Tired of the same old holiday songs this year? Check out these great Christmas albums from your favorite pop artists.
Sia – “Everyday is Christmas”
The gold standard for Pop-Christmas crossover albums, Everyday is Christmas is one of the few (perhaps the only) holiday albums that isn’t dependent on its festive season to be enjoyed. With ten original songs written with producer Greg Krustin, Sia decided to forgo the well-trodden collection of seasonal standards and instead went for her own completely unique selection of earworms. When you are one of the best pop songwriters in the world, and you’re employing one of the greatest pop producers in the world, it doesn’t really make sense to give a middling performance of “The Little Drummer Boy” and call it a day, does it? Instead, songs like “Snowman”, “Puppies Are Forever” and “Sunshine” achieve the rarest of listening experiences: a Christmas album, filled with holiday references, that feels like it can be listened to at any time of the year.
Kacey Musgraves – “The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show”
The soundtrack to her Amazon Prime Christmas special (which also gets a lively appearance from her adorable grandmother), The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show is the platonic ideal of a Christmas standards album. Featuring appearances from James Corden, Camilla Cabello, and Leon Bridges, Musgraves’ Christmas Show is silly, loose, and full of genuine sweetness as she runs through classics like “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”. The Country-Pop songstress also gets to trot out some holiday themed originals, including “Christmas Makes Me Cry” and “Ribbons and Bows”, two songs first featured on Musgraves’ first christmas album A Very Kacey Christmas. More fun than her first outing, The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show
John Legend – “A Legendary Christmas”
Most Christmas albums tend to cull their tracks from a short list of universal classics. So leave it to pop-R&B extraordinaire John Legend to revamp the traditions and go for a more diverse selection. Other than the duets of “Baby It’s Cold Outside (ft. Kelly Clarkson)” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (ft. Esperanza Spalding)”, A Legendary Christmas is mostly lesser-known soul classics like Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” and Stevie Wonder’s “What Christmas Means to Me”, featuring Wonder himself on harmonica. Toeing the line perfectly between Bing Crosby-esque crooning and throwback-Motown funk, Legend is the ever-lovable guide through a silky-smooth holiday season, one that proves why he got his EGOT in the first place.
Ariana Grande – “Christmas Kisses”/ “Christmas & Chill”
Twin EPs that celebrate Grande’s embrace of the holiday season, Christmas Kisses and Christmas & Chill is probably the most romantic collection of Christmas songs you can find. Splitting up Christmas Kisses between originals and covers, including Wham!’s “Last Christmas”, Grande goes all in on originals for Christmas & Chill. “Wit It This Christmas” and “Not Just On Christmas” keep things short and sweet, but “True Love” reimagines the Twelve Days of Christmas as an ode to all the things her lover does to make the season so special. Most Christmas music tends to err on the side of cheery goofiness, but Grande turns the heat up instead to create only the horniest of holiday seasons.
Lady Gaga – “A Very Gaga Holiday”
Another accompanying soundtrack to a television special, A Very Gaga Holiday is only four songs long, but makes the most out of the brief run time. The beginning of Gaga’s Traditional Pop phase, which culminated in her duet album Cheek to Cheek with Tony Bennett, Holiday makes a number of statements in only 14 minutes. Significantly, Gaga adds a self-written verse to “White Christmas”, bristling at the traditional surroundings she’s placed herself in. After that, she pretty much abandons the Christmas concept all together, opting instead to sing the traditional “Orange Colored Sky” and two of her own compositions from Born This Way, “You and I” and “The Edge of Glory”. Even as she doesn’t commit fully to the X-Mas concept, the swanky horns and sweet melodies give off that same classic christmas vibe.
Mariah Carey – “Merry Christmas”
You knew it was going to be here. It’s not the holiday season until you find yourself unable to escape “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, Mariah Carey’s gift/curse to anyone who happens to walk into a CVS after Halloween. The remarkable longevity of “All I Want For Christmas is You”, which hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart 25 years after its initial release, easily overshadows the rest of its parent album, Merry Christmas. But that’s not to say that the rest of the album isn’t filled with equally-catchy originals mixed in with traditional favorites. Carey’s take on “Silent Night” transforms the song into a gospel ballad, while “Joy to the World” is peak 90s Eruodisco schlock in the best possible way. Carey would put out a sequel in 2010, but the original is the definitive collection: a time capsule of 90s production that still endures nearly three decades later.
Justin Bieber – “Under the Mistletoe”
I’m not going to lie: Justin Bieber’s Christmas album isn’t exactly good. Like a lot of his early music, it’s overly-produced, hyper-energized, poorly written pop music. But it’s also fascinatingly flawed in its presentation. Take, for instance, his take on “The Little Drummer Boy”, here just titled “Drummer Boy”, which features Bieber and Busta Rhymes trading mediocre verses behind a very-early 2010s beat. Or, maybe, listen to his take on “Silent Night” that sounds like it’s ripped straight out of High School Musical. He’s basically relegated to being a featured artist on “All I Want For Christmas Is You (SuperFestive)” (in case you’re wondering, no, he’s not featured on the version Mariah Carey’s re-recorded on her 2010 Christmas album). His collaboration with Boyz II Men, “Fa La La”, is just baffling. Who put these two artists in a room together? Which manager decided that this was a good idea? Under the Mistletoe is full of similarly confounding moments, but those moments add up to a weirdly compelling listen, sure to make any Believer nostalgic for the early days of the Biebs career. Under the Mistletoe is well and truly an anomaly in a career full of weirdness.