Reconfigured carols spread Yuletide cheer
It’s been 34 years since John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John captured viewers’ imagination for giddily singing and prancing to the catchy show tunes of “Grease.”
In their brand-new duet, “I Think You Might Like It”—culled from their latest collaborative recording, “This Christmas”—they once again channel Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsen as they show off their line-dancing skills and sing cheesily about “coming home swinging from the chandelier.” Unfortunately, they forget that they’re no longer in Rydell High—and this isn’t the late ’50s anymore!
The couple’s chemistry is on full display, however, in “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and the heart-warming mashup of “Auld Lang Syne” and “Christmas Time Is Here.” Also impressive are the singers and musicians who have agreed to perform with them: James Taylor (“Deck The Halls”), Cliff Richard (“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”), Tony Bennett (“Winter Wonderland”), Kenny G (“Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”) and Chick Corea (“This Christmas”).
If the aforementioned names don’t impress you, their special guest in the bittersweet “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is guaranteed to knock the musical ball out of the park—Barbra Streisand!
Country star Blake Shelton also has impressive guests in his 14-track holiday collection, “Cheers, It’s Christmas.” It’s hard to resist the honky-tonk allure of “Santa’s Got a Choo Choo Train,” the melodiously frolicsome “Oklahoma Christmas,” his duet with plucky country queen Reba McEntire, and the appealing swagger of “Jingle Bell Rock,” with his wife, Miranda Lambert. But, the repertoire’s sassiest duet is “Silver Bells,” with 17-year-old “The Voice” alumna, Xenia.
The candy-coating of “There’s a New Kid in Town’s” melody is thick and appropriately sweet, and Kelly Clarkson garnishes it with her impassioned trills, while Michael Bublé reconfigures “Home” by adjusting its lyrics.
CeeLo Green, Shelton’s judging colleague on “The Voice,” is aware of the indispensability of irresistible musical hooks and solid singing—which characterize “CeeLo’s Magic Moment,” his fabulously festive first Christmas collection. His guest vocalists reflect the diversity of his music—from Christina Aguilera (“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”) to The Muppets, who ham it up with the singer in the kooky “All I Need Is Love.”
The flamboyant Goodie Mob vet will have you rockin’ with his rousing renditions of “What Christmas Means to Me” and “Run, Rudolph, Run” and rolling with his exceptional covers of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” “Merry Christmas, Baby” (with Rod Stewart and Trombone Shorty), and the unapologetically theatrical “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” with the all-male a cappella group, Straight No Chaser.
The 10-song “Glee, The Christmas Album Vol. 3” showcases the popular musical series’ talented holdovers (Darren Criss, Chord Overstreet) and its new breed of singer-performers: Jake (Jacob Artist), Puck’s younger half-brother, proves why he’s a force to reckon with when he sings with his colleagues in “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”
Marley (Melissa Benois), the new girl in McKinley High, also shows off her sturdy (and radio-friendly) pipes in “The First Noel.” But, when Rachel (Lea Michele) sings “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” you understand why she’s held in high esteem as The New Directions’ Queen Bee!
Barry Manilow fills his hefty collection, “The Classic Christmas Album,” with warmth (“Violets For Your Furs,” “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm”), joy (“Christmas Is Just Around The Corner,” “There’s No Place Like Home,” “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”) and nostalgia (“It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve,” “River”).
Peppy and sprightly renditions anchored on accessible melodies and a youthful vibe boost Colbie Caillat’s “Christmas in the Sand.” Top picks: The string-fueled title track, the harmony-rich “Every Day Is Christmas” (with Jason Reeves), and the stirring “Happy Christmas,” which comes with a timely reminder:
“Maybe we worry too much about wishing, and not enough about giving/ ‘Cause some people have nothing at all/ Give love to the hopeless/ Love to the loveless/ Remind us to be selfless/ ‘Cause this is Christmas!”
Have a meaningful and music-filled Christmas, dear readers!