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Is It Too Early for A Christmas Album Roundup?

There are two types of people when the clock strikes midnight on Oct. 31. You are either the person who buys their turkey and embraces the Thanksgiving season, begging for Christmas to wait its turn, or you are like myself and begin dancing to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You,” living your best life during the holiday season. 

Whichever person you may be, there is no denying that musical artists are ready for the festive season with holiday albums being released as early as the end of September. Some artists release their holiday albums throughout October and into November, but how early is too early for a holiday album release, and is there really a “right time” to do so?

Carrie Underwood released her new holiday album entitled “My Gift” on Sept. 25. The album includes covers of more traditional, religious holiday songs, such as “Hallelujah” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” as well as collaborations with John Legend and her son Isaiah Fisher. For “My Gift,” Underwood chose to release all covers and did not write any of her own holiday music like other artists. Although September feels a bit early for a holiday release compared to artists who waited an extra month or so to release late-October or early-November albums, people will surely be ready to sing-along by December. 

Similar to Underwood, Leslie Odom Jr. released an album full of covers of holiday favorites. Odom’s holiday album “The Christmas Album” was released Nov. 6 and includes collaborations with artists such as Mzansi Youth Choir, Cynthia Erivo, his wife Nicolette Robinson, Michea Walls and the Walls group. Odom’s album includes mostly more traditional songs such as “O Holy Night” with a few modern hits like his rendition of Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michealson’s “Winter Song” with Erivo. The album is a lovely tribute to lesser-known holiday songs accompanied by familiar classics. 

Though there may be many artists choosing to release a majority of covers on their holiday albums, there are a few artists who have decided to write some potential new modern holiday hits like Dolly Parton and Meghan Trainor. 

Parton wrote many of the holiday songs that appear on her new album “A Holly Dolly Christmas.” Parton’s Christmas album, which was released Oct. 2, had been in the works for a few years now and includes songs that were featured in her holiday movie special “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love (2016).”

The album is an even mix of classic holiday covers and original songs written by Parton herself. The album also includes collaborations with goddaughter Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus, Michael Bublé, Willy Nelson, younger brother Randy Parton and Jimmy Fallon. 

Trainor released her holiday album “A Very Trainor Christmas” on Oct. 30. The album includes many holiday covers and collaborations with artists such as Earth, Wind & Fire and Seth MacFarlane. Trainor’s family is also included in the album with her cousins Jayden, Jenna, and Marcus Toney and her father Gary Trainor being named as featured artists. Trainor wrote and contributed to a little under half of the original songs featured on the album with the rest being covers of modern holiday favorites like Britney Spears’s “ My Only Wish (This Year)” and traditional favorites like Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.” 

Like Trainor and Underwood, many artists this year seem to be releasing holiday albums that contain a majority of classic Christmas song covers with very few originals. 

Lady A’s holiday album “On This Winter’s Night (Deluxe),” which was released on Oct. 30, is filled with covers of holiday classics. The holiday classics included those of modern day hits like Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” and more traditional favorites such as “Silent Night.” The album is a deluxe Christmas album including 16 holiday songs to sing-along to. 

Like Lady A, artist Tori Kelly has also released a Christmas album that is heavy with covers entitled “A Tori Kelly Christmas,” which was released Oct. 30. Kelly’s album, however, includes a sprinkling of originality. 

Kelly contributed to one of the original holiday songs that appears on the album, which is a holiday-pop styled song, entitled “25th.” The other songs on the album are covers of holiday classics. Kelly also collaborated with Babyface for a cover of “Let it Snow” and her rendition of “Hallelujah,” which was featured in the 2016 Universal Studios movie “SING.” 

Now you may be wondering, are any of these original Christmas songs good enough to be modern day classics?

I believe there is always some potential for new Christmas songs to become modern hits. Modern day Christmas songs that have become hits have a sense of timelessness to them and seem to bring universal joy to people like Carey’s iconic “All I Want for Christmas is You” or Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me.”

My picks this year for potential new hits are Trainor’s “Christmas Got Me Blue” and “I’ll Be Home,” Kelly’s “25th” and Parton’s and “Comin’ Home For Christmas.”

I feel these songs have an even mix of tradition with a modern twist but still capture that magic that resonates with many of us during the holidays. Trainor’s “Christmas Got Me Blue” is a upbeat pop style song. The lyrics talk about longing to be with someone for Christmas who doesn’t want to be with you. Even though the lyrics may be a little bit of a downer, the song is still a fun tune to listen to. “I’ll Be Home” is a slower, softer holiday ballad by Trainor that lyrically talks about promises to be home for the holidays. It feels like a modern twist on the classic “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” Kellys “25th” is another holiday song that has a good beat and has that holiday sound to it. The song talks about only wanting to hold a loved one on Dec. 25. Finally, Parton’s “Comin’ Home for Christmas” is a slower song that encompasses the magical sound of Christmas, coming home to memories and traditions that happen around this time of year. 

So what do you think? Will these new songs live up to the modern day holiday hits we all know and love? We’ll have to wait and see.

In terms of the question “is it really ever too early for Christmas music” I would say any Christmas song or albums released before Halloween is a little early, even for me. However, at the end of the day you have to do what makes you happy regardless of how others may judge you. So blast those holiday tunes, put up those decorations and enjoy the holiday season!

Claire Desenberg is an Entertainment Intern for the fall 2020 quarter. She can be reached at cdesenbe@uci.edu