Around this time of year, holiday music starts spinning nonstop, and while we love the old chestnuts, sometimes it’s good to mix in a little new material. And it’s a boon for the artists, too. If you rely on classic tunes, the copyrights on the compositions may have expired, making those tracks cheaper to produce; if you write a song of your own and it’s a big hit, you’ll be in the rotation for eternity, as Vox explains. So every year, a handful of artists—sometimes improbable ones—put out seasonal releases. What will you be playing in the background at this year’s holiday parties and cookie swaps? It might be one of these 2018 Christmas music contenders, which range from perfectly pleasant to, well, kind of strange. Will any become canon? We’ll just have to wait and see.
This season’s most delightfully weird offering is this record of holiday classics, reinvented in William Shatner’s iconic personal style. He’s joined by a list of weird (but we’re into it) guests including Henry Rollins, Iggy Pop, and Judy Collins.
RuPaul, Christmas Party
Sure, RuPaul has already released two holiday albums, Ho Ho Ho and Slay Belles. But that’s obviously not enough RuPaul holiday music. So this year we are graced with Christmas Party, a dance-y, remix-heavy album, released in conjunction with a new television special, RuPaul’s Drag Race Holi-Slay Spectacular, airing December 7 on VH1.
Every few years, How the Grinch Stole Christmas gets a reboot. While we can’t speak to the film, the soundtrack to the 2018 take on the tale has all the makings of a new classic. It’s a mix of old standards from Nat “King” Cole and the Supremes with some hip-hop touches courtesy of Run-D.M.C. But the real treats here are the two songs created for the soundtrack by L.A.’s own Odd Future alum Tyler, the Creator.
Crooner John Legend’s perfectly lovely record is probably the most likely of this year’s crop to enter the Christmas music canon. He’s joined by all-star guests including Esperanza Spalding, Raphael Saadiq, and Stevie Wonder (yeah, Stevie Wonder, NBD, though) on a mix of classic and newer tunes.
It turns out Eric Clapton has been making a new record every couple years this whole time! Clapton’s played holiday songs before–he appears on the 1999 charity concert album A Very Special Christmas Live–but now he has his first full Christmas album, and it will probably make your dad really happy.
In his downtime from acting roles in the Tyler Perry-Tiffany Haddish vehicle Nobody’s Fool, a recurring gig on TV’s Ready to Love, and his main hustle as keyboardist in Maroon 5, busy New Orleans-based PJ Morton recorded this collection of seasonal songs with a Southern twist. He’ll perform the material live when the “Gumbo Christmas Tour” stops at the El Rey on December 19.
Mike Love, the only founding member of the Beach Boys willing to take a songwriting credit on “Kokomo,” has a 2018 Christmas music release. His collaborators on the record include Hanson, who show up to sing on “Finally It’s Christmas,” and producers known for their work with Panic! at the Disco and Train.
SoCal alterna-teen turned pop icon Gwen Stefani has been producing music pretty steadily for three decades. In 2017, she released her first holiday album, You Make It Feel Like Christmas, and this year she’s released a deluxe edition with five bonus tracks; fans of L.A. radio station KOST can catch her live at Disneyland.
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