Ultimate Christmas Mix

The 2004 release Ultimate Christmas, Vol. 2 collects 18 Christmas songs from the BMG vaults. Most of the tunes date from the first few years of the 2000s, so many of the names are familiar to the pop audience of 2004, but, strangely, all the artists have moved on since they cut the material on this disc, so there's a strange disconnect from the music showcased here and the public image they have at the end of 2004. Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, *NSYNC, and R. Kelly are all here, but the music was cut long before Britney turned into a white-trash bride, before Christina pierced her entire body, before Justin left the band (and before JC's album flopped and before Joey Fatone went Broadway), and before R. Kelly was embroiled in a series of ugly sex scandals. Consequently, all their songs have a bit of innocence that's disconcerting to jaded 2004 ears, and, frankly, that's refreshing -- Britney simply sounded better singing fizzy bubblegum like "My Only Wish (This Year)" instead of laborious workouts like "(I Got That) Boom Boom." Nevertheless, these older recordings give Ultimate Christmas, Vol. 2 a bit of a dated feel, but that's not entirely a bad thing, particularly since there's some good relatively recent songs from the likes of Kelly Clarkson and Dido, as well as good, very old songs from Alan Jackson, Eurythmics, TLC, and Elvis Presley. The result is a hodgepodge, and one that doesn't necessarily hold together, but it's pretty fun all the same, not least because it's a bit of an unwitting nostalgia trip. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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