Two Holiday Recommendations and Signing Off for 2017

Well, dear reader, it's becoming a holiday tradition for me sign off from the blog in November. Much like 2016, this year presented a lot of social and political challenges. I am looking forward to holiday celebrations with family and friends. I also want to break from the blog to focus on some writing projects that need my love and attention as I look forward to 2018.

Before I sleigh away for the season, I wanted to make two holiday music recommendations. As you know, holiday music brings me a lot of joy and these are the projects on my mind this year.

Whitney Houston's One Wish: The Holiday Album

Surprisingly, One Wish is Houston's only holiday release. Though she often took long gaps between records, Houston's voice is such a good fit for the seasonal fair I am always curious why her label never encouraged more Christmas recordings from the singer. Perhaps Houston had limited interest in the material. Regardless, her holiday album is a pleasant throwback record that capitalizes on the  sound of her synthesizer-based 80s records. She delivers the material with enthusiasm, selling even the melodramatic and gaudy tracks--especially the title track, which was a modest hit.

Looking at the record in the context of her personal and professional life also enriches the album. One year prior (2002), Houston released the least successful album of her career--the abrasive Just Whitney--and struggled through its disastrous "crack is whack" press junket. Following those debacles, Houston took a step back, traveling to Israel on a holy pilgrimage. After that journey, she recorded and released One Wish, and it marks the dawn of a spiritual and creative reawakening for the singer.  Though I Look to You (2006) wouldn't arrive for another three years, One Wish and I Look are sister records, focusing on Houston's strengths as a soul singer whose gospel background allowed  her to breathe personality into Adult Contemporary fair.

Houston is still in great voice on One Wish. Her belting has some ragged edges, but all in all her delivery is energetic and flexible. Some tracks are playful and fun, like her funky take on "Deck the Halls," but the best material is her interpretation of hymns, including a lovely "O Holy Night" and tour-de-force "O Come O Come Emanuel."  Many listeners forget about One Wish, but check it out if you want a traditional holiday record. It's an album about returning home to heal--a sensibility many listeners may find comforting this season.

"Santa's Coming for Us" by Sia

Now that I've recommended a classic, I want to praise something new. The lead single from Sia's upcoming Everyday is Christmas, "Santa's Coming for Us" has already snatched the crown for the best new holiday pop tune. It's quintessential Sia--melodramatic, playful, a little off kilter. The track is mix of Cyndi Lauper's quirky Merry Christmas... Have a Nice Life and Mariah Carey's high-octane classic, "All I Want for Christmas." I am excited for her album's release on November 17th. How often do we get a record of ten holiday originals? Merry Christmas, indeed.

And with that, I wish you a beautiful holiday season, dear reader. I hope to see you back here, happy and healthy in the new year. May we all find some joy and hope this season.

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