It’s the most wonderful time of the year again, and with it comes the ever-growing roster of holiday tunes to sing along to all season long. If you’re anything like me, that season kicks off as soon as the clock strikes midnight on Oct. 31. Perhaps it’s a bit early, certainly too early for decorations and such, but since December is such a busy time of year, I like to extend the holiday season into November so I can enjoy the movies, music and holiday specials a little longer.
That being said, it’s easy to become bored with the same music on repeat for two months. While I love Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” just as much as the next person, you begin to loathe hearing those opening notes after hearing it on the radio 7,000 times.
Therefore, in an effort to freshen up your holiday playlists, I’ve compiled a list of the best new holiday music to come out of 2021.
“When Christmas Comes Around” by Kelly Clarkson
Of all the entries on this list, I’d have to say that Clarkson’s album is not only my favorite, but the most anticipated album of the holiday season. Clarkson already has a track record for creating great holiday content, with 2013’s studio album, “Wrapped in Red” garnering substantial success for Clarkson. “Wrapped in Red” and “Underneath the Tree” became instant holiday classics that live on the radio to this day. “When Christmas Comes Around,” however, hums a much different tune. In accordance with Clarkson’s messy divorce from former-spouse Brandon Blackstock in June of 2020, Clarkson’s songs about love and romance by the fireplace have been traded for songs of resentment and moving on.
Sound depressing? Not really. In fact, the songs of Clarkson’s new album are even more exciting than on “Wrapped in Red,” as Clarkson is not afraid to let loose as she strikes out on her own. The high energy and catchy lyrics are perfect for any Christmas party or for getting through the holidays after a difficult break-up. Clarkson is sure happy the holidays are here, and you will be too, if you tune into her new album.
Recommended songs: “Christmas Isn’t Canceled (Just You)” and “Santa, Can’t You Hear Me (ft. Ariana Grande”
“Evergreen” by Pentatonix
The group that put a cappella on the radio is back at it again with another holiday album. From “That’s Christmas to Me” in 2014, “A Pentatonix Christmas” in 2016, “Christmas is Here!” in 2018 and “The Best of Pentatonix Christmas” in 2019, they have complied another roster of holiday favorites in 2021’s “Evergreen.” I will admit that the titular song, “Evergreen,” is not my favorite, but the upbeat nature of several classic songs have brought new life to songs not sang outside of the 1950s.
Recommended songs: “I Saw Three Ships” and “The Prayer”
“Happiness is…Christmas” by Kristin Chenoweth
Best known to her fans by her Broadway roots, Chenoweth has channeled this energy in the creation of her latest album. The lead track, “Happiness (Is Christmas) /Christmas Time is Here” is a revamp/mashup of “Christmas Time is Here” from the classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and the final song “Happiness” from the Broadway musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” (the production in which Chenoweth won a Tony Award). Chenoweth’s energy comes through in each of the songs on the album. Sometimes there’s no beating a classic, but she comes pretty close. For those looking to hear more of Chenoweth, she will be performing at Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts this Saturday evening with selections from this very album.
Recommended songs: “Happiness (Is Christmas) /Christmas Time is Here”
In addition to albums, several artists have released new holiday singles, with my favorites including: “Merry Christmas” by Ed Sheeran and Elton John, “You Deserve It All” by John Legend, “(Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man With The Bag” by Darren Criss and Adam Lambert, “Stretchy Pants” by Carrie Underwood and “Officially Christmas” by Dan + Shay. Happy holidays and happy listening!