Favorite

Sounds of the Season 

It’s Christmas as sung by Bieber, Glee, and that guy from STP

Along with dropping temperatures, a losing Browns season, and a wild scramble to get some shopping done, this time of year always brings a new batch of holiday albums to add to our rotation of Christmas classics. Here's a rundown of five of the biggest.

***

Tony Bennett

The Classic Christmas Album

Bennett's masterful voice holds together this compilation of songs from his past holiday albums, a children's record, and one new track. Bennett radiates enough heat to melt Frosty, whether he's holding court with Placido Domingo or fronting a big band, quartet, or full orchestra.

For Your Christmas Mix: The ultra-cool swing openers "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "My Favorite Things," and "Christmas Time Is Here."

Lump of Coal: "The First Noel"

***

Justin Bieber

Under the Mistletoe

This sounds like one final money grab for Bieber before 2011 runs out. There are ballads to make little girls scream, light R&B tracks that sound like they're from an Old Navy playlist, and guest appearances by Usher, the Band Perry, and, most bizarrely, a rap retelling of "The Little Drummer Boy" with Busta Rhymes.

For Your Christmas Mix: The Jackson 5-inspired "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and "All I Want for Christmas Is You (Superlative!)," an update of Mariah Carey's modern classic.

Lump of Coal: That hip-hop "Drummer Boy" tramples over any semblance of the solemnity of the season.

***

The Cast of Glee

Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album Volume 2

Could this have been made during breaks at craft services? The canned production doesn't help this mix of Christmas favorites and originals that relies more on pop formula than holiday cheer. And the airy glee-club approach can't carry the emotional heft needed for "Do They Know It's Christmas."

For Your Christmas Mix: "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

Lump of Coal: A truly awful rendition of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band's "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town."

***

She & Him

A Very She & Him Christmas

The '60s pop backgrounds that usually fill She & Him's records are mostly replaced by a stark, intimate musical setting. What's left are Zooey Deschanel's honeyed vocals and M. Ward's understated guitar lines, which rarely overshadow his partner or the songs' timeless melodies.

For Your Christmas Mix: "Christmas Day" and "Sleigh Ride"

Lump of Coal: The album's cover art. Couldn't they find any fake snow or at least put a Santa hat on?

***

Scott Weiland

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Taking a break from fucking up Stone Temple Pilots tours, Weiland looks like he drank too much egg nog on the cover of this curio. One listen to his inebriated Dean Martin impression on a couple of songs and you'll swear he did exactly that. The arrangements are a creative kick, trying on sophisticated pop, bossa nova, and reggae. But Weiland's odd phrasing and tentative approach is pure humbug.

For Your Christmas Mix: The swingin' "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and "What Child Is This?"

Lump of Coal: Dino's drink-in-hand vocal style sinks "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "White Christmas."

More by John Patrick Gatta

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