on November 2, 2010
Mariah Carey's "Merry Christmas II You" is as soothing - and ideally suited - for the season as a warm, restorative cup of cocoa. It is cool, classy and uncalculated, confidently delivering holiday cheer.
Carey's 1994 "Merry Christmas" collection - which yielded "All I Want For Christmas Is You," perhaps the biggest hit of her career - was sprinkled generously with formal elegance and vocal bombast, although in welcome doses. "Merry Christmas II You" is not Carey's attempt to recapture that same formula but rather to offer a more festive, relaxed counterpart that complements the first album well. She no longer has anything to prove, so she can afford subtlety.
Lead single "Oh Santa!" is a cute pop record that - quite transparently - revisits the theme of "All I Want for Christmas Is You." With its rhythmic handclapping and vibrant background vocal work it strikes a resemblance to Outkast's "Hey Ya!" It is endearing, extroverted and giddy-sweet, though it jars a bit with the languid, milky sweet soul that characterizes most of the album.
On the likes of "The First Noel/Born Is the King (Interlude)" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem" Carey is blissfully understated. She sings the songs with grace, sweetness and maternal warmth rather than the youthful exuberance that colored 1994's "Merry Christmas," unleashing those signature high notes only at climactic moments. Those who listen for vocal acrobatics will not find a surplus of them - rather, just the right amount. She also makes interesting song choices - such as "Christmas Time Is Here (Charlie Brown Christmas)" - which suit this style.
"Christmas Time Is in the Air Again" is so slinky, precious and delicate that it only begins to call attention to itself after a few spins, but it is an exceptional track - another fine original that, like "All I Want for Christmas Is You," shows Carey's gift for timelessness as a writer. It is romantic, elegant and soul-stirring enough to arouse emotions without breaking the yuletide mood. "One Child" is another cornerstone original - a serious moment worthy of working its way into church hymn books. It is dignified, restrained, sincere and devout, with a lovely children's choir.
Carey's mother Patricia provides operatic vocals on "O Come All Ye Faithful/Hallelujah," which will surprise those listeners previously unaware that her mother's career as an opera singer gave rise to Carey's talent. The elder Carey sounds wonderful, and the blending of both their voices not only invokes sweet sound but the warmth of family.
The live rendition of "O Holy Night" is only partially live; some portions (generally, the most vocally challenging) of it are lifted right from the 1994 recording, while other moments are clearly live. It is fine listening, but it is also baffling. The updated version of "All I Want for Christmas Is You" is almost indistinguishable from the original - good news for those torn between which of Carey's Christmas albums to purchase.
"Merry Christmas II You" is a fine testament to Carey's enduring talent and generation-defining voice. The prospect of a recession-informed Christmas - one where fewer presents will be beneath the tree - is a very real one this season, but the presence of this album on the stereo will go a long way to putting smiles on faces, rejuvenating spirits and underscoring the real meaning of Christmas.
on November 2, 2010
There's something for everyone on this album -everyone who loves Christmas and Carey's voice- and yet neither the quality or cohesiveness of the work are compromised.
A thrilling experience, Merry Christmas II You evokes fond memories of wintertimes; and where there's none, it proves to be very inspirational. To quote from the original 'Christmas Time Is in The Air Again' "Mr. Grinch simply can't resist/Warming up when he looks our way".
While Mariah Carey's first holiday album 'Merry Christmas' gave us the adored gem of a song 'All I Want For Christmas Is You', it was mainly a record that focused on the young artist and showcasing her talents. Far less self-conscious, 'Merry Christmas II You' puts YOU, the listener, center-stage. Here's a track-to-track analysis as to how it achieves that:
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town: A half-minute intro with NO VOCALS, it will warm your way to this sonic ride with bells and a timeless Christmas melody.
Oh Santa!: The album vocal opener is a festive fusion of Christmas bells, claps and background vocals over which Mariah's lyrics and voice race with the exuberance that often fills our hearts when we realize the holiday is fast approaching.
O Little Town of Bethlehem/Little Drummer Boy Medley: The first traditional song shares with its predecessor the magical sounds and sonic twinkles, gradually braking the rapid pace to the beat of the classic drum and vocal soaring of Mariah.
Christmas Time Is in The Air Again: The pace is slow and warm now, giving more room for a song that is more about content than distracting production. The lyrics and delivery of the those are evocative and heart-warming. Snuggle up with hot chocolate for full enjoyment.
The First Noel/Born Is The King: Another solid medley that takes its time, as Mariah Carey's signature melismatic unwrap the word 'Noel', sounding it out over and over again until the ambiance of the song becomes that of transcendental bliss. Twenty seconds after the 3 minute mark, the same treatment is given to 'Born Is The King' for a magical ending.
When Christmas Comes: This Jazzy number introduces horns and picks up the pace. A classic Mariah Carey mid-tempo cut, this song is reminiscent of 'The Emancipation of Mimi', which was in many ways a gift to Carey, her fans, and avid music listeners.
Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)/Housetop Celebration: A song done right! Yes, the beat is faster, and the voice more restrained, but that is for a greater overall effect: the chorus and Christmas 'noise' will remind you of Christmas classics you watched on TV.
Charlie Brown Christmas: Thoroughly reimagined, this song carries on with the same feeling of inner joy, warmth and transcendental music. This song paves way to the album's undeniable true gift.
O Come All Ye Faithful/Hallelujah Chorus (feat. Patricia Carey): Significant on so many levels, and powerful beyond comprehension, this song finds Mariah Carey FINALLY introducing her listeners to the voice that molded her. Patricia's operatic voice and Mariah's stratospherically high notes blend and race to deliver THE BEST version of this Christmas classic. Your jaw will drop.
O Holy Night -Live from WPC In South Central Los Angeles: Another grand song, the live version of O Holy Night overflows with Carey's unmatchable vocal runs and high notes. Goose bumps and smiling heart, you will be transported to the middle of a Christmas concert.
One Child: By this song, you realize that Mariah Carey has enlisted grand choirs for the last three songs, taking you from one-on-one late-night-by-the-Christmas-tree vocal rides to communal festivities. 'One Child' is a beautiful song with a choir of children that will take you back to those school productions with your parents and/or children.
All I Want For Christmas Is You -Extra Festive: Indeed, this album is 'II You'. Mariah knows that this song is the modern Christmas classic that EVERYONE sings along to: at work, in school, on the way to the market, everywhere! And what better way to make it extra festive than to introduce it with the joyous chorus that we love to sing on the top of our lungs?!!
Auld Lang Syne -The New Year's Anthem: BEST VERSION of the song E.V.E.R.! The big vocals in the intro, the countdown, and the repetition of the chorus over dance music, Mariah's laughs and ad-libs -everything about this song is done to add cheer to your new year eve celebration!
This album overflows with Christmas cheer and transcendental festive moments. It will make your Christmas that much merrier. A great gift and a solid work.
on November 5, 2010
This album is great for old and new fans of Mariah. It's got everything from traditional standards to originals that Mariah co-wrote. Plus, she still has an amazing voice. :) You can dance to some of the songs on here like "Oh Santa" and "Auld Lang Syne." Strongly recommend!
on November 11, 2010
I've decided to post my review here, in addition to some commentary about Mimi's famous whisper that seems to annoy so many of you in Amazonland.
1)Why does Mariah whisper? Because of those famous vocal nodules that produce the dog-whistle notes that register as high up as G-sharp, a sound usually associated with dolphins, of all things! (google it, I kid you not.) The medical miracle of those nodules differs when she sings from head voice (in her case a whisper, breathing through the nose) and chest voice (producing the mezzo-alto range of her "belting" which comes from breath at the top of the diaphragm, pushing through the lungs.) Belting can only be sustained for about 2 hours before vocal chords become sore. I, too, studied opera, and am a soprano so this is my best explanation. These same nodules also sustain the trademark melisma (google that, too) that allows Mariah to stretch one or two phrases into many notes, frequently up and down in a given scale/octave. It's a combination of vocal inflection, breath control, and the magical oddity inherent in her own style, often imitated but never equalled. I love it, so no complaints from me.
2)Most singers would opt to have those nodules lasered off from their vocal chords, but she has made it her trademark. Listen very carefully to her speaking voice, and you will see the rasping quality "peek" out from time to time. While magnificent, Mariah herself has stated that she didn't enjoy the discipline of vocal training and I can tell you it's a commitment like no other. So, what you hear, while fantastic, is essentially an untrained voice in the "classically schooled" sense. Regardless, there is much flavor and tone in these songs and Christmas music is enjoyable, in my book, any way you slice it. If any sopranos/mezzos/altos would like to debate me? I welcome your review. And now, for my review.
This is nothing like her 1994 classic, but that is NOT a bad thing. She has grown, she has changed as an artist and a soon-to-be-Mommy! How fitting is it that Jesus and his birth is so much a part of the album's landscape as she goes through her first pregnancy? This fact is tender and moving on its own.
Let us remember that Tommy Mottola pushed her through record after record. Mariah released 6 albums in 6 years from 1990-1995 without a break, numerous appearances and three mini-world tours not only to fulfill her contract, but obviously to make living with Tommy easier. She was pushed hard by Sony execs during those years, so give her a break! The original album will always stand on its own merit. This record is lush, jazzy, and very classic in the "old-time" variety show sense of the 1970's, and I am old enough to remember that since she and I are the same age. True fans get who she is now, not the packaged "pop princess" that Sony wanted the world to see. She has nothing to prove vocally, we know she can hit the high notes. She enjoys every note of these songs and the arrangements musically, are spectacular!
"Charlie Brown Christmas (Christmas Time is Here)" originally recorded by a children's choir for Vince Guaraldi of Snoopy fame, is my favorite track. I have heard everyone from Patti Austen to Patti LaBelle to the Manhattan Transfer sing this song both live and on record, and Mimi gets it right: sweet, jazzy, gentle and reminiscent of snowflakes falling on a mid-December day, a soft wind tapping at the window.
The true test of Christmas music is if you clamor to play it during the summer, the spring, or any time that is not near November or December. This records meets that mark.
Like the original, there is a respectful spirituality that speaks to the gospel experience, but also a childlike playfulness that we all remember while waiting for Santa, stirring hot cocoa and decorating our trees. There is something here for everyone: classical, and it's wondrous that she added her mom to the mix in her mom's mezzo splendor; secular, with visions of snow, santa, gifts, love, family and good cheer; and flat-out festive: "Oh Santa" and "Auld Lang Syne" are destined to become classics: the first for its jamming beat, which kids will love, and the second to be blared all over dance clubs come this December 31st and beyond.
I was particularly pleased to hear the inclusion of "O Holy Night" live, which only appeared as a video on her 2005 "Merry Christmas" dual DVD release. That, too, is worth purchasing. Absent is "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", which I prayed she'd include on MC II You, which appeared on the Australian release of "Merry Christmas" as an 11th song. I have five copies of the first MC, and all the singles/promos. I'm ready for the deluxe set of this album, and I'm enjoying the HSN exclusive DVD of how she recorded this album, a must for many critics here who need to see with their own eyes exactly the energy and time it takes to create in a studio setting.
Bottom line: How many people here took a while to get into the first album? Are we that fickle to play it once and toss it away? We all loved the joyfulness that is 1994"s "All I Want...", but did you jump into the rest of those songs at once? I doubt it and I suspect this will be much the same with this release.
Keep playing it over and over, it will grow on you. The joy of Christmas tunes is that they lend themselves to many interpretations and open a door to allow new memories in, while cherishing those of the past. Merry Christmas, Mimi and Nick. I know your baby will be beautiful!
on November 11, 2010
I recently purchased this album and was not really sure what to expect. While I thought Emancipation of Mimi was a return to Mariah's former glory, her follow-up to that album, E=MC2, fell short in my opinion. So I really tried to go into listening to this album with an open mind and not let the things I didn't like about Mariah's last album cloud my judgement.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised on some of the songs, while others I could take or leave.
The first song, Oh Santa is starting to grow on me. It's upbeat and fast and I think it will fare well with younger listeners.
Christmas Time Is In The Air Again is definitely more my style. I feel the vocals on this track are more lush than some of Mariah's more recent recordings. It was a nice change of pace and reminded me of a Mariah from 10 years ago.
The good vibes continued on what I consider the standout track on this album vocally which is When Christmas Comes. This song showcases Mariah in all of her former glory. The vocals are thick and rich and, dare I say, powerful. I like the vibe of the song, which is decidedly more old school. It reminds of Subtle Invitation from her Charmbracelet album.
I was also pleased that there were NO guest appearances. Finally, an album that is all Mariah and no bric a brac from a bunch of "Rappers O' The Day." It was nice to be able to listen to this album from beginning to end and not have to skip tracks.
Mariah's version of O Come All Ye Faithful/Hallelujiah Chorus seems ill conceived. I get that she wanted to include her mother's operatic vocals on the album, but it seems poorly placed and not very well supported. Her mother's vocals, which sound formidable in their own right, seem to be underutilized. There was more than enough room in the Hallelujiah Chorus to find a place for her to shine and I think they missed the opportunity here.
I'm not really sure why O Holy Night and All I Want for Christmas Is You (Festive Version) were included on this album. They seem more like filler than "event" songs. There's virtually no difference between these versions of the recordings and the versions that appear on her first Christmas album.
Auld Lang Syne, the last song of the album is fun in a cheeky kind of way. I'm sure it will be a hit in the clubs, given its up-tempo treatment. However, with that said, I really don't think anyone should sing this song except Ella Fitzgerald, since I've yet to hear a treatment that compares to it.
So, all in all, I think this was a good effort from Mariah. She sounded like she was in good voice for the entire album. She continues to experiment with a different sound vocally and while I am tempted to agree with other reviewers that her nasally/baby talk/whispery voice is a cover up for a degradation in her ability to sing with the same power as she used to, I don't buy it. To get tehcnical for a moment, it is very clear that Mariah's usage of this technique is intentional. It provides a different dimension to the vocals and while it is interesting to hear how she choose to apply it to the lyrics, it is actually more taxing on the voice to swtich in and out of the whispery voice to the full voice than if she just chose one style to sing in. I think this is Mariah's way of continuing to distance herself from her former image and what better way to do that then sounding different, but I digress...
If you like "Full-Voice" Mariah, download the following songs: Oh Santa, Christmas Time Is In The Air Again, When Christmas Comes, O Holy Night, All I Want For Christmas Is You and Auld Lang Syne
If you like "Nasally/Baby Talk/Whispery" Mariah - download the following songs: O Little Town of Bethlehem/Drummer Boy Medley, The First Noel/Born Is the King Interlude, Here Comes Santa Claus, Charlie Brown Christmas, One Child
If you like "Combination" Mariah and want to hear her mom sing - download: O Come All Ye Faithful/Hallelujiah Chorus.
If you like no Mariah vocals and don't want to her her mom sing - download: Santa Claus Is Coming to Town Intro
Having bought and reviewed Mariah's first Christmas album, I expected that this album would be a similar type of album. So it proved, as it features another mix of Christmas classics and originals that Maria co-wrote with others. Three songs from the first album re-appear here in a different form, these being Santa Claus is coming to town (this time only as a brief intro to open the album), O holy night (here as a live version) and a re-recording of All I want for Christmas is you (described as extra festive).
The new songs that Mariah wrote for this album are Oh| Santa!, Christmas time is in the air again, When Christmas comes and One child, which are all excellent though I'll be pleasantly surprised if any of them becomes a big hit single. Indeed, maybe Mariah acknowledges that by her decision to include a new version of All I want for Christmas is you. However, I found the other original songs on Mariah's first Christmas album to be most enjoyable and the four new songs here are up to their standard.
One obvious change from her first Christmas album is that most of the Christmas classics are paired in medleys, but being only two-song medleys, you hear plenty of each featured song. However Charlie Brown Christmas (rarely recorded) and Auld Lang Syne appear in full on their own.
This album is unlikely to change anybody's mind about Mariah Carey, but she has plenty of fans around the world is this album is clearly for them first and foremost. I am not a diehard fan of Mariah's, but I do appreciate her ability as singer, as songwriter and as an interpreter of other people's songs. I have no hesitation in recommending this album to anybody who also enjoys at least some of her earlier music.
on November 15, 2010
When I first heard Mariah was going to release a new Xmas album, I didn't think she would do a good job as her 1st one 16 years ago. But Mariah proved me wrong. This set is AMAZING. Great vocals, you have a mix of everything on here uptempos,slow jams,ballads its very good. I LOVE 'Christmas time is in the air' sounds like something str8 out of the 50's. 'when christmas comes' is very soulful a Donny Hathaway kinda song very nice vocals on it. I bought copies for family members for christmas will be playing her 1st xmas album and this one back 2 back for many, many years to come.
on November 22, 2010
I am a HUGE fan of MC and when I heard she was coming out with this record, I was sooo thrilled. This CD is everything Merry Christmas is and more! The duet with her mom is just stunning. I was fortunate enough that I got this record off of HSN with the exclusive DVD which is also absolutely incredible. If you got it with the DVD then you know what I mean. If you don't have this CD, please make this a holiday purchase. You will NOT be disappointed. This CD is truly a great CD.
Thanks MC for blessing us with another taste of the holiday season with Merry Christmas II You!
on January 2, 2013
We bought this CD thinking it would have a similar style as Mariah's first Christmas CD. What we didn't realize is that in the late 1990s (after the release of her first Christmas CD), Ms. Carey began using what she calls a "whisper register" in her songs; basically it is a really breathy sound, and it is not at all attractive. I personally love the power behind Mariah's full voice, and I literally cringe every time she sings in her whisper register on this album. Furthermore, she switches back and forth between her full and whisper registers enough to give the listener whiplash. Also, the arrangements of the songs on this CD were not fun to listen to, and the tracks felt very cluttered. Finally, some of the tracks continue well past the point they should have ended. Over all, this CD was a huge letdown, full of breathiness, and not pleasing to the ear. Don't waste your money.
Indeed, Mariah's first Christmas album has become a timeless classic, and she accomplished a not so easy feat of landing an original Christmas track in the canon of Christmas favorites with All I Want for Christmas. When I saw there was a 'remix' of the song on here, I was concerned that the album was going to depend on the familiar hit to gain any attention. As for the remix, it isn't overly remixed and the changes are charming, but what stands out is the orchestral intro to the song--it's phenomenal and essentially takes Mariah's song and gives it a Carpenters' Christmas touch. It truly would fit in as an interlude between songs on one of the Carpenters' Christmas albums.
But getting past the tried and true, As with her first album, sure she covers some standards, but the real treasures here are some of the originals. Oh Santa may not be as classic as All I Want for Christmas, but I think it's going to definitely become a staple of the season because it is incredibly catchy. Other unique Christmas songs include Christmas Time is in the Air Again, When Christmas Comes and One Child, but I'm particularly drawn to a couple of uptempo, contemporary takes on old favorites. Here Comes Santa Claus is infectious in this adaptation with a funky hip hop groove, and Auld Lang Syne gets an all out club vibe--I really hope this song gets remixed into a traditional 10 minute Mariah club track (as they did with Joy to the World from her first Christmas album). It's also fun that Mariah took on the Charlie Brown Christmas theme. The only track I didn't find necessary here is the live version of Oh Holy Night. If I'm going to listen to the song, I'll listen to the original studio version from the first album.
One last thing, what makes this album extra special is that Mariah has actually brought back some of the background vocalists from the first Christmas album, which really helps capture the feel of the first album because the vocals are very distinct.