Forget Halloween this year. (Well don’t completely. We have a costume contest!) The holiday gods have spoken, and Justin Bieber’s Under the Mistletoe has leaked four days earlier than intended, unleashing the 17-year-old’s enthusiastic yet sensual take on the coming season. Much of the East Coast is supposed to see some snow this weekend, so perhaps this is all a sign?
To gauge whether or not Bieber’s tunes deserve heavy rotation in between Bruce Springsteen and N’ Sync this year, we’ll start by examining the many duets. Even before we heard “Mistletoe,” Bieber has been promoting his lengthy list of collaborators with numerous exclamation points that promised big things. Of all the names included, perhaps none carries more pre-holiday weight than Mariah Carey, whose seminal “All I Want For Christmas” has become a generation’s go-to soundtrack and poignant singalong tune for seasonal romantic comedies. Instead of detracting from the original, it sounds as if the Grand Holiday Dame didn’t even record with Bieber, but simply allowed him to add his own vocal runs and an extra verse to her classic, which we guess constitutes the “Superfestive!” parenthetical. Prepare for this to gain on more longevity, thanks to The Bieb. We already warned you about the real sexiness of “Christmas Eve,” and the rattling, disorienting snare drum and rap verses from Bieber slash Shawty Mane—not so much Busta Rhymes—on “Drummer Boy,” so the last previously unheard collab comes courtesy of Boyz II Men, who fill “Fa La La” with their impressive harmonies in both a cappella and instrumental-backed versions. Bieber seems most thankful to be in their presence than anyone else, allowing free rein rather than rummage through his vocal bag to pull out whichever unused trick remains.
For those who favor classic carols instead of songs worthy of a dance routine, there are very accurate takes on”The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)” with the help of big bro Usher, along with “Silent Night,” “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and “Someday At Christmas,” which true Beliebers know he’s been singing since he was a wee one. Original songs represent all genres, as if Bieber was aiming to please every kind of music fan with $20 to burn. “Home This Christmas” has a distinct country feel thanks to The Band Perry, while “Christmas Love” follows the “Mistletoe” approach of familiar guitar riffs and the repeated use of PG gift metaphors (“Tell Santa I’m cool this year/My present is standing here”). As far as holiday fare goes, there are numerous hummable offerings and more than one notable cover that highlights Bieber’s true talent. (Usher wasn’t making it up, folks!) The only gripes caroling purists should have comes from the afformentioned “Drummer Boy,” which mixes social media into a song about baby Jesus, and should lead Rhymes to have his own cypher invitation revoked next year. My what strange things we do around the holidays.
Under the Mistletoe can be found by poking around the web or by purchasing it the old-fashioned way on November 1. Listen to a few of our favorite tracks below.