A review of the best of the season’s new holiday albums. And this year, Darren Criss, Kelly Clarkston, and Norah Jones lead the pack.
I saw it coming, way back in the day — the takeover of soulful Christmas music by white singers.
It all started with Hall & Oates’ soul-tinged version of “Jingle Bell Rock.” Then came George Michael & Wham’s “Last Christmas.”
But it was the ethnically-ambiguous Mariah Carey, long before her ascension to the Queen Of Christmas throne, that really kicked things into high gear with her gospel and Motown-infused first holiday CD, Merry Christmas and that now-ubiquitous single, “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” which was released in 1994 along with Kenny G’s masterpiece Miracles: The Holiday Album.
The melanin-challenged among us never looked back.
And over a quarter of a century later, I’ve a declaration I never thought I’d make: the best of this season’s Christmas music are from white people. The world may have finally realized that Jesus was black, but the best of The Birthday Boy’s musica es blanca.
Now don’t get me wrong: I love white folks, especially during the holidays. They make some mean sugar cookies. And if you’re brave enough to take a deeper dive, you can forego the sweet potato pie and get one of ‘em to whip up a wicked batch of figgy pudding that’ll leave you calling out to the aforementioned Jesus between mouthfuls.
But I grew up on a killer Motown Christmas compilation that featured Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Temptations, The Jackson Five, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, and Stevie Wonder on some of the greatest arrangements of Christmas classics known to man.
Again, don’t take all of this the wrong way: there’s nothing like Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton’s Once Upon A Christmas album from the 80s, but to really get me in the Yuletide mood, it takes something like Johnny Mathis’ “We Need A Little Christmas,” Nat “King” Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” or Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” or, more recently, BeBe & CeCe Winans’ First Christmas album to do it. To put it delicately, I like a cocoa Christmas.
Until this year.
Read freelance writer MPC’s full feature, and hear about new Christmas albums by Norah Jones, Kelly Clarkston, and Darren Criss.