Don’t get me wrong – Merry Christmas II You is not entirely bad. On that note, it’s far from the spectacular iconic first Christmas album from Carey and leaves much to be desired. Like most sequels, Merry Christmas II You has a lot to live up and expectations are high. The moment it was apparent that Mariah’s last album Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel was a bit less than saintly and was panned by many (though I actually liked it a lot), she seemed to go into attack mode. Release another album? Go into hiding as she did with the Glitter fiasco? No, she’d do another Christmas album! The first question on everyone’s mind is a resounding “Why?!” Mariah’s 1990s Merry Christmas is one of those must own albums that is iconic, full of great singing, those mind-numbing high notes and is simply a well produced album. Fast forward to now: Merry Christmas II You is a bit less than perfect. Let’s not even discuss the atrocious cover. Some of the songs just sound entirely too dull and are sung with little feeling; others are unintentionally amusing.
Track by Track:
Perhaps what keeps this album from being so great is the song selection. These songs are just mediocre and most do not require Mariah to rise above her penchant for raspy/whispering singing that she seems to be a fan of these days. First, there’s no singing on “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (Intro)” and really, there’s not even a reason to listen to it. The album really starts with “Oh Santa!” which is one of the original tracks and is very fun, lively, festive with Mariah’s quirky diva humor, tongue-in-cheek lyrics and urban/hip hop flare. Really, it’s one of the few tracks that was really fun and feels worthy of repeating so I can easily see why it was chosen as the first single. “O Little Town of Bethlehem / Little Drummer Boy (Medley)” is another good track; while Mariah does really do more than sing the “rumpa-bum-bum” line, this is probably as close to old school classic Mariah as we’ve gotten in ages. This track and its production is really exemplary and it feels as if it could have easily been part of the first Christmas album, Merry Christmas.
The album hits a bit of a snag with “Christmas Time Is In the Air Again”. It’s a decent song but style wise it doesn’t suit Mariah or this album well. Who does she think is buying her album, my grandmother? It sounds entirely too dated and reserved. Again, she really didn’t show off her vocals and it feels like a performance lacking any real emotion. “The First Noel / Born Is the King (Interlude)” is a song that I’d expect Mariah to really tear up with some ridiculous vocal runs and high notes and go all diva on. Instead, it’s sung straight forward with little decoration and never really takes off … until the breakdown when it gets interesting with a bit of a R&B breakdown reminiscent of the Butterfly era of her career. Really, I wish she’d have taken a bit more of a chance with the entire song rather than saving it for the last minute or so of the song/interlude.
“When Christmas Comes” is stylistically similar to her 2005 track “Fly Like a Bird”; it has a chorus backup, hints of “Jingle Bells” woven throughout the track, but it doesn’t feel very inspired. She does make an attempt to actually sing rather than whisper throughout the track but the track overall left me feeling a bit uninterested and chilly. “Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane) / Housetop Celebration” is a bit hip-hop and has a bass beat that sounds very similar to “Another One Bites the Dust.” I liked this track mainly because it feels a bit more “Mariah” than some of these other lethargic tracks. It’s bouncy, it’s a bit noisy and would make a good background track for a party. Then there’s “Charlie Brown Christmas.” Seriously, were there no other Christmas songs to cover? The first half of the track is the Charlie Brown theme with people chatting and laughing; the rest is Mariah singing the theme from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Really. It feels weird and awkward and as if she was scraping the bottom of the barrel for a song.
“Oh Come All Ye Faithful / Hallelujah Chorus” is probably among the albums best. It features her mother Patricia Carey singing the chorus of “Hallelujah” in her operatic voice and when it’s paired with Mariah finally stepping up to the plate and belting out this song with all the octaves and style she’s known for, it makes for a pretty spectacular vocal treat. The track is more gospel than anything and really, this is what the entire album should have been like. “O Holy Night” is pretty similar to the version from her first Christmas album only this time it’s a live track and reminded me a lot her famous MTV Unplugged session. It was nice to hear her sing live, though the bass/treble on the track seemed to be really loud and created a bit of a distorted sound. “One Child” reminded me a lot of “Jesus Born on This Day” from the first Merry Christmas album. It has a children’s choir and attempts to tug at our hearts but really it had me waiting for her to actually get to singing … which she does little of on this track.
Of course, we’re served another helping of her iconic “All I Want For Christmas Is You” which is tagged as being “extra festive” this go around. Well, it sounded pretty darn close to the original to me with perhaps a little more jingle and piano than the original version. The album ends with “Auld Lang Syne (The New Year’s Anthem)” ends the album on a real festive note: it’s basically a 1990s techno-influenced take on the old holiday classic. Now really, this track is truly festive and is only ruined by Mariah talking toward the end and asking, “Does anyone really know the words? Might as well sing a long.” Now if only she’d put this much festivity and personality into half of the other tracks!
Though I’m a bit let down overall by this effort, I’m glad Mariah put out another CD this year and that she didn’t completely go hip-hop or too urban on it. I would have preferred a bit more of the old school Mariah who’d tear up each track and perhaps a bit more of the gospel treatment that made 1994′s Merry Christmas such a stand-out album. There are a few really good tracks – “O Come All Ye Faithful / Hallelujah Chorus” is really the Mariah Carey we’ve been missing all these years – no hip-hop, no autotune, no special effects just “the voice” completely dominating on a track. Still, this would make a great album to have playing in the background at a party because it feels a bit more geared as background music than something you’d sit down and listen to on your own.
Listen to These: “O Come All Ye Faithful / Hallelujah Chorus (Featuring Patricia Carey”, “Auld Lang Syne (The New Year’s Anthem)”, “O Little Time of Bethlehem / Little Drummer Boy (Interlude)”, “Oh Santa!”
What did you think of this review?