It starts with a series of snaps and pit-of-the-stomach kick drums. You know what the scenario is already. Soft, speed-ramping EDM synth chords trickle in, like a trail of myrrh-scented smoke from a wise man’s vape. Distinctly, Babes in Toyland-y chimes beat out a little seasonal-sounding melody. Then, it’s that buttery voice we know and love: “Welcome to this Christmas, only comes one time of year.”
It’s delivered in that lilting Ariana Grande phrasing style where the emphases of the sentences are a foregone conclusion: Nothing matters other than the slithering, syrupy stream of melody staying unbroken. This is the musical equivalent of topping off a mug of fresh, creamy nog with the last bit of an old Bailey’s bottle, after retreating to the kitchen to escape your family on Christmas Eve. God, it’s almost too much to handle.
The former Nickelodeon star, ever-burgeoning Top 40 star and donut-licking terrorist just dropped the surprise, six-song seasonal offering yesterday. It comes on the heels of her 2013’s Christmas Kisses, and her one-off “Santa Tell Me” of last year, which is also exceptional. But this Xmas, Ariana kept it smooth and to the point, and turns in by far her finest Yuletide work yet with Christmas and Chill. This is the mature, velvety Christmas material of a woman who knows exactly the vibe she wants to deliver, and the je ne sais quoi that this year’s slew of Christmas releases is lacking.
There are sexualized “milk and cookies” and “MerryChristmashereIamboy”s over ratchet DJ Mustard back-clatter. It’s really the season for loving — to get “wit it” on Christmas. If there was ever music made for a Christmas hookup, it’s this Ariana Grande Christmas and Chill EP. She knows the right length to keep it to, and the right level of ambition to restrict herself to stylistically: wholly sleek mid-tempo stuff in her wheelhouse. God, this is great. This might be the most beautiful Christmas album since the Beach Boys or something — “Not Just on Christmas” even delivers a bit of tuneful ‘60s pop flair with a choppy, baroque string arrangement. AG even makes the post-Iz-Kamakawiwoʻole-wave, ukulele-driven “Winter Things” work. “My baby’s in town and we’re gonna do some winter things,” she murmurs. As the Bard once said: “Wa wa wee wa!”
So keep yourself sane at home with your parents, or just skip your plane, hole up with your girl or boy in your pad, light some candles, put some Chocolat on silent, and handle the Yule in a way that would make even the baddest of Santas blush. Get into this Christmas and Chill EP by Ariana Grande.