Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, who call themselves She & Him for obvious reasons, have teamed up for a Christmas album, A Very She & Him Christmas. But they’re not the only girl-gal duo exchanging verses and stockings this year. The following playlist covers more duets – some naughty, some nice.
- I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Scarlett Johansson and the late Dean Martin (from Martin’s My Kind of Christmas): The dewy actress dubs her neutral voice alongside Dino’s boozy baritone for the season’s most unexpected (and inessential) virtual duet – “If only in my dreams. ... ”
- Slumber My Darling by Alison Krauss, with Yo-Yo Ma (from An Appalachian Christmas by Mark O’Connor and friends): Neither new, seasonal nor particularly Appalachian, but a dreamy version of the Stephen Foster song nevertheless.
- Christmas Coming Home by the Stellas: The Canadian country duo of Brad and Marylynne Stella crackle and pop brightly, like a yule log at a Friday-night homecoming.
- All I Want for Christmas Is You by Justin Bieber and Mariah Carey (from Bieber’s Under the Mistletoe): The Biebs emotes like crazy as Mariah Carey taunts him with high notes on an upbeat instant classic.
- A Red and Green Christmas by Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog (from The Muppets: A Green and Red Christmas): She says “red,” he says “green.” Let’s call the whole thing off – please.
- Baby it’s Cold Outside by Meaghan Smith and Buck 65 (from Smith’s It Snowed): The Halifax songbird Smith tweets sweet, but the MC Buck 65 sounds like a frozen Nicolas Cage poorly imitating Charlton Heston. Oddly, the contrast works, though.
- White Christmas by Michael Bublé and Shania Twain (from Bublé’s album Christmas): Sounds like these two Canadian hit-makers dipped into the eggnog and sang from a teetering pile of all their platinum records – a stack tipped over by a big blast of brass.
- The Christmas Waltz by She & Him (from A Very She & Him Christmas): “It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love / Every song you hear seems to say Merry Christmas.” With M. Ward on piano, the adorable actress Deschanel softly defrosts windowpanes on a lovely standard, a waltz in three-quarter time.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
- Scott Weiland
- One and half chestnuts
A Christmas album from the Stone Temple Pilot singer, you heard it correctly. And although Andy Williams’s sweater can out-croon the apparently sincere Weiland on the ballads – You’ll be home for Christmas? Please, take your time – some of the less anticipated arrangements are quite enjoyable and better suit his voice. Silent Night spryly dances bossa-nova style and O Holy Night is a steel-drummed treat to all of us dreaming of a palm-treed Christmas, not a white one.
Under the Mistletoe
- Justin Bieber
- Two and a half chestnuts
The boy wonder had his Beliebers at “I don’t need no presents, girl, you’re everything I need.” But for those who might not cotton to his slow-jammed hormonal impulses on Christmas Eve – which also includes the clunky line “You leave some cookies out, I’m ‘a eat ‘em all” – Bieber’s rap-happy Drummer Boy (with Busta Rhymes) or the acoustic strum and beat-box neo-soul of Only Thing I Ever Get for Christmas might appeal more.
Full Moon Eleven
- Hawksley Workman
- Three and a half chestnuts
If the winning alt-rocker Hawksley Workman needs to reimagine any December-style music, he’ll revisit his own material, thank you very much. Full Moon Eleven is Workman’s worthwhile re-doing of Almost a Full Moon, his Christmas album from 2001. He’s changed; the world’s changed. But his songwriting is eloquent, earthy and enjoyable, and I can’t think of a post-tobogganing record I’d rather listen to. (Both CDs, by the way, are included in the package – the full-hearted dude doesn’t skimp, ever.)
- Michael Bublé
- Three chestnuts
Funny that Michael Bublé asks, on a gender-reconfigured Santa Baby, for “the deed to a platinum mine.” After all, didn’t his previous album Crazy Love go multiplatinum? So, yeah, the Canadian crooner is cashing in here with this immaculately produced collection of 14 yuletide standards and one original, Cold December Night, a radio-friendly tune that covers up its lack of seasonal feel with sleigh bells a-jingling. I find the Vancouver singer’s unnaturally smooth voice almost distracting, but his quip in Santa Baby about wanting Canucks tix and “for kicks, throw me on the first line” a jolly touch.