Carey’s holiday album flops

Usually when you see a Christmas album by an artist, it is either a thinly veiled attempt at bolstering a faltering career or a cash-grab intended to exploit the popularity of a hot artist. When Mariah Carey released her first Christmas album 16 years ago, it was largely due to the latter as she was one of the hottest selling artists of the 1990s.
In the present day, Merry Christmas II You might be seen as more of the former as Carey has certainly not retained her former popularity. There was certainly no call for another Christmas record by her, or anyone else for that matter, but here it is.
From the very beginning of the album, Carey seems aware of the potential blast to her artistic relevance, going abruptly from a short traditional medley of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” to the modern beat of the lead single “Oh Santa!”
It is a disturbing mash of hand-claps and Christmas platitudes and will likely be seen as a dated product of today’s music scene, even 12 months from now.
Where the album performs better are in the slow ballads that have always been Carey’s trademark. Even with her considerable vocal ability, she mostly remains in the sweet spot of her range, bringing a transparent interpretation to songs such as “The First Noel.”
Unfortunately, Carey and her producers cannot resist over-producing these songs, and the adornments that are added bring little to them. At the end of “The First Noel,” a generic R&B beat barges in as Carey starts doing vocal improvisations. It is the sort of thing that is probably fun to sing but not very fun to listen to.
Despite these strange production detours, there are a few unexpected and inspired moments. I probably never needed to hear Mariah Carey sing the Charlie Brown Christmas song, but it is not bad in a wedding reception sort of way.
There are few singers that could do a better job with “O Holy Night,” and hearing this particular song in a live situation highlights Carey’s vocal ability in all its glory.
Besides this, there are a couple of decent Christmas ballads such as “One Child” and “When Christmas Comes.”
In a sea of Christmas cheer, brought far too soon year after year, these are pleasant and inviting. Less pleasant is the “extra festive” version of Carey’s earlier Christmas hit “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Apparently, the prescription for Christmas fever is more sleigh bells.
I can think of no album that is less necessary to purchase. The best songs will make it to radio, and the worst can live on in future Christmas bargain bins.
However, if you are a Mariah Carey fan who loves it when radio stations switch to Christmas songs on Nov. 1, you will adore this. It has a train wreck fascination, and, for better or worse, there remains no singer quite like Mariah Carey. Only she could close this album with a strange Euro-Pop version of “Auld Lang Syne” and get away with it.

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