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HO HO WHO: Real-life Elf-on-the-Shelf doll Ariana Grande just dropped a full EP of original holiday songs. Christmas & Chill finds Grande relishing the season as if Christmas were a frosted-with-sprinkles and Ariana Grande were Ariana Grande’s own tongue.
CHRISTMAS VICTORIOUS: Grande, a living gingerbread cookie, gets all in her feelings around Christmas. (She says so specifically on “True Love.”) Christmas & Chill is a follow-up to Christmas Kisses, an EP of holiday covers from 2013 that spawned “Tell Me Santa,” a single that was released on its own last year. Now it’s 2015, and all affirmative innuendoes must end with the “and chill” clause. This album is the strongest Yuletide effort yet by Grande, an artist conceived by Nickelodeon the way that Anakin Skywalker was conceived by the Force.
CHRISTMAS IN THE CLUB: No single track carries the EP the way that Ariana Grande apparently insists that people carry her from place to place, although “Winter Things” stands out as a rare holiday song about the climate. “It ain’t even cold outside, not where I’m from/ Feeling like it’s mid-July under the sun/ My jacket don’t get no love, no hats and no gloves,” sings Grande, lamenting the warm winter weather at home (she lives in L.A., but she hails from Boca Raton). The rest of Christmas & Chill lives up to its billing: a wintry mix of bangers and ballads sexed up with trap beats and the occasional sleigh bell. There’s nothing here as inspired as “Adore,” her winning 2015 collaboration with Cashmere Cat, although four out of five songs on Christmas & Chill could be mistaken for that kind of club number any time of the year. The season-(in)appropriate lyrics are the only tell that this is holiday music.
“AND CHILL” MEANS SEX, YOU SEE: “Are you down for some of these milk and cookies?” she purrs on “Wit It This Christmas,” a song that has got me wondering: Do people have a lot of sex on Christmas? Do people want to have a lot of sex on Christmas? “Merry Christmas, here I am, boy/ Gonna love you, gonna give you all I can, boy,” she insists on “December”—okay, but really? At a superficial level, Christmas has always struck me as more of a season for snuggling-up than getting-up-on-it. Then there is the deeper realm of emotions that come on at Christmastime, feelings that return every year like old family ornaments, feelings that are stronger than sex: longing, disappointment, regret, the pang of despair that rings low and long like a bell. Tom Waits tapped this well with “Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis.” Vince Gauraldi could get there, too. And Judy Garland—my god, Judy Garland, no one has done Christmas music right since. “I’m down for loving, you’ll be my drummer boy/ And I’m the only drum that you’re gonna play,” Grande sings, going for… something else.
CHEER FACTOR: (√-1)/10. Null. An imaginary number. It’s not that Christmas & Chill is bad, it just has no holiday chill. She does the days-of-Christmas thing on one song and only gets through six. I can relate to the one about the unseasonable weather, though. D.C. might get up to 70 on Friday!