Whenever I hear about a new Christmas album, I can’t help but think of that scene in “Love Actually” where washed-up rocker Billy Mack is in the studio recording a holiday version of one of his hits.
“This is sh*t, isn’t it?” he asks his producer over the intercom. The answer, of course, is yes.
We have enough Christmas music. With a few notable exceptions, most of the go-to holiday tunes were recorded before the U.S. had all 50 states, and contemporary releases are usually little more than blatant cash grabs. Throw together a few holiday classics whose copyrights have long expired and you can score yourself a nice payday.
Lindsey Stirling’s new record, “Warmer in the Winter,” appears to fall squarely into that category.
The “America’s Got Talent” star, known for her acrobatic dancing and violin covers of pop songs, released a collection of thirteen Christmas tunes Friday in anticipation of the upcoming holiday season.
The backing tracks sound like what might play if you googled “royalty-free Christmas music.” The violin arrangements—Stirling’s signature feature—are no more interesting than the intro to “Bittersweet Symphony,” that song by The Verve that was popular in the 90s.
Of the album’s 13 tracks, only three are original, and none come close to the Mariah Carey standard of contemporary Christmas classics.
“Christmas C’mon,” an upbeat jingle featuring fellow YouTube star Becky G., is a full-frontal assault of Christmas tropes. Mistletoe, snow and fireplaces abound without much additional context to bring meaning to these vague buzzwords.
Stirling draws inspiration from New Orleans jazz in “Warmer in the Winter,” which features the aptly-named trombone player Trombone Shorty. But, Stirling’s violin solo over swinging sleighbells misses all the notes and rhythms that make jazz, well…jazz.
This tune also suffers from contrived lyrics. “Santa is checking twice / Trying to figure out if you are naughty or nice,” Stirling sings, as if her listeners might be unfamiliar with the concept of Santa’s list.
The last original track, “Time to Fall in Love,” features, of all people, All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth. The song explains how the holiday season is the perfect time to (surprise!) fall in love. Seriously, who was the last group to come up with an original concept for a Christmas song? Run-D.M.C.?
You might think the covers, where Stirling doesn’t need to flex her middling songwriting chops, could be this album’s saving grace. They aren’t.
Her “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” is an EDM-backed mess that would make Tchaikovsky glad he didn’t live to hear it. The arrangements on “I Saw Three Ships” and “Silent Night,” where Stirling takes a more traditional approach, are simple and uninspired.
Maybe I’m being too harsh. Despite its many flaws, I can practically guarantee two things about this record: people will buy it and people will love it. Stirling will join the ranks of Michael Bublé and Kenny G. as gimmicky musicians whose Christmas albums probably sound okay blasted over a department store loudspeaker.
But for me, it’s a hard pass.
Charlie Smart is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.