Pentatonix never fails to deliver excellent a cappella music. Out of this collection of Christmas songs, “Mary, Did You Know” stands out as a beautiful and emotional version of this classic. As usual, Pentatonix did an amazing job of converting classic, well-known songs into their incredible trademark a cappella sound. They offer a variety of moods, from a solemn version of “Silent Night” to the more lighthearted “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” This album also brings a bonus for anyone obsessed with the movie “Frozen”: Pentatonix’s version of “Let It Go.” This album offers the typical Pentatonix energy and quality and will not disappoint any fans of this group.
Menzel’s voice is beautiful as always and her range is often put on display throughout this album. The song that stood out the most to me was “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” which she sings alongside the amazing Michael Bublé. The music video was even better, showing cute children dancing in fancy clothes. This album has a lot of the classic Christmas songs, but also brings some not-so-commonly heard songs like “What Are You Doing This Christmas Eve?” In addition, there is a good combination of serious and jolly songs in this album. I found myself bouncing along to “All I Want For Christmas is You,” and later enjoying a very traditional version of “Silent Night.” Menzel also sings “When You Wish Upon a Star,” for anyone longing to feel that classic Disney magic during the holidays.
This album was good, but not my favorite out of the ones I listened to. Rucker sings a lot of the jazzy-sounding classics, like “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “White Christmas.” He also gives many of the other songs on this album a jazz spin, which I quite enjoyed. However, most of the album is made up of classic songs that have been done many times before and are not executed too differently or exceptionally this time around. This album, because it has so many classics done in a classic fashion, will not fail to get anyone in the Christmas spirit.
Michael W. Smith and Friends: “The Spirit of Christmas”
I must say, I was quite impressed with Smith’s album. It is full of some very good orchestral music, including a fantastic beginning to the album with “The Miracle of Christmas” and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Smith does not stick to only Christian Christmas songs, which brings a lot more variety to the album. He has a host of guest singers on the album, including Lady Antebellum on “White Christmas” and Carrie Underwood on “All is Well.” Smith also brings a diversity of genres to this album. Everything from orchestral music to the soft jazz of “White Christmas” and the more traditional takes on songs like “What Child is This,” which in spite of being one of the simpler songs on the album still brings in a beautiful choral introduction.
In contrast to Smith’s incredible instruments in “The Spirit of Christmas,” Rimes seems to focus a lot more on exaggerated vocals and a lot less on the instruments playing behind her. There are many of the classic Christmas songs on this album. I did enjoy her semi-a cappella version of “Carol of the Bells,” though it was very reminiscent of Pentatonix’s version of this song in their Christmas EP “PTXmas” from last year, and, in my opinion, not quite as good. I also enjoyed hearing “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” which was very fun, and I did not hear it on any of the other albums I listened to.
“Christmas at Downton Abbey”
This album definitely had a lot of classic music in it. For those who prefer older music, this is perfect. The songs are made to match the early 1900s European feel of the show, so most of the songs are like “Silent Night” and “The First Noel.” It features very classic vocals as well. The album also features some instrumental pieces, including composer and violinist Antonio Vivaldi’s “Christmas Concerto, 1st Movement.”
As can be expected, this album is rather silly and lighthearted. It has some of the goofier songs that are hard to find on some of the other albums such as “All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth).” Featuring songs from the movie “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever,” there are also several parodies of well-known songs. For example, the Nutcracker Medley is instead called “Grumpcracker Medley.” There are also some lovely songs that I had never heard before like “It’s Hard To Be a Cat At Christmas.” Even the traditional songs are presented in a rather quirky style with nontraditional sounds. This album is not to be taken too seriously and is more amusing than anything.