Xmas Meter key

= Ho ho ho!

= Deck the halls!

= Pass the 'nog, dude!

= Frosty!

= Silent night, please!

= Christmas puke!

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The Xmas meter

Record companies roll out the Christmas and holiday albums, and the Weekly separates the "Jingle Bells" from the "Batman Smells."

Xmas Meter key

= Ho ho ho!

= Deck the halls!

= Pass the 'nog, dude!

= Frosty!

= Silent night, please!

= Christmas puke!

 

Artist: album title (label)

Concept

Jingle Bells

Batman Smells

Percentage of standards

XMas Meter

Rosie O'Donnell: A Rosie Christmas (Columbia)

On this turkey, daytime talk's most shameless ham teams with some of pop's biggest plums to knock the stuffing out of your favorite holiday classics

Perfect for that Rosie fan in your life

Celine Dion? Cher? 'N Sync? Donny Osmond? Yeccchhh. Her media juggernaut needs to end somewhere—like here!

64.3% (71.4% if George Michael's "Last Christmas"—sung by Darren Haynes of Savage Garden—counts)

Various Artists: Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics (American/Columbia)

The fine, God-fearing folks behind South Park present their version of the sounds of the holiday season

Funnier than such utter juvenilia has any right to be

Not quite as funny without the dithering animated construction-paper cutouts to help you along

A surprising 55.6%, though several have been given new, non-standard lyrics, e.g. Cartman's "Here's a little dreidel/That's small and made of clay/But I'm not gonna play with it/'Cause dreidel's fucking gay"

Various Artists: English Village Carols (Smithsonian Folkways)

A highly specialized tramp through the pubs of Sheffield, England, with drunken carollers leading the way; background noise adds to the ambience

Drunken carollers lead the way, mostly singing unaccompanied; it's charming in small doses

It's not much fun unless you've already downed a few pints

100%, though you won't have heard many of these traditionals unless you were raised in a pub

Various Artists: My Christmas Album (MCA)

R&B stars, soul divas, smooth jazzers, and funk up-and-comers salute the season

Mary J. Blige, Rahsaan Patterson, and Amertria come through with pulsing, soulful Christmas tunes

Nearly everyone else gets all Jesus-crazy, with piano music that's straight outta Nordstrom

75%, though one original may become a standard: Avant's silky "Christmas Came to the Ghetto"

Dan Fogelberg: The First Christmas Morning (Morning Sky)

The man who brought you "Auld Lang Syne" goes for a Renaissance feel on his indie Xmas disc

Dan plays a mean guitar, and the tracks that highlight his picking skills create a warm, folksy feel

When he purses his lips and sings, it sounds as if he's got a candy cane stuck up his butt

57%, though Dan edits

the words to some of the

traditionals included here

98 Degrees: This Christmas(Universal)

Everybody's third- (or fourth-) favorite boy-band make like Santa and sleigh the masses

It'll make the little girls swoon

It'll make the rest of you do something else

63.6% (three originals—one reprised—written by the boys' handlers)

Jimi Hendrix: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (Experience Hendrix/MCA)

Spend your holiday season turning on, tuning in, and getting Experienced

World's greatest guitar player; includes "Three Little Bears," a Hendrix original issued on 1972's War Heroes and out of print ever since

Far from essential Hendrix makes this for-collectors-only

67% (50% if you discount the fact that one of the three tracks here is an edited version of another; 75% if you count individual compositions—one song is a medley of two traditional Xmas songs plus "Auld Lang Syne," thus the Happy New Year of the EP's title)

Blowfly: Blowfly Does XXX-Mas (Pandisc)

Potty-mouthed old-school ghetto comic adds bad words to popular Christmas tunes

Perfect for that 12-year-old nephew who can't stop laughing at that one joke whose punchline is "European"

Cheap jokes, cheaper packaging

92.9%, though the back cover states, "All songs . . . are parodies of popular Christmas Carols" ("Baby It's Cold Outside" does not qualify as a Christmas standard)

Low: Christmas (Kranky)

The world's slowest, most melancholic indie-rock band bucks up and tries to exhibit some Christmas cheer

The opening track, Just Like Christmas, is the fastest Low song ever; the whole disc shimmers like an icicle and rings like a sleigh bell (and "Blue Christmas" is exquisite)

If I hear one more version of "The Little Drummer Boy," I'll kill everyone

50%

Ringo Starr: I Wanna Be Santa Claus (Mercury)

Once lovable, now annoying Beatle drummer ties his famously bad voice to a bunch of Christmas-themed originals, and, of course, "The Little Drummer Boy"

Possibly the only Christmas album with bagpipes and tabla; Zak Starkey's nowhere to be seen

Aw, Ringo, you still can't sing

42%; yes, Ringo wrote or co-wrote more than half of these tunes

Nat King Cole: The Christmas Song (Capitol)

The classic, digitally remastered so that a scratchy record won't mar your annual Christmas date with Nat

Nat's voice can still melt snowmen, humans, pets; "O Holy Night" is guaranteed to induce chills

That pesky daughter Natalie disinters dad one more time for a post-mortem collaboration on "The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)"

100%, minus a few spoken-word bits by Nat

Various Artists: Festival of Light (Six Degrees)

Jewish musicians celebrate Hanukkah in song

Diversifies your musical choices for the holiday season; contains fine selections from the Klezmatics and They Might Be Giants

Too new-agey too often

Only 25%, though there really aren't that many Hanukkah standards

 
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