favorite Christmas albums.
- Pentatonix: The Best of Pentatonix Christmas
The acapella group, Pentatonix, overall has made four-holiday albums. This year, their new album includes all of their biggest hit songs. In the album, there are 19 songs, with a range of peppy and slow songs. This album personally was my favorite because it is so interesting to hear the different voice types in the songs ranging from deep to high. The run times are not long, ranging from 2 to 3 minutes.
It is no wonder that Pentatonix had to make an album just for their hit songs because all of the covers are unique. Since the group of singers are so diverse with their voices, the songs manage to sound completely different from the originals. A few songs like Winter White Hymnal and Coldest Winter (Bobby Alt Drum Mix) are some uncommon names included.
- Mary Did You Know is a beautiful rendition of the original. What I loved the most about this cover was that each singer in the group had a solo moment. One singer in particular, Mitch Grassi, belts out his solo while the rest of the group continues to sing. Many people will enjoy how powerful this song is.
- Carol of The Bells immediately hooks you as it starts to play. Since the group is acapella, the music is their voices. Carol of The Bells has no words, so the group almost hums it. This cover is very impressive and is also a great song to get you pumped up for anything.
- Winter White Hymnal is a cover of the original by Simon and Garfunkel. I found this song to sound less haunting than the original, probably because it is in a holiday album. The handclapping and soothing melody in the background made me fall in love with this song.
I have never been more hyped for Christmas than ever after listening to this album. Pentatonix has a great variety of slow and fast-paced songs that are great to listen to whenever you want. The Best of Pentatonix Christmas is worthy to be played annually every Christmas, and maybe even all year round!
- Danny Gokey: The Greatest Gift
Gokey’s The Greatest Gift is filled with classic renditions of the many classic Christmas songs we know and love. The Christian singer who started on American Idol has ten songs in his album, featuring three guest singers. The album is in the Christian and Gospel category, so you can expect many classic songs. Most of the songs are normal holiday pieces, but there are uncommon songs well executed in the album. Noche de Paz is sung in Spanish by Gokey, and Until You is an original song also made by Gokey.
Gokey incorporates an original song and includes a Spanish spoken song. There are also some unfamiliar names, such as The Holidays are Here and Christmas Night. It was nice to see added lyrics to some of the songs, so it did not feel like you were fully listening to an original.
- Silent Night, which was performed in a slower lullaby-like approach. At some points, the song almost sounds acapella, and the voices stand out beautifully. A nice little touch was added at the end, with a young child finishing the song with a verse from Away in a Manger. I think this would be a great song for sleeping, or relaxing near the Christmas tree.
- I must also add Joy to The World, which has a very uplifting tone to it than any cover I usually hear of this song. At first, it may sound like a normal rendition. But as it progresses, the song gets a little faster. It really hyped me up for the holiday season!
The Greatest Gift is perfect for relaxing, drinking some hot chocolate by the fire, or sleeping. If it came down to parties and dancing, this would not be my first choice mainly because of its more slower songs. But the album really does capture the spirit of Christmas!
- Idina Menzel: Christmas, A Season of Love
Christmas: A Season of Love is the second-holiday album that Menzel has produced. The actress and singer has a total of 18 songs in her album ranging from 1 to 5 minutes. While I think a 5 minute song would be too long, I did not mind it one bit! I loved this album mainly because of Menzel’s approach to all of the songs. Her voice is very calming and has a big stage presence within it. The short under one-minute songs may be annoying to some, but I find it genius. It is a great sneak peek into how talented Menzel is as a singer. Christmas: A Season of Love has the perfect title because it truly represents the love for the holidays.
If you’re looking for a variety of holiday music, this album is perfect for you. A few songs like At This Table and Auld Lang Syne are some uncommon names listed. When listening on random, I was surprised to hear a fast-paced Spanish spoken song, Ocho Kandelikas, included. Although I could not understand a word, I really enjoyed it!
- As far as covers go, Menzel uses her stage charm to bring a nice peppy twist to the classics. Seasons of Love from the Broadway musical Rent is a great addition to the album, considering it is not originally a Christmas song.
- If you need some pep in your step, We Need a Little Christmas will accomplish that! This cover is comedic in a way, as Menzel slows down abruptly and then starts singing fast again.
With this album playing, I can imagine someone strolling around town looking at all of the Christmas lights. Menzel’s voice is just so peppy, bright, and fun that it is hard not to just dance along to it. I would definitely recommend this for the holiday season, and for Christmas parties!
- Lea Michele: Christmas in the City
Lea Michele is an American actress and Broadway performer. Christmas in The City is the first album she has released. Her album includes eleven songs that cover most classic Christmas songs. While listening, I could definitely tell she was a Broadway singer. Something about her voice reminded me of someone on stage. I personally feel that this album was overall underwhelming, and did not have anything special or significant about the songs. Michele has a solid, beautiful voice. But, her album falls short among others due to lack of originality and spark.
What lacks in Christmas in The City is the originality. If I had the album on a random Christmas playlist, my attention would not immediately set on the songs. Christmas in New York has only one uncommon song name found in the album. The other classic covers have no originality. I can say that O Holy Night, had a beautiful choir join in at the end of the song.
- I’ll Be Home for Christmas is a more upbeat version of the original. Featuring Jonathan Groff, the two almost sound like they’re teasing each other during the song. When there was no singing at all, the music sounded more country.
Although it was underwhelming, Lea Michele has a beautiful voice. This album would be more suiting to hear in a coffee shop, or while working. But, I would find it difficult to get hyped for Christmas with this album playing.