Which New Christmas Album Should You Play At Your Holiday Party?

The holidays are fast approaching, and most stores and even a few radio stations have been playing festive jams since late October or so. If you drive a lot or work in retail, you have probably already heard so much Christmas music that you fall asleep to the phantom sound of sleigh bells. But some people are really, really into Christmas music, and there comes a special time in every musical artist’s career where a holiday compilation album is made because of reasons / money / Christmas cheer? There are a host of new ones that have dropped this year. But, if you must have seasonal music, which is right for your holiday gathering? 

Cee-Lo Green – Cee-Lo’s Magic Moment

When more people know you as a judge on a popular reality singing competition than for being half of Goodie Mob, it’s about that time in your career to release a Christmas album. And as far as Christmas albums go, you could do worse than Cee-Lo’s—a catchy original here, a faithful and exuberant cover of Stevie Wonder’s “What Christmas Means to Me” there. There are no real surprises but some nice gems, as well as some not-so-nice ones. A cover of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” with college a cappella group Straight, No Chaser is well-intentioned and probably seemed like a cute idea in planning stages, but ultimately feels out of place.

This is one of the more versatile options, appropriate for both the family-friendly affair and the loud, boozy party involving ugly holiday sweaters you purchased ironically knowing full well someone’s grandma probably lovingly made them and spent hours on them and is a little bit hurt by your mockery. Plus one of the album’s few original Christmas songs—“All I Need Is Love”—has a video involving the Muppets and The Office’s Craig Robinson, and it’s quite enjoyable.

Sufjan Stevens – Silver & Gold

No one does holiday-music overkill quite like Sufjan Stevens, who has released five more seasonal EPs that will likely be the staple of every sorta-trendy holiday party, independent coffee shop throughout the month of December or religious service led by @HipsterPastor.

The arrangements are lovely, there’s a psyched-out song about a unicorn, a bizarre, synthy take on “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” and at last, Chanukah is thrown a bone with a simple, lovely cover of “Rock of Ages.” It’s a lot of music to get through, but more of it seems fit for lulling you further into a food-and-mulled-wine coma than for a more social affair.

Various Artists – Holidays Rule

Sometime around the mid-‘00s, a whole slew of “A Very Indie Christmas”-type holiday albums began popping up all over the place. We blame this phenomenon on The O.C., and the convergence of Seth Cohen’s indie-middlebrow musical tastes and love of “Chrismukkah” spawning a holiday album that’s probably still in your old bedroom somewhere. This tradition continues with Holidays Rule, a compilation featuring Fruit Bats, AgesandAges, Punch Brothers and The Shins, who do a pretty-okay “Wonderful Christmastime,” but its faults are not really their fault, it’s just that “Wonderful Christmastime” is one of the worst Christmas songs ever. Eleanor Friedberger’s “Santa, Bring My Baby Back (To Me)” and Calexico’s “Green Grows the Holly” are among the highlights. And it’s hard to love the unsettling, creepy “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” but when Rufus Wainwright and Sharon Van Etten assume the roles, we’ll allow it.

It’s an easily digestible and pretty likable set, so it will work in most situations, but seems most fitting for an office party (at a "cool" office), an intimate Secret Santa exchange or a smaller gathering of Your Friends From Home, especially if the host has been playing the O.C. Chrismukkah album for the past eight years and needs a change of sound.

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John – This Christmas

This is Christmas at Your Parents’ House in musical form. Basically, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John got together, made an album of accessible, pretty holiday standards and invited all the people your parents like to join them—Tony Bennett, Babs, Kenny G, James Taylor—the latter with a rendition of “Deck the Halls” that leaves something to be desired and contains a bit too much jolly Renaissance-faire flute. New original “I Think You Might Like It” is bouncy and enthusiastic—it sounds like Travolta and Newton-John are genuinely enjoying singing together again, which is always nice. The holidays are about bringing old friends together, after all. If you need a last-minute contribution to the family holiday party, or something relatively inoffensive for an office party (at an "uncool" office) this should suffice.

Richard Marx – Christmas Spirit

You remember Richard Marx, right? The man probably responsible for the song to which you had your first slow-dance, or perhaps even your first awkward, clumsy hook-up. Well, he’s still doing the thing and has made a Christmas album. There’s just something that sort of makes you cringe when people try to croon earnestly through the “pa-rum-pa-pum-pum” part of “The Little Drummer Boy” and make it sound oh so smooth. It just doesn’t work. Own the “pa-rum-pa-pum-pum,” folks.

Only play this at your holiday party under very specific circumstances. Or whoever made the playlist has food poisoning and can’t make it and the Internet is down so you can’t get to the holiday Pandora station. Or you really, really enjoy reliving repressed memories from Christmas in the ‘80s.

Cee Lo Releasing Ridiculous-Looking Christmas Album

IT IS NOT EVEN HALLOWEEN YET, YOU ASSHOLES. Sorry, I needed to get that out. So. Yes. Cee Lo Green is releasing a Christmas album called Magic Moment, which will be soulful takes on holiday classics. And because this is Cee Lo, the album cover looks redonk.

The actually songs will probably be fine: Christina Aguilera will duet on the date rape-y Baby, It’s Cold Outside and Rod Stewart will duet on Merry Christmas, Baby. Even the Muppets appear on one song.

I just can’t get over the cover, via Releaselog: Cee Lo in a fur coat and a reindeer driving a classic car, which is being pulled by white stallions wearing neck-braces featuring jazzy guitar-shaped flair. 

I would expect nothing less from you, Cee Lo.

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

We’re Breaking Up With ‘The Voice’

You watch too much TV. No, you do. So do I. We all follow too many series and overload our DVRs to the point where we have to spend Sunday afternoons clearing them out like they’re our junk drawer. And there are new shows premiering all the time! Some of them worth a look—okay, most of them aren’t, but SOME. But we can’t just keep piling on like this. We’ve gotta start weeding shows out. On the plus side, if you’re a wonky sort, a good TV purge is often a great way to examine what you’re looking for in your entertainment. What you value. So each week here at BlackBook, we’re going to tell you what show you should be giving up on. It won’t be easy, but it has to be done. This week, we’re letting go of The Voice.

Getting Dumped: The Voice

What’d They Do This Time? Look, we all know why we started watching The Voice. We’d just gotten out of a grueling relationship with American Idol that left us disillusioned and with nightmares about LeeDWyze. At the time, The Voice was as good a rebound choice as anything else. A leopard never changes its spots, after all—we’re always going to need some kind of music-based talent show to rally around. And The Voice had a lot of great elements. For one thing, they seemed to value exactly what their title said they would, preferring impressive vocals over gimmicky, freakshow auditions. And the focus on mentorship, rather than throwing contestants out to the wolves not knowing anything, was a cool twist. But let’s be honest: we had one thing on our minds when we were falling for The Voice: those chairs. They were a brilliant innovation, bringing all the spontaneous excitement of a Whack-a-Mole game to the traditional singing competition. Watching the power shift from the judges one minute (will they hit that button??) to the contestant the next minute (which mentor will they choose??) is legitimately exciting TV.

This is the problem, though: everything that’s great about the show is swiveling around in those chairs, and after the audition rounds are over, there are still weeks—MONTHS, even—to go before the show settles on a winner. Which, also, not for nothing, but can you name one winner of The Voice off the top of your head? Do you even know how many there have been? The simple truth is that the contestants have never been more compelling than the judges, and the later weeks really suffer for that. After multiple seasons of trying to make the middle and later rounds as compelling as those wonderful chair-turning rounds, isn’t it time to admit that this is all the show is capable of offering, thank it for some hot rebound action, and start looking for something more stable?

Anything Else? Carson Daly. Why? Why is Carson Daly? Why is he constantly introducing himself to the families? Do the other judges even know he’s there? We should be fine with not knowing the answers to any of these questions, by the way.

What We’ll Miss: The judges, of course. Their competitive camaraderie is a lot of fun to watch. But that’s actually another reason to call it quits now, with Christina Aguilera and Cee-Lo Green leaving after this season. If the sad last few years of American Idol have taught us anything, it’s that the desperate search for random celebrities to plug into judges’ chairs is a sad spectacle indeed. We’ll be able to get our fill of Adam Levine on American Horror Story, and THAT show will get him naked, so we’re fine with the tradeoff.

What We’ll Have More Time For: The Voice is on two nights a week, for three hours total, so it’s like breaking up with THREE shows at once! Mondays are kind of a wasteland if you’re not into Dancing with the Stars or Bones, though we’ve heard good things about Switched at Birth on ABC Family (seriously!). But on Tuesdays, you’ll have more time for the promising Ben & Kate on FOX. No singing on that one, but Lucy Punch kiiind of looks like Christina Aguilera?

Follow Joe Reid on Twitter.

Booted Contestant Bashes ‘The Voice,’ Coach Cee Lo Green

Do you know who Erin Martin is? Me either, but since this drama is too good to pass up, let’s get educated: Martin was a contestant on NBC’s singing competition show, The Voice, until she was given the boot on Tuesday’s episode by "coach" Cee Lo Green. Now that we’re all caught up, let’s get to the good stuff.

Following her elimination, AccessHollywood.com caught up with Martin, who didn’t mince words when expressing her displeasure with both Cee Lo’s coaching of her and his decision to let her go (emphasis mine):

“Oh my God, I’m so glad to be over this competition. Yes, I’m over it,” Erin told AccessHollywood.com’s Laura Saltman… “[For] the blind audition I gave a fabulous performance, and for my last song I gave a fabulous performance, and for both of those songs I chose my song."

When I gave that creative control over, it kind of just didn’t really go so well,” she added.

The former model also blamed her “Voice” coach, Cee Lo Green (and his song choices), for her early exit.

I think it was a good lesson for Cee Lo in this particular instance that, you know, when you come across a voice like mine, you have to really nurture it and he wasn’t the right person to do that,” she said. “No offense to him, it just, he wasn’t… I’m the right person to nurture my voice.”

Hm. So, if Martin thinks she’s the right person to nurture her voice, then why the hell would she sign up for a reality show whose entire premise is built on the concept of coaches "nurturing" the contestants’ voices? What a ridiculous statement. Sore loser much?

Team Cee Lo! [via ONTD]

See Cee-Lo Green Film Brad Pitt

With TMZ’s cameras seemingly everywhere these days, celebrity magic is bound to happen occasionally, like when the paparazzi approached Cee-Lo Green at LAX the other day. There they were, asking Green about life’s important questions (“What do you think about Lindsay Lohan’s troubles?” “What about Charlie Sheen?”) when a supernova of a man happened to creep by in the background.

That man was, of course, Brad Pitt, who was going through airport security just to feel normal. At that point, TMZ’s guy handed the camera to Cee-Lo, who shaky-cammed Pitt for a hot minute before Pitt’s light force no doubt seared through his shades. What makes this moment so miraculous is that Cee-Lo just sang with Gwyneth Paltrow at the Grammy’s, and Brad Pitt used to sleep with Gwyneth Paltrow! The message here is that, somehow, Gwyneth Paltrow unites us all.

Click here to see the video.

Arcade Fire, Cee-Lo Green Save Grammys from Near-Total Mediocrity

The Grammys, as you may have noticed, happened last night. The usual suspects assembled for an evening that managed to be astonishingly dull despite Lady Gaga’s arriving in a giant egg – in other words, just what you would expect from the Grammys, my personal least favorite awards show. But one thing that will make this year at least slightly more memorable was indie darling Arcade Fire’s eleventh-hour Album of the Year win, plus the unlikely (but not unwelcome!) pairing of Cee-Lo Green and Gwyneth Paltrow.

It’s gotten to the point where I mostly just watch these things because of Twitter. Not to be cynical, and I’m sure they’re very nice people, but Lady Antebellum? Something called Lady Antebellum won four Grammys. And not just weird country Grammys; these guys won Song and Record of the Year. And there was a very real risk that they would win Album of the Year as well, before Arcade Fire intervened and the music blogosphere lost its mind. Today will be a good day to read Hipster Runoff.

Performance-wise, things held together okay. Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, and Barbra Streisand all rose from the dead to perform, as well as that guy who’s in charge of the Grammys who talks every year. This time he had a backup band including Best New Artist, Esperanza Spalding. I almost feel left out that I had heard of her before this, having read her New Yorker profile a while back. Otherwise: Katy Perry? Decent! Justin Bieber and Usher? You can’t possibly say you didn’t enjoy it at least a little. Especially the just-this-side-of-creepy spoken intro, in which Justin tried valiantly to prevent his voice from cracking and it was revealed that Usher picked up Justin in a parking lot. Oh my God, and that one also had Jaden Smith (although conspicuously not Willow) and ninjas.

Rihanna and Drake got on stage and did some things. Eminem, too. Is it just me or is he totally uncharismatic? I miss Slim Shady. Lady Gaga: not her finest moment. Sure, the egg was a nice touch. But the fact is she borrows way too much from Madonna, and now it’s starting to get ridiculous. And that new song sucks. I hope Madge sang “Express Yourself” to herself last night, gazing into the mirror, remembering that she’s the best.

The true highlight of the night (sorry Arcade Fire) has to be Cee-Lo Green and Gwyneth Paltrow (and Muppets!) performing “Fuck You” (or, “The Song Otherwise Known as Forget You,” as the Grammy people kept calling it to my great amusement). Don’t get upset, Arcade Fire’s win was really something. But Cee-Lo dressed as a giant peacock accompanied by the dead-eyed GOOP lady wailing in ebonics, plus a lot of Muppets, singing one of the best singles of the past year? So. Boss. That is why you watch the Grammys.