This Christmas

98 Degrees

Universal Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's a fact that each Christmas season, the popular acts of the year will undoubtedly choose to release a holiday album. C'mon, now, a show of hands... how many of you actually own the Christmas album from New Kids On The Block? Hanson? Boyz II Men? Garth Brooks? (Keep in mind, Brooks has a second Christmas album coming out... oy.)

As Christmas 1999 draws closer, one of the big-three boy bands, 98°, throws their Santa hat into the ring with their release This Christmas, becoming (at least to the best of my recollections) the first of the present crop to get a disc on the market. And whether you think that this group is overpackaged and overpromoted, you've got to admit that they can make some of these songs sound very pretty, and this is a wonderful disc.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Now, I freely admit that I'm a purist when it comes to the "classics" of the holiday season. I grew up with the original version of "The Little Drummer Boy" from The Harry Simeone Chorale, and I still prefer that version. I can't say that I was particularly thrilled with the interpretations and changes made to the version that 98° - Nick Lachey, Drew Lachey, Justin Jeffre and Jeff Timmons - made. Sorry, gang, but I like to hear the whole verses, not edits.

But I'll also be the first one to admit when 98° does a wonderful job on a classic. I liked their takes on "The Christmas Song" (even if I thought it was a tad fast), "Oh Holy Night," "Silent Night" and "Ave Maria". I don't expect artists to touch "Ave Maria" for a number of reasons, but the four-piece harmony vocals make this song soar into the stratosphere.

If their vocals can do that to a standard holiday song on This Christmas, you can imagine what they can do to more modern tracks. Both versions of "This Gift" have a special kind of magic to them, even if they lose some of the traditional Christmas spirit that I've come to expect from holiday music. "If Every Day Could Be Christmas," the album's opener, is simply amazing, and is a powerful way for the group to open up this disc. (Hmm, every day being Christmas... wasn't that the theme of a "Sesame Street" special?)

Sure, This Christmas is aimed at the teenybopper audience, and I'm sure that young girls who already have their bedrooms papered with pictures of their musical idols will rush out and grab this disc. But the fact is that This Christmas is a disc that even their parents can enjoy just for the harmonies. Anyone can rush a Christmas disc out on the market, but it does sound like 98° put more than a little time and effort into this one - and the end result is quality.

It would be easy to say that in a few years, after the shine of 98°'s star has faded, this disc will be left to the ages. But I've got a feeling that the artistry in their vocals will help to insure that This Christmas will become a holiday standard in many households for years to come.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Universal Records, and is used for informational purposes only.