Music: Ariana Grande’s Weekly Christmas Song Reviews

Elia Chen

Pop star Ariana Grande’s Christmas releases have minor flaws but are, overall, a sweet success.

On Nov. 6, Ariana Grande announced on Twitter that starting on Nov. 19, she would release a Christmas song each Tuesday up until Dec. 10. This week, we reviewed Grande’s Christmas releases in a Mixed Review, which is a feature where we examine recently released songs and albums with perspectives from two different reporters.

 

Week 1: Last Christmas released on Nov. 19 (Elia’s take) — The first installment of Ariana Grande’s weekly Christmas release series has strong vocals but fails to impress.


As a huge Arianator — an Ariana Grande fan — I was extremely excited to discover that Grande planned to release a cover of one of my favorite Christmas songs,“Last Christmas,” a cover of Wham!’s 1984 classic. On Nov. 19, Grande released the first of her four weekly Christmas teasers in preparation for her second album’s release. In covering a Christmas song, Ariana Grande follows in the footsteps of pop icons Taylor Swift and Mariah Carey, who have covered “Last Christmas” and “All I want for Christmas is You” respectively. However, although it contains impressive vocals, the cover suffers from a lack of coherency and a subpar introduction.

The original version’s lyrics begin after 20 seconds of slow-paced instrumental music, but Grande starts right away when the song begins. She kicks off the song with breathy vocals, reminiscent of R&B singer Mariah Carey’s characteristic smoky low notes. While Grande’s attention-grabbing introduction works better than the original version’s, her Carey-esque vocals make it seem like she is trying too hard to imitate, something she has been constantly criticized for.

After a transition where a voice announces “We’re the Rascals,” Grande’s singing is much more effective. Grande embraces her her airy and agile voice while also employing techniques such as melisma — many notes sung in rapid succession. Although Grande’s voice was soothing, the song production was not. The bells and the chorus were often louder than Grande’s voice. In Grande’s previous hits, including “The Way,” and “Honeymoon Avenue,” producers put emphasis on Grande’s vocals, but in “Last Christmas,” her vocals are in the background rather than the forefront, resulting in a messy effect. However, at the end of the song, Grande adds a sassy touch to the song with her own lyrics that plead, “How could you leave Christmas morning/You broke my heart with no warning”.

Despite the song’s sweet finish, her song was a disappointment.

 

Week 2: Love is Everything released on Nov. 26 (Colin’s take) — Grande’s second Christmas song release carries brilliant vocals and strong emotion.


Grande’s second holiday release, “Love is Everything”, was a great reminder of her power to portray emotions through singing. She communicated her thoughts and feelings with the listeners’ heart.

The music starts off with some Christmas spirit –– the sleigh bells –– and a rhythmic beat. Then when Grande sings, “The truth is, your heart is the biggest gift you can give anyone”, the tune and rhythm from the verse of her song “The Way” began to resurface. But, the little tweak in the tune and the dramatic build up to the chorus of this song are the ultimate factors that make this song different than “The Way.”

Grande blasts it away with emotions during her chorus. With her advanced vocal skills of the high notes, she could clearly communicate that “Love is everything”. The chorus showcases Grande’s vocal control and also transforms a holiday themed song into a casual song about love.

The bridge of this song is filled with her emotions––

“Love who you love, no one can judge

Follow your heart and don’t give up

‘Cause love is what this day’s about

So grab ’em close and hold ’em near

And don’t let go ’cause Christmas is here”.

With her falsetto and breathy vocal control, she expresses her desire for love and to love someone that is important in her life.

Toward the end of the song, Grande portrays more of her vocal skills while the choir sings the chorus. Her ad lib and the projection of her high pitched notes add to the overall dynamic in rhythm of the song. In fact, this song goes further than just another holiday song, having the potential to become a good single hit for her.

Overall, this song was one of Grande’s best Christmas releases.

 

Week 3: Snow in California released on Dec. 3 (Elia’s take) — Snow in California lacks articulation but Grande’s husky vocals stir strong emotions in listeners.


After being disappointed by Ariana Grande’s cover of “Last Christmas,” I did not expect much from Ariana Grande’s third holiday release, “Snow in California.” However, after the first listen, I grew attached to Grande’s sugary sweet vocals and slow yet upbeat melody.

The song starts with the sound of bells and wind, while Grande enters with breathy, husky, and low vocals that manage to send chills down my back and, paradoxically, create a warm, fuzzy feeling in my stomach. The blend between eerie and sweet is reminiscent of Lorde’s vocals in her song “Royals.”

However, after the chorus starts, Grande’s voice transitions into a noticeably sweeter tone as Grande moves up her vocal range. Although the chorus only lasts a few seconds, it was short enough to make me crave for more, but it was also long enough to make me appreciate her vocals.

After the first chorus, Grande transitions into a more bubble gum pop vibe with overlayed vocals, a faster beat and a clearer, less husky tone. Grande uses the rest of the song to showcase her effortless, smooth belting and melisma in her lower range.

My only complaint with “Snow in California concerns Grande’s lack of articulation. In fact, in the beginning, it took me a few listens to finally decipher what she was saying, which was “Dear Santa/It’s me Ariana”. Because I could not understand what she was saying, the song’s cute introduction did not have much of an effect on me.

Nevertheless, despite minor articulation flaws, Grande’s “Snow in California” serves as a sweet success.

 

Week 4: Santa Baby featuring Elizabeth Gillies released on Dec. 10 (Colin’s take) — Grande’s harmonizing with Gillies and expressive singing put a cute spin on an old song.


After listening to Ariana Grande’s “Love is Everything”, I was so excited to listen to her other Christmas releases. Simply put, I fell even more in love with her after listening to “Santa Baby”, her fourth and last song of her weekly singles.

The introductory instrumental of “Santa Baby” immediately grabbed my attention. The combination of the classic Christmas tune and her cute ad libs expressed both her vocal skills and abilities to persuade the listeners to agree with her emotions. In fact, Grande’s version of this song was more lively and sweet than the original fifties version from Eartha Kitt.

Any of Grande’s fans would melt down after listening to her first verse:

“Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree,

for me I’ve been an awful good girl

Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight.”

Even though these lyrics are similar from the original song by Kitt, the combination of her lisp and husky voice portrays her desire to see “Santa baby”.

This song featured Elizabeth Gillies, a singer and actor from the Nickelodeon sitcom “Victorious”, which Grande played Cat Valentine in. Gillies’s and Grande’s voices harmonize pleasantly, which didn’t fail to stir up Christmas emotions.

With Grande and Gillies’ harmony, this song portrays the clear, sweet tune of their voices. Their harmony furthermore drives their emotions and makes the listeners want to swing back and forth to the rhythm.

Compared to all four of Grande’s holiday songs, “Santa Baby” had an attractive melody and tune. Gillies played a significant role in this song and added a different style that fit well to Grande’s vocal expressions and skills. I can feel both of the girls’ patience and desire for Santa to come down the chimney from listening to their song.

Overall, Grande’s satisfying holiday song has not failed to attract my attention, even with an old 1950s song “Santa Baby”.


This concludes our combination of Grande’s holiday releases. Thanks for tuning in.