It's a bit unfortunate that we needed a Holiday album from Mariah Carey as an excuse to hear her doing what she does best: full-on singing. Easily her best work since 2005's The Emancipation of Mimi, Carey is back in full force with her long in-the-works follow-up to 1994's Merry Christmas, this one sequentially titled Merry Christmas II You.
If you don't celebrate Christmas or like sappy Christmas Carols, understandably this isn't for you. For the rest of us who observe the Festivities, Merry Christmas II You perhaps is even better than its predecessor and an essential listen this Holiday.
The 13-track Collection features original numbers Oh Santa!, Christmas Time is in the Air Again, When Christmas Comes, One Child and of course an updating of Carey's self-penned Holiday classic All I Want for Christmas is You (Extra Festive). You already know how much I adore Oh Santa!, which follows in the same vein as that latter track with a bit of that classic Motown/The Supremes goodness. The magic gets delivered truly on a goose bump-inducingly good The First Noel, which transitions into a v. sexy and soulful interlude of Born is the King. When Christmas Comes resembles Grammy-nominated Carey track Mine Again (which inspired a fragrance in her latest Lollipop Bling set) in its classic soul inflections. She reaches all the way up into the upper part of her already remarkable range in the choruses, giving us what we really pay for on a Mariah Carey album.
Here Comes Santa Clause (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)/Housetop Celebration brings on some Disco Funk, a bit of an odd pairing with its superfluous speaking and Rapping bits; one part Gangster, one part Nursery Rhyme. And although Christmas Time is Here has been done many an Artist, Carey goes straight for our hearts tapping into the collective psyche of us Kids who grew up watching Peanuts, pairing it with Vincent Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas as an introduction; understated and effective. Well at least as understated as Carey can be for that matter.
O Come All Ye Faithful/Hallelujah (Chorus) features a surprise appearance from Carey's Mezzo-Alto mother Patricia and the both of them unite in a marriage of musical styles, classical and contemporary. It may sound odd on paper, but it works beautifully somehow and makes us wonder why Mother and Daughter haven't collaborated before.
O Holy Night (Live from WPC in South Central Los Angeles) to any part-time Carey enthusiast might actually seem new, but the version featured on this disc was actually recorded many years ago around her Glitter era, although never properly released. Regardless, she delivers supreme vocal perfection with the support of a Gospel Choir. Simply remarkable. The same applies to One Child where she soars above a Children's Choir, delivering a message of peace, hope and the unadulterated love of Jesus Christ. Celebrations end on a high note with Auld Lang Syne, complete with a Countdown and some early '90s Dance thrown in the mix.
Merry Christmas II You is a defiant statement to those who ever doubted Carey's significance and relevance still. The fact of the matter is that Mariah Carey stands still as the finest female voice of our time regardless of weight fluctuations, meltdowns or crazy Rider demands. The album his stores via Island/Def Jam/Universal Music on November 2, 2010. Stocking stuffer.Grade: A+