Ariana Grande clearly is a fan of the holiday season. She already gave us her obligatory, Diva festive release in 2013's Christmas Kisses. Yet, that didn't stop her dropping another Yuletide treat last year with single Santa Tell Me. Perhaps trying to cement an association with herself and the holidays in our feeble minds, 2015 sees the Diva persist with the tradition and unwrap her new EP, Christmas And Chill.
Since it's a mini album, I'll be giving it a mini review. Take a read of my thoughts on each track, below.
Intro: Brilliantly sets up the electro-Rnb direction the album is going to take. With it's slightly discordant glockenspiel, it's a warning that this isn't going to be a Christmas album in the traditional sense. No carols, or hymns. This is an EP about a love affair that just happens to be going on around the Santa's season.
Wit It This Christmas: is it me or is there some Sasha Fierce channelled in the bouncy opening delivery. Some lovely jumps to head voice in this song, and the harmonies are sooo on point. I even think I heard the briefest chirp of a whistle at one point. The use of the warming keyboard and (electronically generated?)violin I particularly like. Classes up the joint, real nice! All in all, the vibe of this song is perfect for Ariana, being somewhere between Honeymoon Avenue and (a slowed down) Focus.
December: Is immediately darker in tone, and I'm loving it for that. The opening synths are telling on the adult direction the EP has now taken. It might not be explicit, but the song is definitely hinting at a dirty and sleazy festive moment. Actually, screw that. "Whatever's on your list, I'll do it" is pretty explicit. Some of the harmonies sound Brandy-esque to me, but once again, no belting or vocal histrionics.
Not Just One Christmas: Back to safer territory with the Disney runt of the litter. Saccharine and heavy in schmaltz, it's strangely glorious in its heaviness. Drowning in harmonies and suffocating string midi, there's a real danger of being smothered in its treacly embrace. But, much like quicksand, best not to fight it. You'll enjoy it more.
True Love: This is how I'd imagine a Christmas track to sound if The Weeknd produced it (after taking some happy pills, of course). Ariana keeps the vocals pretty simple, allowing us to follow the loved-up lyrics. Warmth and body are provided to the frostier, electronic backing by the Diva's lush harmonies.
Winter Things: is a Jason Mraz/ Israel Kamakawiwoʻole love child of a Christmas ditty. Think "stoner surfer" realness in December. So sweet and upbeat, it put an immediate smile on my Grinch-link face. It's another love song- no surprise considering the EP's play on word title- but an innocent one at that. Once again, no big vocals or high notes to speak on, but the delivery suits the song's laid back tone. One for the kids.
Overview: Like I said in the title, Christmas and Chill is the Christmas EP i didn't know I wanted. All original compositions and no talk of "the King of Kings", they offer up a selection of songs for those that want some seasonal spice but aren't about that traditional life. It's also a godsend (!) for those more secularly inclined, since love is the overarching theme.
The sonically cohesive nature of the EP does pose a risk, since an aversion to one track will probably mean aversion to the whole thing. However, on the flip side, it also hints to Ariana being in possession of a level of conviction and artistic vision that'll serve her well if she persists with it.
Who knows what treat she'll leave under the tree next year, but I'm already excited for it!
[The videos are pitched funny. Will change when I find alternatives ]