Last Week before last, I finally got around to listening to Finally It’s Christmas since finally it’s actually time to listen to Christmas music. (Okay, I’m running on Hanson time this year. It’s been a weird one.)
Drawing parallels to Snowed In is unavoidable, but Hanson seem to have embraced it. The new album opens and closes with the same record pops and hisses, and the “Finally It’s Christmas” video begins with a clip from the Christmas special that aired November 28, 1997. I hear parallels between “Wonderful Christmastime”/”Come On It’s Christmas” and “Little Saint Nick.” “Everybody Knows the Claus” and “‘Til New Year’s Night.” The “Silent Night Medley” and “Joy to the Mountain.” “White Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” They didn’t remake Snowed In, but Finally It’s Christmas feels like familiar territory almost right away.
Setting aside any parallels or connotations, most of these new songs are exactly the Hanson magic I’m here for. Leave it to them to take a song to which I was indifferent — “Wonderful Christmastime” — and hook me with their harmonies and the original medley. “Finally It’s Christmas” has been reworked to its benefit. “Joy to the Mountain” makes two classics their own. “‘Til New Year’s Night” and “Peace on Earth” really are their own; “‘Til New Year’s Night” is a perfect sugar high the way only Hanson can do, and “Peace On Earth” manages to be earnest and not sappy also the way only Hanson can do. “Someday at Christmas” is so much the right song at the right time. Bean feels like “Blue Christmas” actually needs more Taylor, but to me, the entire album’s finished sound is excellent, not overdone or underdone. (Can we perhaps promote Mark Hudson to the fourth Hanson?)
Among other things they did right, we got not one but two Isaac leads. Even among those, we seem to be at odds sometimes between wanting ballads and more upbeat songs, so having him sing lead on “‘Til New Year’s Night” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” gives us some of both. This is perfect; thank you.
This album has just a couple of issues for me: “All I Want For Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland.” The originals weren’t good, then worse, they’ve been massively, painfully, excessively overplayed. There’s a reason Whamageddon is a thing but Mariahgeddon or Wondergeddon isn’t — it’s conceivable you might get through December without hearing “Last Christmas,” but impossible without hearing “All I Want For Christmas”
or and “Winter Wonderland” (usually about five times in one day). Sometimes, the right arrangement by the right band can salvage a song — see “Wonderful Christmastime” — but they haven’t introduced anything compelling to either of these. They might as well have skipped them; I certainly do.
In a lot of ways, this album and this season really is like coming home for Christmas — watching old videos, laughing about what’s changed and what hasn’t, and embracing what’s new. When I take out those two awful songs, it’s a short album, but everything I’d hoped for. Finally.