Music review: Album lacks holiday cheer but works for modern music generation

by Peter Duell

When “Holidays Rule” was released a few weeks ago, Christmas music lovers were likely trembling with excitement. The album is a compilation of Christmas singles from various artists including The Shins, Fun., The Civil Wars and Paul McCartney to name a few. Such a lineup deserves anticipation.

As an avid lover of Christmas music, I am always eager to find more once Christmas season arrives. It’s fun to see artists I enjoy put out Christmas albums. The albums often do well. Take Mariah Carey’s phenomenal Christmas album, “Merry Christmas,” for example. It holds, arguably, some of the best classic modern Christmas songs, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” I expected “Holidays Rule” to be no different.

Unfortunately, I was mistaken. Other than a few songs that truly did sound like Christmas music (Paul McCartney’s “The Christmas Song,” Rufus Wainwright’s “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and Fun.’s, “Sleigh Ride”) it was exclusively artists playing songs that sound no different from their regular music aside from the words. For example, The Civil Wars’, “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” sounded exactly like, say, “I’ve Got This Friend,” from the album “Barton Hollow,” or the song “Kingdom Come,” another of the band’s more famous singles.

Even Fun.’s, “Sleigh Ride,” which was one of the more “Christmasy” songs on the album, was jammed with random electronic beeps and plunks that sound like they came out of a Buzz Lightyear toy. Hardly the sounds that come to mind at the mention of Christmas music.

While “Holidays Rule” is certainly not my taste, it definitely finds a way to make the songs work. It has done what most, if not all, classic Christmas artists have done in the past. I would define Frank Sinatra’s Christmas albums, or Bing Crosby’s, Mariah Carey’s or Point of Grace’s Christmas works as classic Christmas music. To put it in perspective, those albums are not very different from each respective artist’s normal music, save for the addition of some sleigh bells and violin and flute runs. “Holidays Rule” has simply conformed “Christmas music” to the popular modern times, just as Frank Sinatra and Mariah Carey did in their time.

I won’t be listening to “Holidays Rule” this year, or likely any year, but many people will enjoy it. It’s an album that, while I’m hard pressed to call it true Christmas music, defines its musical era and works for those who cling to that modern era.

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