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Entertainment Weekly

Music

10 of the best (and worst) new holiday releases

Illustration by German Gonzalez for EW

Posted on

Once Thanksgiving leftovers are filling up your fridge, it’s officially time to break out the holiday music. From Sia to to Hanson, there are plenty of new offerings in 2017 to slot between classics like Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas and the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. Read on for the best and worst of this year’s festive releases — and for even more ideas, revisit EW’s roundup of 2016 holiday albums.

Sia, Everyday Is Christmas

Has the pop powerhouse been hiding gifts under her wig this whole time? Assisted by longtime producer Greg Kurstin, she exudes Christmas spirit on cuts like “Santa’s Coming for Us” and “Snowman.” They’re Sia through and through and deeply enjoyable, even if the highlights — from the sweeping ballad “Underneath the Mistletoe” to the playfully brassy “Ho Ho Ho” — barely qualify as Christmas tunes beyond their titles. There’s even “Puppies Are Forever,” a must-have anthem for dog owners everywhere, no matter the season. B+

Hanson, Finally It’s Christmas

The last time Hanson released a holiday album — 1997’s Snowed In — they couldn’t drink or vote. On their second holiday full-length, the charismatic trio bring a more mature worldview and plenty of cheer, imbuing covers of Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas” and the Eagles’ “Please Come Home” with soulful verve. But they shine most on romping originals such as “Til New Years Night” and the title track. B+

Fantasia, Christmas After Midnight

Sure, the American Idol winner makes downtempo classics from “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to “Silent Night” glisten. But the standouts on her first holiday album are impassioned, upbeat takes on Ray Charles (“The Snow Is Falling”) and James Brown (“Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto”). A-

Herb Alpert, The Christmas Wish

Here’s one for Grandpa’s Christmas stocking. Five decades after his first holiday album, the suave trumpeter returns with an LP that’d fit right in on Don Draper’s turntable. Beware the run time, however: At 54 minutes, the schmaltz can wear thin. B

98º, Let It Snow

Their harmonies are unimpeachable, but the pop vocalists’ second Christmas album lacks any real flair. Most of the bland arrangements are fine, though the missteps — a beatboxed “Let It Snow,” for instance — are egregious. C+

Various Artists, Holidays Rule (Vol. 2)

The eclectic second installment of this compilation series features the likes of Norah Jones, the Decemberists, and Grace Potter, whose original tune “Christmas Moon” is a retro treat. Less so: Paul McCartney’s garish rework of “Wonderful Christmastime” with Jimmy Fallon & the Roots. B-

Smokey Robinson, Christmas Everyday

The iconic soul singer’s smooth set is as warm and inviting as a fireside mug of hot cocoa. Robinson recruits Trombone Shorty to add his Big Easy wheezes to “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and teams up with the Dap-Kings on his charming original “You’re My Present.” Naturally, the crooner’s silky pipes unify the project. A-

Various Artists, Christmas Soul

Selections on this 25-song Amazon Music playlist — which captures the holiday’s essence with a generous serving of soul, R&B, and blues — range from Marc Broussard’s Southern-fried cover of Charles Brown’s “Please Come Home for Christmas” to “Snowsuit,” a dense original from the wordy rapper Open Mike Eagle. A

Lindsey Stirling, Warmer in the Winter

The Tchaikovsky-meets-dance-pop aesthetic of opener “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” is the worst moment on the violin virtuoso’s collection, but it defines the set’s weakness: Stirling’s blaring performances pierce instead of please. C

Cheap Trick, Christmas Christmas

It’s tough for the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers to do wrong, and they deck their Christmas LP with plenty of personality. Part of the appeal is their unique slate of songs: They’ve got three originals (“Merry Christmas Darlings” is the best) along with covers of holiday deep cuts by Harry Nilsson and glam rockers Wizzard. The energy’s so high, you’ll want to save this one for after the eggnog and rum. A-

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