Pentatonix

Christmas is Here!

(RCA)

With the holiday season comes a new Christmas album by Pentatonix, the a capella group. Fans have responded so well to their three past holiday albums that releasing a new one every year is almost a given now. And certainly, nobody is mad about that. The Pentatonix know they should include a few classic remakes, like “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” but I like it more when they take a song that isn’t traditionally sung at the holidays and transform it into a song for the season. That’s what they do in my favorite moment of this album, when “Greensleeves” is the lead-up interlude to a remake of the alternative rock song “Sweater Weather.” They turn up the bass a little and make it their own. My favorite song on the album is their version of “Making Christmas” from the Tim Burton film The Nightmare Before Christmas. I can now imagine a church choir singing this to the congregation. This album is a must for those trying to get in the spirit.

Clean Bandit

What Is Love?

(Atlantic)

As I started this album, Clean Bandit’s second, I knew I had already heard and loved the first track, “Symphony.” It’s a mix of pop, electronics and R&B that features Zara Larsson. You’ve probably heard it on the radio and loved it, too, and the same goes with the addictive song “Rockabye,” with Sean Paul and Anne-Marie. You may not have known they were Clean Bandit songs, but you do now. Get ready because this album’s singles will fill the radio in the coming year. It features an almost unbelievable number of amazing singers, including Demi Lovato, Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora, and Charli XCX, and it all adds up to a great album. My favorites are “24 Hours,” “We Were Just Kids,” and “Nowhere.”

Ariana Grande

“Thank U, Next” single

(Republic)

It’s been a chaotic year for Ariana Grande, but she is ending it with a bang with her latest single, “Thank U, Next.” It’s sweet and addictive. Somehow, this is her first number one hit song. which is hard to believe because she’s had so many popular songs get close. Her name has been in the headlines for her months-long whirlwind romance with Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson and the death of her ex-boyfriend, Mac Miller, a musician. Her music is finally the focus of attention. The irony is that this song is about her exes. The positive message and tone of the song are what I love about it. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of her former relationships, she thanks each man she dated. The music video broke records for YouTube and Vevo in its first 24 hours. Judging by this song, I have high hopes for her next album.

Miley Cyrus & Mark Ronson

“Nothing Breaks

Like a Heart” single

(RCA)

Miley Cyrus walks the border between pop and country, and during her Bangerz years, she was at the edge of pop. This new single, with the equally talented Mark Ronson, is amazing. It’s a subtle country song, with just a little bit of pop. It’s definitely worth a listen. I’m surprised by how much I instantly loved it. The track sounds like it belongs in a chase scene in a Western movie; the music video takes place on a highway. It has a rather serious tone and sounds like a modern hit by Dolly Parton. In my opinion, this artistic direction is good for Cyrus, and I’m excited to see the next stage of her career.

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