Friday, November 12, 2021

Music Review: We Need a Little Christmas by Pentatonix

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great new Christmas recordings old and new
Cons: A couple of tracks need to grow on me (but are still good)
The Bottom Line:
I missed this last year
But I’m glad I found it now
Great Christmas music

I Didn’t Know I Needed This Disc in My Christmas Collection.  But I Did.

Every year in the fall, I do a search for Pentatonix to see if they have any new music out I’ve missed over the last few months or any plans to release new Christmas music.  Somehow, when I did that search last year, the results failed me because I missed their 2020 release, We Need a Little Christmas.  As soon as I spotted it this year, I snagged a copy, and I’m glad I did.

Pentatonix has released quite a few Christmas CDs over the course of their short career, so you might think they are running out of standards to cover.  I’m sure they are getting close, but they aren’t there yet.  In fact, the disc starts out with a couple of new ones.  We get their take on “12 Days of Christmas” first, and it’s fun.  Their harmonies are tight, and it’s quick moving, making it a pleasure to listen to.  They do switch things up in the later verses, which threw me off at first, but I quickly adjusted.

Other standards on this disc includes “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with a touch of “Run, Rudolph Run” thrown in for good measure, and “My Favorite Things.”  I do argue that the second one isn’t really a Christmas song, but enough people have put it on Christmas albums that it pretty much is at this point.  Later in the disc, we also get “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Happy Holiday.”  I’m not a big fan of that second song, but their version is definitely my favorite so far.

Through the magic of modern technology, Pentatonix joins Bing Crosby and the London Symphony Orchestra for “White Christmas.”  Since they’ve already done this song on their own, this is a nice way to cover it again, this time with the person many people associate most with the song.  This version is beautiful, and I’m certainly not complaining about having it a second time.

One thing I appreciate about Pentatonix’s Christmas releases is their willingness to cover original songs from movies and other artists.  Quite often, these are songs I don’t have in my collection, and they still feel like Christmas right away.  We get several tracks like that here.  Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me” takes on a different flavor here with one of the guy’s taking the lead.  It’s slightly faster, too, and it’s fun.   “Once Upon a December,” from the movie Anastasia, is hauntingly beautiful here.  I wasn’t familiar with the title track before getting this disc either, but I love it!  (And I call myself a musical fan.)

There’s even an original track here.  “Thank You” is a song of appreciation centered around the holidays.  It sounds like to a partner, but it would work for any good friend.

Then there are three tracks that are a stretch to call Christmas songs.  Okay, so I do have “Amazing Grace” on other Christmas releases, but this is the more modern version “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” with the new chorus written by Chris Tomlin.  “When You Wish Upon a Star” is new to a Christmas release for me.  While I don’t consider either of them Christmas songs, I’m not complaining about having them here because both of them are great.  (And maybe Pentatonix should consider doing a project centered on Disney songs?)

The disc ends with “The Seasons of Love” from Rent.  Since the song is about how you measure a year, I get how this could fit on a Christmas release.  My issue is, I’m not a fan of the musical (I find it way too depressing), so I’m trying to focus on the lyrics of the song and not the original source of the song.  When I do that, I think I’ll find that I like it here.

As always, the disc is filled with strong harmonies.  They can sing!  There’s a good mix of fast and slow, and I appreciate that since it keeps me engaged as I listen.

I’m sad I wasn’t able to enjoy We Need a Little Christmas last year, but I’m very glad I got it this year.  I know I will be enjoying it for Christmases to come.

CD Length: 38:33
1. 12 Days of Christmas
2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer/Run, Rudolph Run
3. My Favorite Things
4. Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)
5. Thank You
6. Santa Tell Me
7. Jingle Bell Rock
8. When You Wish Upon a Star
9. Once Upon a December
10. Happy Holiday
11. White Christmas (with Bing Crosby & The London Symphony Orchestra)
12. We Need a Little Christmas
13. Seasons of Love

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