Ariana Grande’s ‘Christmas & Chill': A Track-By-Track Review
Ariana Grande — singer, reformed doughnut abuser, gifted celebrity impressionist, fabulous Scream Queens murder victim — is in a pivotal creative period right now. "Focus," the lead single from her upcoming Moonlight album, spent one just one week in the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 after debuting at No. 7. And while we loved her "Focus" video look so much we asked Drag Race star Courtney Act to make a tutorial, the song itself is...more of a "Problem" retread than the exciting new Ari era we all hoped for. It's tough not to view her Christmas & Chill EP, surprise-released on December 17, as an attempt to remind fans why they love Ariana so much in the first place. Whether C&C's a strategic mea culpa or a one-off lark, that's exactly what it did.
Grande's no stranger to the Christmas songs market. In 2013 she released another holiday EP, Christmas Kisses, and 2014 brought "Santa Tell Me," a sleighbell-festooned single in which she shares her boy problems with known love doctor Saint Nick.
Christmas & Chill, according to the tweet below, was a quick and dirty (and cozy) affair. It may be the purest Ariana we've received to date.
Ariana's shed the saccharine "Last Christmas" covers, and she's all the better for it. Some track-by-track thoughts:
The EP opener sets the mood, with Grande's vocals bouncing atop production that's a distant cousin to Tinashe's woozy "Party Favors." 45 seconds in, I also "be singin' oh (ohhh) oh (ohhh)." I'd love to hear a chopped & screwed version; somebody please slow this down to molasses.
"Wit It This Christmas"
Ariana stays with the bedroom vibes on "Wit It," giving us the Christmas sex jam we all needed, but didn't know we did. Bumper stickers tell me that Jesus is the reason for the season, but some of us just want to spend a sensual December 25th in front of the fire! Ariana lays the festive metaphors on thick, as she should: "We don't need them recipes / You know I'm tasty like a candy cane or gingerbread / I'm made with love." My favorite track by far.
This is another one to put on when Grandma's left the Christmas party, with Nutcracker-y plinks and DJ Mustard-esque beats. "I'm just tryna keep my baby warm through the wintertime, I'm just tryna give you something to remember through the summertime." A future cuffing season anthem for the ages.
"Not Just On Christmas"
If Christmas & Chill were a musical, "Not Just On Christmas" would be the classy, strings-driven movement bridging the adults-only front half with the more family-friendly second act. It's a bit slender at two minutes, but this could be the song you hear in department stores.
Move over Destiny's Child's "8 Days of Christmas," because "True Love" has dethroned you as the best pop take on the classic carol. Christmas-themed or no, "True Love" belongs on Moonlight. It's a nod to past Ariana work we know and love — more Yours Truly than My Everything — with an R&B vibe that she needs to pursue further.
Grande's spent most of her life in Florida and California, so a warm-weather-themed Christmas song is likely true-to-life for her. If you don't find strummy ukulele ballads that are typically the province of Jack Johnson and Meghan Trainor loathsome — and many don't, they actually love it! — this one's a winner.
Christmas & Chill is available on iTunes now — share your thoughts on the new EP.