Why You're Not Getting A Christmas Album From Your Favorite Pop Star This Year

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When you were a kid, it seemed like all of your favorite pop stars released holiday albums. Mariah Carey gave us the epic Merry Christmas in 1994. In 1997, Hanson dropped Snowed In. By 1998, we had *NSYNC’s Home for Christmas. Most of the major artists at the time — Christina Aguilera, Destiny’s Child, Jewel, Ashanti, Whitney Houston, 98 Degrees — also made contributions to the onslaught of yuletide tunes in the ‘90s and early ‘00s.

But what once seemed de rigueur for pop artists has fallen out of fashion. In the past few years, we’ve seen just a handful of holiday albums. (Here’s looking at you, Ariana Grande, Sara Bareilles, and Justin Bieber.) In 2015, we have Kylie Minogue’s Kylie Christmas and Train’s Christmas in Tahoe — which was released exclusively on Amazon. Major artists like Adele, Sam Smith, and Demi Lovato are not celebrating the season with new albums — nor do they seem to have any solid plans to do so.

What gives, pop stars? Have you all become Scrooges?

Alex Gale, senior editor for Billboard, told me that 2015 is “definitely a slow year” when it comes to the holiday album. He chalks it up to something of a growing pain in pop music. “We’re at a transitional period with a lot of new, young talent,” he said. “It’s too soon in some of their careers to do that," he continued, without clarifying which stars might not be ready yet. But, he also explained, “In some ways, it’s an album cycle thing and somewhat coincidental.” In other words, maybe we're just a few years away from the next crop of pop Christmas collections. He anticipates that the artists we discussed — Adele, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato — will one day release festive records. Now’s just not the right time. “Christmas albums, almost by nature, are sort of what you would call adult contemporary,” he said. And, when it comes down to it, “It’s just not as cool as it was at one point.”
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Still, I couldn’t get over that we live in a world in which Jessica Simpson has two holiday albums and Sam Smith has none.

When I shared this concern with Kory Grow, staff writer at RollingStone.com, he said that we’re simply in a different era. “Jessica Simpson’s from the greatest era of album sales, when albums were king, when CDs were king, and an album as a whole was a much more viable commercial product,” he said. He suggested that a lack of pop Christmas albums may be a result of the rise of the single and corresponding decline of the album.

Indeed, a list of SoundScan’s top 25 Christmas albums between 1991 and 2014 reveals that pop artists of yore saw great success with seasonal tunes. Kenny G tops the list, followed by Josh Groban and Mariah Carey. *N SYNC’s Home for Christmas made it to No. 16.

“In a way, I feel like albums aren’t quite as important as they used to be in the sense of selling things,” Grow said. “Artists that do a Christmas album now are ones that really believe [in it] and want to do that.” He also suggested that maybe musicians aren’t getting as much pressure from their labels to make holiday music.

My requests for comment from Sony BMG and Warner Music Group about why their artists weren’t making Christmas albums went unanswered. Universal Music Group suggested I reach out to Nielsen SoundScan, but the retail data service was unable to go on record with any solid information.

So, I guess we'll all have to be a bit patient. In the meantime, you can still listen to "All I Want for Christmas Is You" on repeat.
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