As this holiday season approaches, Christmas albums take the center stage. These albums will serve as the backdrop for all of the upcoming traditions, from decorating the tree to making cookies for Santa. Christmas music has changed over time, but every era has albums worth celebrating.
"It's Christmas Time" by Elvis Presley
Released in 1957 during the height of his fame, Elvis Presley swept the nation off its feet with his blues and rock-and-roll Christmas album. Composed of twelve songs, the album is divided into two sub-genres: one features gospel influence while the other is more contemporary. In Presley's cover of “Silent Night,” his soft-yet-sturdy voice mixed with joyful piano makes for a soothing piece. In contrast, his rock-and-roll rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” brings a fun spirit into the mix. This album is an iconic classic to listen to while putting up decorations or dancing around the kitchen this holiday season.
"A Jolly Christmas" by Frank Sinatra
A classic crooner of the 1950s, Frank Sinatra released his first Christmas album in 1957. Though it was released the same year as Presley’s album, Sinatra’s 15-track project has a more traditional sound. Remastered in 1999, the songs have smooth acoustics while still maintaining an old-timey authenticity. Sinatra’s hearty vocals are magnificently backed by a soft background choir. My favorite song on the album, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” has a warm, comforting feel perfect for the cold month of December. Whether you’re baking cookies or sitting by the fireplace, this album is a perfect fit for holiday festivities. It also offers a window into history: Sinatra ends the album with a public service announcement urging his listeners to protect themselves and others against tuberculosis, a disease that spread throughout the nation during the ‘50s.
"The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album" by The Beach Boys
Moving into the 1960s, The Beach Boys’ Christmas album takes a summer-inspired spin on traditional Christmas hits. All twelve songs on the album utilize seaside harmonies that go along with cheerful Christmas songs. The Beach Boys had a large fanbase and mostly stuck to a surfer rock-and-roll aesthetic. Breaking out of their typical box, The Beach Boys won over the public’s hearts with these sweet and soulful songs. My personal favorite, “Little Saint Nick,” puts a twist on the track's original jingle-like melody. The relaxing backgrounds of surfers and crashing waves are perfect for listeners spending---or want to spend---their holidays in the sun.
"Merry Christmas" by Mariah Carey
The Queen of Christmas released her debut album in 1994, which featured “All I Want For Christmas is You,” the best-selling Christmas song in the United States with over 20 million copies sold. Carey’s festive spirit brings the album to life, her background in gospel music making for heartfelt vocals. Another one of the original songs on her album, “Miss You Most at Christmas Time,” is a sadder Christmas ballad that is truly moving. It’s inevitable that Carey’s iconic Christmas album would come back during this holiday season, as well as many more to come.
Justin Bieber’s first Christmas album was a part of the Canadian singer’s debut. As one of the most admired artists of the 2010s, Bieber touched the hearts of teenagers across America with his sing-along-worthy holiday tracks. Popular artists like Usher and Mariah Carey made guest appearances on this album, which reached number one on Billboard's Top 200, making Bieber the first male singer to achieve this with a Christmas album. His song “Under the Mistletoe” popularized the album with its romantic flair, as tenagers swooned over Bieber's charismatic personality. His original song “Drummer Boy” has a refreshing hip-hop vibe that rounds out his sound. Whether you’re a Belieber or not, Bieber’s album is guaranteed to get you hyped for the holidays.
"A Pentatonix Christmas" by Pentatonix
The a capella group Pentatonix released their debut Christmas album in 2016. Their covers of gospel songs bring lyrics to life through the variety in their voices. The group’s cover of “Hallelujah” is soulful yet festive and truly utilizes their multitude of vocal talents to create a smooth and dynamic feel. The album debuted at number three on the Billboard Top 200 charts the year it was released. Original songs such as “Good to Be Bad” and “The Christmas Sing Along” brought out the group's individual flair, as well.