William Shatner has a new one out this year, and so does John Legend. Eric Clapton has taken the plunge this season, and so have the three surviving Monkees. Country stalwarts The Old 97's, The Mavericks and Rodney Crowell have all weighed in with fresh efforts. So has 82-year-old Engelbert Humperdinck.
All these musicians (well, OK, Shatner doesn't really count as a musician, so let's try this again) — all of these entertainment personalities have released new Christmas albums this year. And you can see why holiday music remains such an appealing deal for musicians (and Shatner): You spend a week or two in the studio in late spring, release the album in October or November and watch the effort rack up additional sales every year. Musicians like Gwen Stefani have offered a new digital twist to this winning financial formula: Stefani has just added a couple of new tracks to her Christmas album of last year, and has reissued the whole thing as a deluxe album. Stefani fans will download the new tracks and others who might catch one of the new songs might go back to buy the full album, and it's a greener Christmas for everyone.
Typically, these albums rely heavily on the standards — the Christmas songs that people want to hear each season — with a couple of new tracks tossed into the mix. (Unusual, and risky, are the efforts by artists such as Sia or Crowell, who have recorded holiday albums with all-new material.)
To be fair, some of these artists make Christmas albums because they genuinely love the music and the season. Others are in it mostly to make some money. Come to think of it, that seems like an unusually apt metaphor for the entire season, but let's leave that thought alone for the time being.
What remains to be seen is whether any of these new recordings will, someday in the future, win inclusion in the Think Too Much Holiday Music Hall of Fame.
This is the fifth year I've asked readers to nominate tracks for inclusion in the Hall of Fame, which is dedicated to those recordings of holiday songs that truly can be called definitive — which is to say, recordings that cannot be improved upon. The idea is that once a particular recording is enshrined in the hall, it should be illegal for anyone to record that song again. Live performances of these songs will be allowed, but no new recordings. (Our efforts to get Congress to pass a bill to this effect, sadly, appear to have stalled and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley has stopped returning my repeated calls on this matter.)
The related story on this page lists the tracks that have been enshrined in the hall to date. As you can see, we've set the bar high: These truly are definitive recordings of some of the memorable holiday songs ever written, and yet Pentatonix keeps recording them every year. (I'm not kidding: Pentatonix albums have been the nation's best-selling Christmas LPs for four years running.) Only action by you (and, OK, Congress) can prevent additional Pentatonix holiday albums.
So it's not too early to reach into your stash of holiday albums and start pondering this question: Which of these tracks hold such a special place in your heart that you would be aghast to see them recorded by William Shatner?
Send me your nominations, and please include a couple of sentences of why those songs are on your personal holiday hit parade. Your nominations can be in any musical genre — pop, country, rock, soul, classical, jazz, whatever. Email nominations to email@example.com are preferred, but you can phone me at 541-758-9502; if I'm not there, feel free to hum a few bars into the voicemail. The nomination deadline is midnight on Wednesday, Dec. 19.
We'll hold this year's induction ceremony in the Dec. 23 column. In the meantime, in the words of one of last year's inductees, have yourself a merry little Christmas. (mm)