Short of appropriating a government printing press, the closest most record companies get these days to printing money is the evergreen niche of Christmas albums. It’s only a two-month sales window—basically November and December—but the music industry has learned to leverage those eight or nine weeks to the limit with holiday-themed offerings. The names say it all: Susan Boyle, Josh Groban, Michael Bublé … and now Justin Bieber.
The 17-year-old Canadian pop phenom’s Under the Mistletoe is his third No. 1 album, making him the only artist in history to score three chart-topping releases before turning 18. It obediently adheres to the genre’s inviolable formula, offering a mix of classic secular standards (“Santa Clause Is Coming to Town,” “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”), one beloved carol (“Silent Night”), a cover of a more recent Christmas hit (Bieber and Mariah Carey singing her song, “All I Want for Christmas Is You”) and six original pieces complemented by the likes of Usher, Busta Rhymes and The Band Perry.
Most of them have less to do with Christmas than … kissing.
“Silent Night” is one of the few moments on the album that focuses on the true meaning of Christmas. A couple of lines on “Mistletoe” hint at Jesus’ birth, but then quickly appropriate the subject for more romantic ends (“The wise men followed the star/The way I follow my heart/And it led me to a miracle”).
“Drummer Boy” intersperses verses from “Little Drummer Boy” with new rapped material, including these lyrics: “Playing for the King, playing for the title/I’m surprised you didn’t hear this in the Bible.” The song’s concluding verse exhorts fans to remember those in need during the Christmas season: “It’s crazy how some people say, say they don’t care/When there’s people on the street with no food, it’s not fair/It’s about time for you to act merrily/It’s about time for you to give to charity.”
Throughout the rest of the release, tracks nod to familiar, heartwarming Christmas imagery, such as being with loved ones, giving gifts and frolicking in the snow.
Some of the many “mistletoe moments” heat up a bit past what some parents of young Justin fans might find appropriate. On “Mistletoe,” Justin gets all googly over the kiss he’s longing for, crooning, “Aye, love, don’t you buy me nothing/’Cause I am feeling one thing/Your lips on my lips/That’s a merry Christmas.” The Band Perry joins in on “Home for Christmas,” and we hear these slightly suggestive lines about horizontal cuddling: “I’m praying that you make it home tonight/So we could lay down by the fireside/You and I ’til Christmas morning/There’s nothing else that I want this year.”
Christmas, of course, is about celebrating Jesus’ humble birth in Bethlehem. Listening to Justin Bieber’s take on the season, however, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was kissing your sweetie. The subject of smooching and hugging turns up in seven songs, in fact.
“You’re my one and only Christmas wish/The mistletoe is where I’ll be waiting, kiss me there,” Justin sings on “Only Thing I Ever Get for Christmas.” Likewise, “Christmas Eve” proclaims, “Kissing underneath the tree/I don’t need no presents, girl/You’re everything I need/Let me give you all of me, each year/Together on this Christmas eve.”
It would be churlish of me to get too bent out of shape by such romantic holiday musings. It’s sweet, mostly innocent stuff. Still, by the time I heard the fifth or sixth song focused almost exclusively on Justin’s longing for a mistletoe-inspired liplock, I was more than a little eager to cleanse my Christmas palate by getting to the album closer “Silent Night”—an important reminder that mistletoe was not actually one of the three wise men’s gifts.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.