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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, May 28, 2024

'Christmas is Here!' gives Pentatonix fans early delight

cih-cover
The cover of Pentatonix's latest Christmas album, 'Christmas Is Here!,' is pictured.

Following the release of their single “Making Christmas,” a cover from the soundtrack of the critically acclaimed movie “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993), a capella group Pentatonix released their fourth full-length Christmas album on Oct. 26, titled “Christmas Is Here!” Featuring favorites like “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Jingle Bells,” the album also boasts collaborations with industry staples Kelly Clarkson and Maren Morris. The album, currently available on all major steaming platforms, is another solid entry in Pentatonix’s repertoire.

As with any Pentatonix album, every song features impeccable harmonies that emanate flawlessly from the group’s five singers. The opening track, “What Christmas Means to Me,” establishes an upbeat doo-wop tune that invites listeners to partake in the holiday festivities and is a fantastic start to the album. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” is jazzy and plaintive, establishing a unique twist on the well-known classic. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” is another solid track, showcasing the group’s ability to insert their new-age flair into classic Christmas songs. The almost-melancholic chords resonate with a well-timed staccato harmony.

“Grown-Up Christmas List,” originally sung by Amy Grant in 1992, features Kelly Clarkson, who infuses equal measures of strength and tenderness into the song by periodically soaring into her strong upper register. The song’s wish for peace and healing across the world is beautiful when combined with Pentatonix’s stable backing vocals and Clarkson’s inspiring voice. It ends on an ambiguous hum that echoes before fading out, perhaps signifying the group’s own wish for peace this holiday season. Clarkson truly shines here on one of the album’s best tracks.

Prefaced by the timeless and choral “Greensleeves (Interlude),” the group’s cover of the modern “Sweater Weather” is that much more unexpected, but nonetheless delightful, though it’s not a traditional holiday song. “When You Believe" (with Maren Morris) is not quite as successful as Clarkson’s feature, but Morris’ voice is pure if not entirely inspiring, and the song is still a solid cover.

“Waltz of the Flowers" seems impossible to sing well considering its lack of words, but Pentatonix is nothing if not extremely talented, and the group’s cover sounds like a vibrato-laden melody which Tchaikovsky himself would applaud. Following hot on its heels, “Here Comes Santa Claus” is a well-sung but safe adaptation, with moments of baritone and an exhilarating acceleration near the end saving it from becoming too identical to the album’s other tracks.

“Making Christmas” is a song not often heard on Christmas albums, but Pentatonix channels the charming horror of “A Nightmare Before Christmas” by utilizing unnerving vibrato, screeching refrains and repetitive chanting to create the perfect melody for their hybrid Halloween-Christmas track. Certainly the album’s most original song, it also happens to be its strongest, showcasing the best of Pentatonix.

The album closes on a strong note, with the final two songs seamlessly reflecting one another. “Where Are You Christmas?” is mournful and expressive; its slow pace couples with soaring vocals that allow the song to run its course and establish a genuine, emotional impact. On the other hand, “Jingle Bells” is quintessential Pentatonix: upbeat and backed by a fast tempo. The song feels refurbished for modern society, with rapid speed changes making listeners feel as if they, too, are racing along in a “one-horse open sleigh.” The song ends on a held note that dissolves into ascending doo-wops, and just like that, the sleigh ride is over.

While Pentatonix are admittedly a few weeks early in proclaiming “Christmas Is Here!," their album is welcomed. While some tracks fail to impress, the album features more than enough standouts to sell itself as a success. It will certainly be a treat for fans of the group’s uniquely modern sound.

Summary Pentatonix's "Christmas is Here!" is a wonderful collection of refurbished holiday classics sure to please any a capella fan.
4 Stars