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HO HO WHO: Straight No Chaser, a plucky former a cappella group out of the University of Indiana who are inexplicably still at it. In 2007, their video of a years-old performance of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” went viral on YouTube, racking up more than 20 million views. Somehow, they’ve managed to snowball this unlikely success into multiple albums and tours. Since a Christmas mashup is what they’re best known for, they return to that trick often, most recently with their annoyingly named collection, I’ll Have Another…Christmas Album. This one is chock full of ill-advised covers, including “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
TAKE MY BREATH AWAY IN A MANGER: Straight No Chaser kicks off, predictably enough, with a fully a cappella verse. As it goes on, it feels noticeably empty compared to the original—there’s no twinkly jingle bells and the instrumentals are sparse throughout. Straight No Chaser attempts to mask the bare bones production value with some extremely enthusiastic doo-wop vocals, because that’s what this song was missing before. Evidently this group doesn’t know that Mariah Carey has a five-octave vocal range, or that adult men cannot hit the higher notes in Mariah’s register. By the time the key change comes at “Oh the lights are shining,” our guys are noticeably out of breath and straining their falsettos.
CESSPOOL KARAOKE: I had hoped that after two full Pitch Perfect movies and far too many seasons of Glee that we, as a nation, had moved on from our short-lived a cappella trend. Alas, we’re living in a real bummer of an era, and now all anyone wants to listen to is karaoke versions of popular hits. Mariah’s version of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is the indisputable modern Christmas classic, a triumph of pop music backed by the incredible voice of America’s own Christmas angel. A decade-old glee club trying to cover it is the equivalent of a sugar free Christmas cookie: it might look festive, but it just leaves you wishing for the real thing.
CHEER FACTOR: 2/10. Though I was not moved by Straight No Chaser’s Christmas spirit and lack of flair, they’re clearly feeling the season, so points for trying. That said, I’m going to need to follow this one with several spins of Mariah’s original and a stiff drink—no chaser necessary.