Christmas is about many different things to many different people, but one of the things everyone should feel at some point over the festive period is joy. The Christmas period should be full of fun, happiness, warm hugs, twinkling eyes and the comfort of family and friends around you. And a good Christmas tune should conjure up all those feelings and images.
It’s a pity then that Glee: The Music – The Christmas Album Volume 2 is more like a piece of dry turkey and a squashed mince pie than it is eggnog and golden roast potatoes.
Out of 12 tracks, there is clearly one stand out – Darren Criss and Chris Colfer’s duet on Let It Snow. The pair sang the best song during last year’s Glee Christmas episode – Baby, It’s Cold Outside. That was flirty and fun, and Let It Snow has the same vibe. It’s got great rhythm, the pair’s voices sound wonderful together and it’s a smile-along, singalong tune.
Compared to Let It Snow, the rest of the album is at best slightly above average, and at worst mechanical.
It’s the ballads that tend to work better than the upbeat tunes. Lea Michele’s rendition of Joni Mitchell’s gorgeous River and Kevin McHale’s version of Little Drummer Boy (one of my favourite festive numbers) are pretty good after a couple of listens, as is Damian McGinty’s take on the sad Blue Christmas.
The rest, though? Well, they wouldn’t be on any compilation of Christmas songs I would put together, unless the aim was to bore people.
While Amber Riley has an amazing voice, her version of All I Want for Christmas is You is all about hitting the perfect notes without feeling any of the song. While Naya Rivera’s version of Santa Baby is fun, it’s a little predictable, and Heather Morris doing Christmas Wrapping gives you the feeling she’s just going through the motions.
There are some original compositions on the album as well, which filled me with dread before I even heard them. Glee has tried original numbers before (the most famous and successful being Loser Like Me) but they’ve never been as brilliant as the covers they’ve done.
Christmas Eve With You, an original song with Matthew Morrison and Jayma Mays on vocals, is sleep inducing. The other original, Extraordinary Merry Christmas sung by Criss and Michele, features every Christmas cliche you can think of in its lyrics and is annoyingly catchy, emphasis on the annoying part.
Strangely, the album chooses to feature Lindsey Pearce and Alex Newell, runners-up on The Glee Project, and Samuel Larsen, who won the show with Damian McGinty. It’s strange because it’s an odd time to bring in new vocals (although Pearce has sung on the show once, the others have not yet done so) – Christmas is a time for indulging in the familiar and comforting. Pearce and Newell sing a decent version of Do You Hear What I Hear, while Larsen joins Cory Monteith and Mark Salling on a rocky version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. It would be innovative, if only every other song involving a group of the Glee guys wasn’t a rocky version of whatever they’ve chosen.
Strangest of all, in my opinion, is the decision to cover Do They Know It’s Christmas, originally released by Band Aid. It’s a song with a powerful history, and a song which showed the power of music to help, which is something Glee is all about, seeing as many of the characters find refuge in music. However, covering Do They Know It’s Christmas on an album for a television show demeans the history of the song a little bit, especially considering this version is missing the anger, frustration and determination that the vocalists on the original conveyed.
Glee‘s second attempt at a Christmas album is okay, but okay isn’t what you want for Christmas. You want dancing around the room, avoiding/lingering under* the mistletoe, and smiles on everyone’s faces. My advice – download Let It Snow (plus Blue Christmas, Little Drummer Boy and River if you want some ballads), and use them among the festive tunes of your choice on your own Christmas compilation.
*delete as appropriate