Review: Ariana Grande – Christmas & Chill

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Sultry

Christmas & Chill is a well-crafted festive EP. It is enticing, sweet, seductive and - most importantly - unexpected.

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Bringing her festive spirit into 2015, Ariana Grande has released a new Christmas EP entitled Christmas & Chill. The EP, which is comprised of six original tracks, serves as a follow-up to 2014’s ‘Santa Tell Me’ along with 2013’s Christmas Kisses. Grande’s previous Christmas ventures have been relatively safe, comfortable listens, but Christmas & Chill delivers an intriguing twist to the merry sounds we associate with the festive season.

Fittingly beginning with the track ‘Intro’, Grande opens the doors to her EP through directly addressing the listener, with the backdrop of an electronic beat that sets itself alongside the occasional finger-click and jingle. Fusing contemporary tame electronic sounds with mass-produced Christmas tinkles, Grande’s ‘Intro’ gives us a taste of an innovative and very unexpected record. The EP continues with ‘Wit It This Christmas’. Although undeniably lacking when it comes to lyrical content, ‘Wit It This Christmas’ is inviting, cosy and bouncy with Grande’s vocals smartly prioritised to create an overall warming tone.

When ‘December’ begins, the EP reaches its peak. Beginning with punchy R&B beats alongside vocals evocative of Destiny’s Child, the track can’t avoid its nostalgic aura. Sizzling with a fast-paced chorus where Grande sings “Gonna give you all I can, boy,” the sexual and, in some parts, romantic tone to the track (and whole EP) cannot go without notice. Although lyrics such as “Merry Christmas, here I am, boy,” “I’m the present” and “unwrap me now,” may initially encourage a problematic reading, Grande’s star persona must also be acknowledged. Not only is she one of the biggest female artists in today’s popular music scene, but she writes a lot about feminism and is widely known for openly opposing sexist questions by the media. I’d argue that rather being demeaning, ‘December’ is a very confident, empowering and sultry track.

‘Not Just On Christmas’ is the EP’s most Christmassy sound, tapping back to Grande’s ‘Santa Tell Me’. Simple, jingly and sophisticated, the track oozes with a certain tenderness. ‘True Love’ blends the R&B and electronic sounds introduced in the EP through previous tracks with a vague festivity. But this Christmas-y absence doesn’t matter too much; the track unveils a more experimental side to Grande, an ability that can easily get overlooked through the success of her predictable, but enjoyable, hits. The EP closes with ‘Winter Things’, another stripped-back track which invokes a folk-sounding, very chilled bliss. Cliché but irresistible, Grande’s harmonies create a very charming close to the EP.

Ranging from R&B to electronic to folk, Christmas & Chill is a well-crafted record, brimming with delicate Christmas sounds but with an innovation. It is enticing, sweet, slightly seductive – but most importantly – unexpected.

Christmas & Chill is out now via Republic Records.

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Film & English student, Deputy Editor of The Edge and President of FilmSoc. Likes FKA twigs, BANKS and other capitalised artists.

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