LOS ANGELES (AP) — What’s a holiday season without holiday music? The classics are great, but the classics performed by some of the best performers in pop, R&B, rock, opera, soul and more? That’s a real reason to celebrate.
In honor of the most wonderful time of the year, Associated Press music writer Maria Sherman has compiled some of the best new Christmas releases for your listening pleasure. Because sometimes the best thing that can happen to an old classic is to revitalize it with a new interpretation.
Ella Fitzgerald, “She wishes you a Christmas full of life”
Don’t bore us, cut to the chorus or, in the case of this collectible vinyl release of “She Wishes You A Swinging Christmas,” give us the hits! Ella Fitzgerald’s 1960 Christmas record is largely considered by critics to be one of the best of all time, so why not celebrate the best of the best in a new piece of wax? It’s not a bad idea for a gift either.
In some ways, “Christmas” is Cher’s first Christmas album; It’s not like she hasn’t been asked to do one in the past. “She just didn’t want to do anything,” she told the AP. “I didn’t know how I was going to turn it into a ‘Cher Christmas album’.” It turns out that the secret was getting a group of top-notch collaborators for her album, something she had never done before. There’s Cyndi Lauper in “Put A Little Holiday In Your Heart,” Stevie Wonder in “What Christmas Means to Me,” Darlene Love in “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home),” Michael Bublé in “Home,” and even the rapper. Tyga in “Drop Top Sleigh Ride.” There is something for everyone, and then some.
Brandy, “Christmas with Brandy”
For those looking for a seductive Christmas album: the search is over. The great Brandy of R&B has released “Christmas with Brandy,” a collection of sensual (and at other times, touching) imaginings of holiday classics and originals. Like in “Christmas Gift,” which features her daughter Sy’Rai, and “Feels Different.”
Elsewhere, Brandy is offering a Christmas special for ages 13 and under. “Help me undress, oh yeah / I’ll be your gift / Just give me your presence / That’s all I ask of you,” she sings in the chorus of the lead single, “Christmas Party for Two.” “Take my body / Boy, you know you got it / Just look at what you started / It’s a Christmas party for two.”
Chicago, “Chicago’s Greatest Christmas Hits”
Longtime fans of the trumpet-driven rock band are familiar with Chicago’s extensive Christmas discography: starting with 1998’s “Chicago XXV: The Christmas Album” (reissued in 2003 as “Chicago Christmas: What’s It Gonna Be Santa” with six bonus tracks), from 2011. “Chicago XXXIII: O Christmas Three” and “Chicago XXXVII: Chicago Christmas” from 2019. But the only way to complete the collection, or start your own, and only with the singles, is see “Chicago Greatest Christmas Hits,” which includes all of those releases and is sold on red and green holiday vinyl.
Andrea, Matteo and Virginia Bocelli, “A family Christmas”
Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli brought the whole family together for a new deluxe edition of his first album, “A Family Christmas.” His son Matteo, 26, and daughter Virginia, 11, teamed up for the release, adding four new recordings to the collection: “Let It Snow,” “Silver Bells,” “E ‘Natale! ” and “Winter Wonderland.” If you can listen to the famous tenor harmonize with his son and not shed a tear, you are a stronger person than most.
Wheatus, “Just a Trash Christmas”
Too often, Christmas albums convey an air of seriousness. But the most wonderful time of the year requires moments of levity, as well as deep existential thinking about the nature of love and family and what really matters on this Earth. Enter Wheatus, the ’90s radio rock band best known for their ubiquitous hit, “Teenage Dirtbag.” “Just a Dirtbag Christmas” plays on the popularity of the single, featuring a string quartet version of “Teenage Dirtbag,” as well as a rewritten version of the song appropriate for the holidays. Humor abounds, as in the pop-comedy additions of “You Made Me Believe in Christmas,” “Feels Like Christmas,” and “Mean Christmas.” Break out the bucket hat and Yule log for this one.
David Foster and Katharine McPhee, “Christmas Songs”
The dynamic duo of David Foster and Katharine McPhee, who are no strangers to Christmas albums, released their full-length collection “Christmas Songs” earlier this year. This one’s for the traditionalists among us: theatrical jazz interpretations of Christmas classics that deliver nostalgic satisfaction, amplified by their immense combined talent. Well, theirs and the skills of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, whose reimagined version of “Amazing Grace,” arranged by Foster, is a song to behold.
Luther Vandross, “Luther Vandross Classic Christmas”
Released nearly two decades after the death of the R&B and soul giant, “Luther Vandross Classic Christmas” is a brief but memorable modern Christmas classic: a three-track EP built around the previously unreleased “At Christmas Time,” “ May Christmas Bring You Happiness” and a special bonus a cappella mix of “At Christmas Time.” There’s no better time of year to hear the velvety voice do what he does best.
Ally Brooke, “Under the Tree”
All’s fair in love, war and girl groups. Emmy Award winner Ally Brooke, formerly of Fifth Harmony, is back with a new holiday EP titled “Under the Tree.” Anchored by the shimmering retro-pop title track, “Under the Tree” is a Brooke original that has her repeating “You can find me under the tree (Under the tree) / I’ll be waiting on Christmas Eve (Christmas Eve) / Baby, unwrap me,” in its cheeky chorus. It’s joyful, loving fun. And it quickly takes a 180-degree turn, rounding out the track list with “White Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and, of course, the classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
More holiday gift suggestions are available in AP’s 2023 Holiday Gift Guides, with selections from music, movies, coffee table books, gardening and serendipity, a grab bag.
Looking for other new music. Check out AP Music Reviews at https://apnews.com/hub/music-reviews