An avalanche of holiday music is tumbling in this season, with everyone from three-letter R&B groups 3LW and B2K to sensitive rockers Coldplay and Sense Field going yuletide.
3LW fans better watch out on Tuesday, when the recently downsized girl group releases Naughty or Nice. Recorded after Naturi Naughton left the group, the album features the now twosome griping about crummy Christmas presents on "Ahh Hell" and teaming with Naughty by Nature's Treach on "Christmas Party" (see "3LW Holiday Album Due; Members Land Film Roles"). The girls chose to record only one classic, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
B2K perhaps should have taken a cue from 3LW and simply called their holiday LP Naughty, judging by the rather racy "Sexy Boy Christmas." "I'm not tryin' to show you love and affection," J-Boog raps on the song. "I'm tryin' to show you I'm blessed/ In different sections." The group's Santa Hooked Me Up is blessed with other originals as well as favorites like "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" and "Jingle Bells" (see "B2K Working On Sophomore LP, Holiday Album").
Though you'd be hard-pressed to find enough hip-hop holiday music to fill your stocking, B2K won't be the only ones doing some rapping this season. Singer/comedian Bob Rivers has released a holiday album called White Trash Christmas, on which he drops rhymes about Eminem doing the nasty with a drunk Mrs. Claus on "What If Eminem Did Jingle Bells?," and he parodies Afroman's anthem about pot-induced procrastination on "Be Claus I Got High."
"I was gonna trim the tree, until I got high/ I was gonna buy you a DVD, but then I got high," he raps on the "Because I Got High" spoof.
Rivers, who hosts "The Bob Rivers Show" on Seattle radio station KZOK, didn't need to imagine a very Afroman Christmas to get inspiration for the parody all the lyrics came from his own experience, even the verse about getting stoned and passing gas at midnight mass.
"Lots of folks know I have been clean and sober for 13 years, so I was a little hesitant at first," Rivers said. "Everything in there, from midnight mass to reluctant kisses for Grandma, are true events in my life."
White Trash Christmas also features "Have Yourself An Ozzy Little Christmas" and the "Osama Got Run Over by a Reindeer," the latter of which inspired Rivers to record his fifth holiday album after the song proved popular on New York radio during last year's holiday season.
"With all that the Big Apple had been through, it felt about as good as it gets to bring a smile to folks at Christmas," he said. "People were asking if they could get that song on an album, and at that point I began writing songs."
Coldplay, Jimmy Eat World, Ben Folds, Bright Eyes, Semisonic singer Dan Wilson and Vanessa Carlton have donated new and previously released tunes to Maybe This Christmas. Coldplay's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and Ben Folds' "Bizarre Christmas Incident" are former gifts to fan club members. The disc also features Barenaked Ladies teaming with Sarah McLachlan on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" and Sense Field tackling John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" (see "Jimmy Eat World, Vanessa Carlton Decorate Charity Xmas LP").
Sense Field singer/guitarist Chris Evenson admitted that covering "Happy Xmas" was a bit daunting, as it's one of a few holiday tunes that are truly intrinsic to their authors. "It does seem odd, with that impending war [in Iraq] just getting warmed up, but it must be somewhat similar, in a way, to the time the song was originally conceived, with Vietnam," he said.
Though many artists end up recording Christmas songs in the most uninspiring seasons to get them out in time for the holidays, that wasn't much of an issue for Sense Field. "It's always Christmas around our studio," Evenson said. "It's decorated in lights all year 'round, mainly because we're just too lazy to take them down, but it did help the mood."
Brian Setzer recorded his Boogie Woogie Christmas in the scorching July heat of the Palm Springs, California, desert, also in a studio adorned with Christmas decorations to help the former Stray Cats singer muster up the holiday spirit. The album merges such classics as "Jingle Bells" and "Winter Wonderland" with more diverse choices like "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" and "Baby It's Cold Outside," the latter a seven-minute big band duet with Ann-Margret. Setzer also takes on Elvis with a version of "Blue Christmas" (the King did what many consider to be the definitive version) and offers up one original number, "So They Say It's Christmas."
Other compilations include Radio Disney Holiday Jams 2, featuring songs by Backstreet Boys and A*Teens, and Wow Christmas, a two-disc set with Jars of Clay, Amy Grant, Sixpence None the Richer and others. Sanctuary Records has dug up Christmas tunes from the likes of Styx, REO Speedwagon and Lynyrd Skynyrd for two new releases, A Classic Rock Christmas and Southern Rock Christmas.
The same label will also put out an EP by the late Joey Ramone, Christmas Spirit ... In My House, on Tuesday. The disc includes a stripped-back version of "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)," recorded prior to the better-known Ramones rendition, as well as "Merry Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" and three songs from his posthumously released solo album.
Last year's Now That's What I Call Christmas, boasting tunes from Elvis Presley, the Carpenters, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, is this year's top seller so far. Previously released holiday albums by Harry Connick Jr., Celine Dion and Mariah Carey also continue to sell well, sitting alongside new yule offerings by Alan Jackson, Kenny G. and Barry Manilow on Billboard magazine's holiday albums chart. But one popular new release features no big names Kidz Bop Christmas includes such classics as "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" and "Frosty the Snowman" sung by a children's chorus.
A select list of new holiday releases:
- 3LW - Naughty or Nice
- America - Holiday Harmony
- B2K - Santa Hooked Me Up
- Bing Crosby - A Christmas Story
- Brooks & Dunn - It Won't Be Christmas Without You
- Charlie Daniels Band - Merry Christmas to All
- Crash Test Dummies - Jingle All the Way
- Hilary Duff - Santa Claus Lane
- Dr. Elmo - Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
- En Vogue - The Gift of Christmas
- Ella Fitzgerald - Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas
- Kenny G. Wishes - A Holiday Album
- Gypsy Hombres - Django Bells
- Warren Hill - A Warren Hill Christmas
- Alan Jackson - Let It Be Christmas
- Jump5 - All the Joy in the World
- Patti LaBelle - Holiday Magic
- Patty Loveless - Bluegrass & White Snow, A Mountain Christmas
- Barry Manilow - A Christmas Gift of Love
- Johnny Mathis - A Christmas Album
- Plus One - Christmas
- Joey Ramone - Christmas Spirit ... In My House
- Bob Rivers - White Trash Christmas
- Sha Na Na - Rockin Christmas
- Carly Simon - Christmas Is Almost Here
- Los Straitjackets - Tis the Season For ...
- John Tesh - Christmas Worship
- Various artists - A Classic Rock Christmas f/ Styx, John Waite, REO Speedwagon, Survivor
- Various artists - Christmas Greetings From Studio One f/ Silvertones, Bob Marley and the Wailers
- Various artists - Christmas With the Rat Pack f/ Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr.
- Various artists - Kidz Bob Christmas
- Various artists - Maybe the Christmas f/ Coldplay, Jimmy Eat World, Sense Field
- Various artists - Radio Disney Holiday Jams 2 f/ A*Teens, Backstreet Boys
- Various artists - Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town/Frosty the Snowman (music and dialogue from the classic Christmas specials)
- Various artists - School's Out! Christmas f/ Dream Street's Chris Trousdale
- Various artists - Southern Rock Christmas f/ Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels, Canned Heat
- Various artists - Wow Christmas f/ Kirk Franklin, Jars of Clay, Amy Grant, Sixpence None the Richer