There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
HO HO WHO: Every Gleek’s favorite Broadway-belting diva Lea Michele released a Christmas album just in time for the happiest season. On Oct. 25, Michele, of Les Misérables, Spring Awakening, and, most famously, Rachel Berry renown, debuted a tracklist stuffed with standards like “O Holy Night” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, as well sparkling duets with former McKinley High transfers Darren Criss and Jonathan Groff. “Christmas in New York,” the album’s anthem, is her love letter to the city of her wide-eyed childhood.
NEED A LITTLE CHRISTMAS: Transitioning from the sleepy, satiated mood of post-Thanksgiving to the boisterous pace of December, “Christmas in New York” moves from an understated piano accompaniment to a bevy of strings and twinkling bells as Michele waxes poetic about window-shopping on Fifth Avenue and attending the ballet as a young girl. This song is for all who are captivated by the Swarovski-topped tree commanding Rockefeller Center and a festive horse-drawn carriage. It’s New York through the rosiest colored glasses, a magical snow globe of a city completely devoid of skepticism.
MIDTOWN MANIA: Although Michele claims that “from Harlem to the Battery / every corner’s bustling,” her lyrics involve only a small sliver of the city. Name-checking Radio City, Macy’s Santaland, and the Empire State Building, “Christmas in New York” sounds more like “Christmas in A Few Concentrated Areas of Midtown Manhattan.” For the cynical New Yorker who must shuffle through throngs of iPhone-wielding tourists along 6th Ave. every weekday, the magic of the city is more likely found in snug Village dive bars or at night under the Washington Square Park Tree—anywhere far from the madding crowd. And that spoken interlude — wherein Michele calls a taxi and asks the driver to take her “straight to Central Park” — might work if her album was a fully-staged musical, but only succeeds at inducing cringes in its current form.
CHEER FACTOR: 6/10. Listening to “Christmas in New York” is similar to experiencing exactly what it describes. Sometimes, it feels like it’s doing too much and all you want to do is crawl back to your apartment and listen to Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas. But there are other moments, like during Michele’s triumphant final belt, where it enchants. With enough mulled wine, even the Scroogiest New Yorker might find something to smile about.
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