Tuesday Tracks: Your holiday new music guide for 2019

Idina Menzel, Queen, Mattiel, Shenna, Rob Halford, Judas Priest

Clockwise from top left: Idina Menzel, Queen, Mattiel, Shenna and Rob Halford of Judas Priest.

Like it or hate it, the carols of yesteryear and a handful of modern classics will dominate the airwaves until Christmas Day ends.

It’s hard not to crack a smile when Vince Guaraldi or Frank Sinatra hits the ears, but where are this year’s the new tunes?

Don’t worry, RIFF has you covered.

With the most wonderful time of the year around the corner, the focus of this installment of Tuesday Tracks will be, you guessed it, Christmas songs!


Queen, “Thank God It’s Christmas”— This track was famously excluded from any official Queen album until 1999, even though it was recorded in 1984, before Freddie Mercury passes away. Now, it’s getting the video treatment for the first time. With Freddie Mercury’s powerhouse vocals (which grow softer on the introspective verses), the song presents massive guitars that only Brian May could generate. May and drummer Roger Taylor sing some backup here. All the while, the song is layered with the whimsical sprinkle of ringing bells to bring on a wintry holiday vibe. May and Taylor generate a sense of hope, like the holidays are meant to do. They look back on the “long, hard year” and leave the negativity behind as Christmas rolls around. The verses focus on the “troubled days,” while the chorus strives forward with hope in the holidays.


Shenna, “For the Holidays” — Shenna’s sweet yet sassy vocals complement the jazzy instrumentals of this holiday love song. With a mixture of guitar riffs, keyboard phrases and finger snaps, it brings on all the feels as the love-filled lyrics are enough to put couples in the mood for some mistletoe. The track’s mildly slow but energetic tempo is fit to dance to at the annual Christmas party—right between sipping hot chocolate and munching on gingerbread cookies.


Tini, “Diciembre” — While most winter and holiday-themed music presents joyful lyrics, this track touches on a somber December. Tini expresses the broken feeling of missing a lost love during the holidays. This Latin pop track is filled with growth and strength as she learns to pick up the broken pieces. Tini’s strong, passionate and heartfelt vocals leave an impression that the warmth of the sun will return after a cold and stormy winter. Acoustic guitar and electronic echoes bring on nostalgic feelings in the verses before percussion takes over the chorus to reflect triumph over heartbreak.


Mattiel, “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)” — The Atlanta act puts a spin on this holiday punk classic, originally written by The Ramones. This version blends rock with a touch of sultry punk. The band has three guitarists, along with percussive pizazz, all topped with Mattiel’s unique classic rock vocal flair. The tune gears up in an uplifting tempo, serving as a reminder of what is truly important about the holiday season—surrounding yourself with the ones we love.


Idina Menzel, “A Hand For Mrs. Claus” — The unsung hero of the holiday gets her due in Idina Menzel’s straightforward vocal jazz standard. While not taking an overt feminist angle, Menzel’s tongue-in-cheek number is charming in its old-style delivery. She presents a narrative of Santa’s wife doing so much behind the scenes while her husband takes all the credit. It’s a fun, relatable and well-executed bit of swing jazz to give people a different take on the Claus household.


Rob Halford, “Donner and Blitzen” — While we’re used to hearing about the two reindeer’s names in the classic children’s song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the Judas Priest frontman brings a new spin on the Christmas story with smashing electric guitar layers and powerhouse vocals. The song vibrantly rocks the story of the reindeer “raising the spirits” and bringing Christmas cheer “for one holy night.” The riffs, singing and lyrics are truly a holiday gift in itself—and an appetizer for the Halford’s now-released holiday album, Celestial.


Amelia’s Pick: It’s about time someone gave a shout-out to the current holiday matriarch. No, not Mariah Carey! Idina Menzel’s “A Hand For Mrs. Claus” is a reminder of why Christmas and vocal jazz go hand in hand. There’s something about that combination that transcends time. The Christmas standards may never go out of style, as long as people like Menzel can play them so fervently.

Follow writer Amelia Parreira at Twitter.com/AmeliaParreira.

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