Now That's What I Call Christmas, Vol. 4

Vol. 4 in the Now That's What I Call Christmas! series offers up a fairly even mix of slick, modern mistletoe jams from the likes of Rhianna, Toby Keith, and Maroon 5 and classic yuletide standards from Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and Burl Ives. Spread out over two discs and encompassing 36 tracks, the collection, which is appropriately jolly and harmless enough, often feels unified in theme only, as evidenced by the jarring transitions between cuts like “Christmas Tree” (Lady Gaga featuring Space Cowboy) and “Little Saint Nick” (the Beach Boys). The country songs tend to work better within the framework, probably because they feel a little more reverent of the source material, but it’s not like any of the traditional tunes on here haven’t been put through the meat grinder a zillion times already. At the very least, the compilers had the good sense to include the genre’s first truly left-field hit, David Bowie and Bing Crosby's surprisingly poignant rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth,” and wisely chose to stick Mannheim Steamroller's ubiquitous “Deck the Halls,” which has aged about as well as a department store fruitcake, at the very end where it can safely ring out the old. ~ James Christopher Monger

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