12 Best R&B and Soul Christmas Albums
Holiday R&B and soul albums are a tradition that dates back almost as far as R&B itself. Throughout the years, hundreds of artists have remade traditional Christmas songs with an R&B twist. While we can’t go back and revisit every R&B Christmas album made over the past 50 years, this list compiles some of the best.
Brian McKnight released his second holiday album, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, in 2008. It’s undoubtedly one of the best that’s come out in a long while. I’ll Be Home for Christmas is romantic, charming, fun, occasionally whimsical and, most of all, spiritual.
While so many other singers have come and gone over the years, Patti LaBelle has managed to stay a relevant, successful recording artist and this album perfectly exemplifies why. In Miss Patti’s Christmas, the singer’s second holiday album, LaBelle puts her all into singing each and every one of the ten songs on the album. There isn’t a single lackluster performance, nor a poorly sung note, on the entire album.
This 40-minute collection of ten new and classic holiday songs is the audio equivalent of a lit fireplace in the dead of winter: it’s warm, comforting and refreshing, as well as being peaceful, tender and romantic.
Musiq Soulchild sings the time-honored holiday favorites with his signature jazzy, neo-soul style in this beautifully peaceful seven-song album. He sticks to his signature sound in many of the tracks, but he’s more traditional in others, including an incredible rendition of “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
Released in 2007, A Very Ping Pong Christmas: Funky Treats From Santa’s Bag, is an album of souled-out and funkified instrumental versions of various holiday favorites, including “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night” among others. It’s by no means a traditional Christmas album, and that’s one of the great things about it. It’s a must-have for funk, jazz, and electronic fans, or anyone who likes traditional Christmas songs with an experimental twist.
R&B/gospel duo Mary Mary released A Mary Mary Christmas in 2006. The album features an equal amount of traditional Christmas carols and original tunes. It’s lighthearted and funky, and the perfect balance of R&B and gospel.
Released in 2006, Christmas Is 4 Ever is one of the most fun Christmas albums I’ve ever heard. The album marks Parliament-Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins’ first Christmas album, a project that was years in the making. He reworks Christmas standards like “Silent Night” and “Sleigh Ride” in the funkiest of ways, and sings his own original compositions, including “Happy Holidaze” and “N-Yo-City.”
Mariah Carey was at the peak of her early career when she released her first holiday album, Merry Christmas, in 1994. The album features covers of holiday classics and several original songs, each of which Carey cowrote. The album is the most successful holiday album of all time in the U.S. and has since been certified 5x platinum, and its hit single, “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” has become a holiday classic in its own right.
This album, which was released in 2009, is a collection of songs originally recorded throughout the early 1970s. It features a young Michael Jackson and his brothers performing their versions of holiday classics.
Luther Vandross released his first holiday album, This Is Christmas, in 1995, and reissued it in 2012 with four additional tracks. The album contains several original songs cowritten by Vandross and a few covers. Vandross’ silky smooth voice epitomizes the joy of the holiday season.
Released in 2004, Christmas, Love and You is a collection of 10 traditional Christmas songs that is, in my opinion, one of the best holiday albums ever, mostly due to Downing’s rich, warm vocals.
Toni Braxton issued her first holiday album in 2001. Snowflakes contains 11 original songs that focus on Christmas and love. Braxton’s vocals on this sultry album of holiday music are steamy enough to heat up a cold winter night.