Review: Holiday music from Bieber, Buble and more

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 22 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

In this CD cover image released by Sugar Hill Records/Vanguard Records, the latest holiday release by Joey + Rory, "A Farmhouse Christmas," is shown.

Vanguard Records, AP Photo/Sugar Hill Records

Here are The Associated Press' reviews of selected holiday albums:

Justin Bieber, "Under the Mistletoe" (Island)

Parents are likely to buy Justin Bieber's Christmas album for their kids and pray that their young ones will only play it through their headphones.

But the elders would be missing out. Bieber's "Under the Mistletoe" is a thoroughly entertaining offering for all ages — sometimes even more so for the adults.

Although he's still a teen heartthrob, there's little childlike about this album (except for the song "Someday at Christmas," which closes out the deluxe CD, where a much younger Bieber channels Michael Jackson).

Bieber's voice has deepened, and the bubble gum sound has given way to a more mature, soulful sound. Bieber sounds convincingly romantic on the album's opener, "The Only Thing I Ever Get For Christmas." And on the soulful upbeat groove "Fa La La," with guests Boyz II Men, he sounds almost — dare we say it? — sexy.

But before we venture into Mariah Yeater territory, let's focus on some of the other songs on the album. He joins Mariah Carey on her holiday classic "All I Want for Christmas Is You"; the Band Perry for a powerful "Home This Christmas"; enlists mentor Usher on a charming rendition of "The Christmas Song"; and gets funky with Busta Rhymes on a hip-hop version of "Little Drummer Boy" (here simply called "Drummer Boy"), as both trade rap verses.

Bieber breathes new life into old standbys, and offers up new songs that have the potential to become future classics. Even if you don't have kids, "Under the Mistletoe" should be under your Christmas tree.

— Nekesa Mumbi Moody, AP Music Writer

She & Him, "A Very She & Him Christmas" (Merge Records)

Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, the she and him of folk rock duo She & Him, have patterned a sparse yet satisfying Christmas album that, on listen after repeated listen, brings to mind a subtly hip holiday vibe that's edgy enough to impress the most jaded Brooklynite and innocent enough to play for grandma, too.

Across the 12 tracks presented on the album — available digitally, too — Deschanel and Ward glide through some of the holiday classics with low-key yet inspired gait, including a rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" that's smooth and silky but earnest in its affectations.

The interplay between Ward and Deschanel on "Silver Bells" and "I'll Be Home For Christmas" is quick and bouncy, lending a decidedly prominent sense of mirth and merriment — always critical components of a good Christmas album.

Is it groundbreaking and new? No, not by a longshot, but it's clever, entertaining and filled with holiday cheer.

— Matt Moore, Associated Press


Scott Weiland "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" (Atlantic)

Sometimes the line between balladeer and rock singer converges; sometimes it does not. That's why it comes as a surprise that Scott Weiland would attempt to croon an album of Christmas music as if he were Perry Como on "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year."

The songs range from fun to powerful to laughable, as Weiland tackles holiday standards like "Silent Night" and "The Christmas Song." He delivers these tunes like it was Bing Crosby night at a local karaoke bar. Not that that's there's anything wrong with that, especially if parody is your thing. But fans may expect more than a hardcore alternative rocker trying to sound like a lounge singer.

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