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Credit: Julia Terbrock

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HO HO WHO: Mandy Moore, first introduced to listeners two decades ago as a teenage pop star and now known to the sensitive viewers of the world for her role on the NBC tearjerker This Is Us. In recent years, she’s made a return to the music world, releasing her first album of new music in a decade just as COVID-19 hit the U.S. The pandemic forced the cancelation of her tour in support of that album, but she put the downtime to use, compiling a two-song holiday EP featuring her version of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and an original track, “How Could This Be Christmas?”

BABY, PLEASE COME HOME: “How Could This Be Christmas?” is an ode to a lost love, and hits all the classic moments of melancholy in succession. Mistletoe is hung, favorite records are played, gifts are wrapped, but this person won’t experience any of it. Even the excitement of a passing car turns out to be a false alarm. It’s definitely appropriate for a year in which holiday plans have been disrupted and many will celebrate the season alone, but contains absolutely no warm and fuzzy feelings. 

LEAVE ME BREATHLESS: Moore has always been a breathy singer, and while that breathiness works on a light bop like “Crush,” on this track, it annoys just a bit. Great holiday songs are meant to be belted—it’s why “All I Want For Christmas Is You” works in spite of its hoaky lyrics—and this one is delivered at library level. Give me a roaring fire, not a flickering candle!

CHEER FACTOR: 2/10. Sad holiday songs are a great counterpart to the exuberance contained in much of the Christmas canon, but “How Could This Be Christmas” lacks the emotional depth captured in truly sad songs like “If We Make It Through December” or the Judy Garland version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” I don’t feel a sudden onset of seasonal depression when I hear it, and I wish I did.