Have yourself a jazzy, or pop-punk or country little Christmas
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Have yourself a jazzy, or pop-punk or country little Christmas
In images provided to the New York Times, clockwise from top left: covers of new holiday albums from Cher, Sabrina Carpenter, Robert Glasper and Samara Joy. There is no one correct way to celebrate the holiday season in song. But often the best Yuletide numbers are the ones that fiddle around with tradition. (Via The New York Times)



NEW YORK, NY.- There is no one correct way to celebrate the holiday season in song. For some, reverence is key. But often the best Yuletide numbers are the ones that fiddle around with tradition, taking the familiar components of joy and generosity and remixing them into something silly, salacious or downright odd.

Adam Blackstone, ‘A Legacy Christmas’

Adam Blackstone, who has been a bassist and musical director for Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake as well as many television shows, revels in his jazz background on his own Legacy albums. “A Legacy Christmas” merges brassy, swinging big-band arrangements with electronically tweaked R&B, and it’s packed with guests: DJ Jazzy Jeff, Boyz II Men, Andra Day. There are glossy, muscular revamps of songs like “Lil Drummer Boy” (which has BJ the Chicago Kid singing alongside Blackstone’s melodic bass) and “Someday at Christmas” (with Robert Randolph’s slide guitar), as well as Blackstone’s own songs, including the neo-Motown “Christmas Kisses,” which has Blackstone rapping alongside Keke Palmer, who sings like she’s fronting the Jackson 5. — JON PARELES

Brandy, ‘Christmas With Brandy’

Brandy leads with angst on her album “Christmas With Brandy,” which includes six songs she co-wrote including the opener, “Feels Different.” The moody, minor-key track leans into a deep post-breakup loneliness that “hurts the worst around Christmas,” even though “when I’m lovesick, you’re toxic.” But the rest of the album is cheerier and sultrier, like her upbeat, retro-styled “Christmas Everyday” and “Christmas Gift” (a duet with her daughter, Sy’rai) and the slow-motion come-on of “Christmas Party for Two.” The familiar songs play up Brandy’s misty tone and melismatic audacity. Her versions of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Mel Tormé’s “The Christmas Song” and even “Deck the Halls” are gauzy and leisurely. And who but Brandy would, in “Jingle Bells,” make an 11-note flourish out of “way”? — PARELES

Sabrina Carpenter, ‘Fruitcake’

The rising pop singer-songwriter Sabrina Carpenter brings her charmingly conversational and occasionally humorous sensibility to the six-song EP “Fruitcake,” her first holiday-themed release. Though she indulges in a straightforward, breathily sung “White Christmas,” the EP’s highlights are its irreverent originals, like “A Nonsense Christmas” (a holiday remix of Carpenter’s 2022 hit), the sleek, sassy “Is It New Years Yet?” and “Cindy Lou Who,” a piano ballad that playfully imagines the sweetest girl in Whoville as a romantic rival: “The snow’s gonna fall and the tree’s gonna glisten,” Carpenter sings. “And I’m gonna puke at the thought of you kissin’.” — LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Cher, ‘Christmas’

Cher’s economically titled new album “Christmas” is an eclectic mix of holiday standards (a rollicking “Run Rudolph Run,” an especially lustful “Santa Baby”) and upbeat, electro-pop originals tailor-made for the woman who sang “Believe” (the strobe-lit “DJ Play a Christmas Song,” the fist-pumping “Angels in the Snow”). The guest list is star-studded and wide-ranging: Stevie Wonder, Michael Bublé and Darlene Love all drop by to duet with Cher on their own holiday classics, while Cyndi Lauper provides an assist on “Put a Little Holiday in Your Heart,” a country-tinged Christmas tune first recorded by LeAnn Rimes. But the album’s most memorably bonkers moment is surely “Drop Top Sleigh Ride,” a campy party anthem featuring a pun-stuffed rap verse from Tyga. The holidays just aren’t the holidays until you’ve heard Cher sing, “Turn it up, it’s a vibe, it’s Christmas.” — ZOLADZ

Robert Glasper, ‘In December’




Keyboardist Robert Glasper is an expert in both abstruse jazz harmonies and sleek hip-hop grooves; he’s also a well-connected collaborator. He brings all those skills to Christmas songs on “In December,” a musicianly rumination on the season; it’s only available on Apple Music. Old carols get elaborate new chromatic convolutions and alternate melodies, while in their new songs, Glasper and his singers consider holiday tensions. In “Make It Home,” PJ Morton and Sevyn Streeter portray a couple wondering if they can possibly reconcile for Christmas; “December,” written by Glasper and Andra Day, cycles through a year of seasonal anxieties and longings. And in “Memories With Mama,” Tarriona Ball, who leads Tank and the Bangas, confides in deep-toned spoken words about how Christmas has changed since her childhood — she’s nostalgic, but realistic. — PARELES

Samara Joy, ‘A Joyful Holiday’

The resonant, low-end power of Samara Joy’s voice really emerges on her version of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Me.” A Motown-era number sung sweetly by the Supremes and Stevie Wonder, it’s comforting molasses in Joy’s hands; at one point, she lingers over “twinkle,” toggling back and forth — eee-yuh-eee-yuh-eee-yuh — a caress and a promise. That’s the highlight of “A Joyful Holiday,” the first seasonal release from this sometimes startling jazz vocalist, who won best new artist at this year’s Grammys. See also her take on “Warm in December,” once sung by Julie London, which she renders as the most refined, stately and wise of come-ons. — JON CARAMANICA

Jon Pardi, ‘Merry Christmas From Jon Pardi’

For the past decade Jon Pardi has been, quite successfully, a country singer mindful of how the country singers before him conducted themselves. He’s a lightly unruly traditionalist, with an ear that favors Texas and Bakersfield and the, um, funkier sides of honky-tonk Nashville. So naturally, his first holiday album is a collection of frisky covers and originals that add just the faintest tweak to the canon. His take on Buck Owens’ “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy” is cheeky and loose, and “I’ve Been Bad, Santa” — sung a couple of years ago by Australian pop star Peach PRC — is a flirtatious duet with Pillbox Patti. “Reindeer” is a slow-walk heartbreaker about getting left behind by someone you love during the jolly season: “Might be a white Christmas, but all this snow just feels like rain, dear.” And on the lighthearted “Beer for Santa,” he swaps out the milk and cookies under the tree for something harder, then avers, “I might stay up and have one with him, too.” — CARAMANICA

The Philly Specials, ‘A Philly Special Christmas Special’

Last year, three offensive linemen who play for the Philadelphia Eagles — Jason Kelce, Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson — stunned the football world by putting out a surprisingly competent Christmas EP as the Philly Specials. This season, they’re upping the ante with a full album, featuring cameos from Philadelphia musical luminaries including Patti LaBelle, Amos Lee and Waxahatchee. Mailata — a 6-foot-8 left tackle who last year appeared as “Thingamabob” on “The Masked Singer” — is the star of the show, holding his own with LaBelle on a duet of “This Christmas” and nailing that high note at the end of “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” but Johnson also impresses with his resonant country croon on a cover of Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper.” As for Kelce? Well, as Philly fans already know, he’s got a lot of heart. And, for a spirited reworking of the Pogues’ most famous song, here retitled “Fairytale of Philadelphia,” he recruits perhaps the most high-profile guest of them all, his brother Travis, who sings approximately as well as his girlfriend can play professional football. — ZOLADZ

Gregory Porter, ‘Christmas Wish’

Jazz singer Gregory Porter brings his kindly baritone and a social conscience to his Christmas album. He reaches back to vintage Motown for the anti-war, pro-equality “Someday at Christmas,” and three songs of his own recognize troubles he wants to rise above for the season. In “Everything’s Not Lost,” he wills himself toward year-end optimism despite “all this misery” and “children in fear.” And with the surging gospel of “Christmas Wish,” he recalls the lessons in generosity his mother taught. Most of the backing uses genteel string arrangements, but in “Christmas Waltz,” with a jazz trio, he reminds listeners how he can swing. — PARELES

Wheatus, ‘Just a Dirtbag Christmas’

Skip the clever and fun and totally worthy originals on this EP: You’re here for “Christmas Dirtbag,” the Yuletide updating of “Teenage Dirtbag,” the 2000 debut single from the Long Island punk-pop band Wheatus. The original is somehow both a zeitgeist-definer and a curio. This updating morphs the main character into someone passed over by Santa, perhaps a fate more cruel than being ignored by the girl who mesmerizes him in the original. But here, in a holiday spirit, there’s a twist — it turns out Santa’s a dirtbag, too, and he’s bearing gifts after all: “I’ve got two tickets to AC/DC, baby/After-show party at CBGB.” — CARAMANICA

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.










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