Music Critic Deyna Grimshaw reviews the light and shade in We Need A Little Christmas, the new album from A capella group Pentatonix, explaining what sets it apart from other Christmas albums

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If anything is certain in 2020, it is that Christmas will be a welcome relief for many people. This is highlighted in the latest album from A capella group Pentatonix, titled We Need A Little Christmas after the popular song of the same title from the musical Mame. With features from Bing Crosby and the London Symphony Orchestra, the album is comprised of A capella covers of several traditional Christmas songs, as well as some extra classics.

The album is comprised of A capella covers of several traditional Christmas songs, as well as some extra classics

Arguably the best songs on the album are the upbeat adaptations that will get you in the Christmas spirit and improve your mood exponentially. ‘Santa Tell Me,’ ‘Jingle Bell Pop’ and ‘Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season’ are the songs that you can imagining playing on Christmas morning whilst unwrapping presents, as they convey the feelings of spirit and joy. Although less upbeat, ‘White Christmas’ featuring Bing Crosby is a Christmas classic which is improved through the additions of Pentatonix’s vocals and the backing of the London Symphony Orchestra.  

Whilst all of the songs on the album are undeniably beautiful owing to the astounding talent of the group, some of the songs have a slightly melancholic air which helps to give the album an essence of light and shade, although they are not necessarily your Christmas Day classics. ‘Seasons of Love,’ originally from the musical Rent is a song which I personally associate with sadness (I am sure anyone who has watched season five of Glee can relate), however Kirstin Maldonado’s high note towards the end is incredible. Similarly, the groups arrangement of ‘Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)’ is very impressive, however it is not a song that fills you with Christmas cheer.

Some of the songs have a slightly melancholic air which helps to give the album an essence of light and shade

There are other songs on the album which are very well arranged and enjoyable to listen to, despite straying from the Christmas classics. The A capella adaptation of ‘Once Upon a December,’ originally from the Disney’s Anastasia, sounds like a song straight from a Tim Burton Christmas film. Whilst the harmonies are undeniably perfect, I cannot see a Christmas scenario in which it would be played publicly. An original song, ‘Thank You’ written by Scott Hoying and Mark Manio, also features on the album, and is a poignant and more emotional Christmas song celebrating love, a sentiment which is perhaps made all the more touching after the events of the last year. 

Although the album as a whole is certainly a perfect reflection of the pure talent of Pentatonix, there are some tracks which inevitably fall flat. The arrangements of the traditional songs, such as ’12 Days of Christmas’ is impressive, however the mere fact that the song has been heard hundreds of times over years of Christmas celebrations causes it to feel boring. Similarly, even the incredible beatboxing from Kevin Olusola cannot change the fact that ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ has been covered more times than can be counted. However, there are some nostalgic songs on the album which are given a new lease of life through the A capella used by Pentatonix, particularly ‘My Favourite Things’ and ‘When You Wish Upon a Star.’ 

Overall, We Need A Little Christmas uses a variety of different songs and Pentatonix A capella arrangements in order to differentiate from the thousands of Christmas albums out there. Some of the songs from the album will certainly be joining my Christmas playlists for years to come.

Rating: 8/10

We Need A Little Christmas is available now via RCA Records


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