What is the holiday season without a little seasonal cheer? And by cheer, I mean new holiday music.
It’s as much a tradition as drinking eggnog, untangling Christmas light stands and finding gifts you hid last year and forgot.
Each year, it seems, there’s a new selection of Christmas albums. Are they ever worth it? To answer that question, you must love music as much as you love the hustle and bustle of the season.
This year, one word summarizes the new releases: Nostalgia. What’s old is new again. And, if it’s a new, original track, it still sounds old. I love it.
Ingrid Michaelson’s “Songs For The Season” is one of the best new Christmas albums to be released this year. I hope it isn’t her last. This one is stunning.
Michaelson’s approach embraces a big-band sound. The nostalgia trip takes listeners back to another time, most likely the 1940s and early ’50s.
This album features classics like “Looks Like A Cold, Cold Winter,” “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and stellar collaborations like “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” (Will Chase), “White Christmas” (Christina Perri), “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” (Grace VanderWall) and “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (Leslie Odom Jr.)
It also boasts an original song “Happy, Happy Christmas,” which Michaelson wrote for those grappling with loss during the holiday. The song is especially important to me this year.
R&B crooner John Legend released his first Christmas album, appropriately titled “A Legendary Christmas.” Legend also channels a little yesteryear in a Bing Crosby sort of way. He has taken it upon himself to reinvent standards like “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire),” “Silver Bells” and “Merry Christmas Baby/Give Love On Christmas Day.”
Of the album’s 14 tracks, Legend contributed six originals. “Bring Me Love,” “Wrap Me Up In Your Love,” “Purple Snowflakes,” “By Christmas Eve,” “No Place Like Home” and “Merry Merry Christmas.” Legend is joined by Stevie Wonder on the classic “What Christmas Means To Me” and the jazzy Esperanza Spalding for “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”
Eric Clapton also released a first-time collection of Christmas tunes. “Happy Xmas” is an album of classic rock and blues-infused yuletide favorites.
Clapton excels with “Merry Christmas Baby,” “Home For The Holidays,” “Lonesome Christmas” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” but it’s his original “For Love On Christmas Day” that sells this album.
British pop sensation Jessie J brings her A-game to the holidays with a sultry vibe to all-time greats like “Man With The Bag,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” and “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer/Jingle Bells.”
She’s joined by Boyz II Men on “Winter Wonderland” and Babyface for “The Christmas Song.“
Other new albums include “Winter In The Air” (David Archuleta), “Christmas Is Here!” (Pentatonix), “It’s The Holiday Season” (Martina McBride), “Warmest Christmas Wishes” (Englebert Humperdinck), “Shatner Claus” (William Shatner) and “Christmas Party” (The Monkees).
David T. Farr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.