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The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

VH New Music Fridays: Celebrate Christmas in October with Dolly Parton’s latest album

Ready or not, the queen of country is here to get you in the Christmas spirit with her first holiday album in 30 years.
(Dolly Parton Productions)

The queen of country is back and bringing the Christmas spirit a little early this year. Dolly Parton released “A Holly Dolly Christmas” Oct. 2, 30 years after the release of her previous holiday album.

This is the 51st studio album in her discography and with an extensive collection under her belt, Parton tackled some Christmas classics such as  “Holly Jolly Christmas,” “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”  In addition to these tried-and-true hits, she has included original songs titled “Cuddle Up, Cozy Down Christmas” and “Christmas Where We Are,” which are certainly foreseeable future hits. Parton also gives us a glimpse of what we have to look forward to this November in her Netflix Original Musical, “Christmas on the Square.”

“Every year I love singing [“Christmas on the Square”] and I thought, well why not do a whole album. So I did,” Parton said in her intro to the album. 

Thus, “A Holly Dolly Christmas” was born. The album follows a traditional theme of the importance of friends and family, especially during the holidays—and what better way to do this than feature some of her own talented family and friends. This sentiment is reinforced by “Christmas Is,” a heartfelt duet with her goddaughter Miley Cyrus. Cyrus and Parton come together to harmonize on the chorus and sing that “it’s all about kindness, love and compassion.” 

If “Baby it’s Cold Outside” is one of your Christmas go-to’s, you’ll love “Cuddle Up, Cozy Down Christmas.” Parton and Michael Bublé duet to describe a cold winter night, putting a fresh yet familiar spin on the classic. Their call-and-response verses combined with harmonies in the chorus create a warm and sentimental picture of cuddling in front of a holiday fire.

“Christmas on the Square” describes the Christmas celebrations of a small town (picture Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls) and dedicates a whole verse just to a loaded description of a holiday feast. The song combines jingle bells, banjos and a fiddle to add a bit of country twang to the Christmas spirit. 

Similar to the glee surrounding the holidays that is described in the song, Parton conveys a youthful innocence in her rendition of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” Parton alternates between singing and speaking to tell this fun story many of us are familiar with, while still implementing fiddle-esque country music elements. 

In 2018, Parton appeared on “The Tonight Show” and Jimmy Fallon asked her to sing “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” To his surprise, she did not know the song. Now, she is more than making up for it as the two come together to duet in her album. Dolly is known for her sass and humor, so I was glad to see her showcase it in this platonic dedication to Fallon. 

Both “Christmas Where We Are” and “You Are My Christmas,” sung with Billy Ray Cyrus and Randy Parton respectively, reinforce the sentiment that friends and family are the most important part of the season. It’s fitting that these songs were recorded with her close friend and younger brother, strengthening the message. The guitar riff and violin solo that lead up to the bridge in “Christmas Where We Are” was a unique styling heard nowhere else on the album, and it caught my attention on the first listen. 

Parton also included her close friend Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper,” since it’s one of her favorite holiday songs. Originally written and released in 1963 and included on Nelson’s Christmas album in 1979, the song describes the hurry and bustle of shopping for presents. The idea that one doesn’t need the material things to celebrate and that family love is “the gift that keeps on giving” is often something we need reminding of, and Parton does just that. 

Other repurposed songs include “Circle of Love” and “Mary, Did you Know?” Originally written by Parton for her 2016 Christmas special, “Circle of Love” describes the night Jesus was born and was previously recorded and released by Jennifer Nettles. With similar vocal techniques and emotional draw, Parton closes the album with “Mary, Did You Know?” Her vocals in this song are particularly haunting and filled with emotion, beautifully showcasing her range in a way that isn’t always on display in more upbeat tracks.

Overall, “A Holly Dolly Christmas” is a fun combination of classics and original songs that range from happy and celebratory to emotional and haunting. She does a wonderful job implementing her signature style to songs many of us already know through unique vocals, sassy speaking parts, banjos and fiddles. Although you might not think you’re ready to get into the holiday spirit just yet, this album could do the trick. 

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About the Contributor
Rebecca Rossi, Former Staff Writer
Rebecca Rossi ('23) is from Cleveland, Ohio, and is majoring in math and anthropology in the College of Arts and Science. In her free time, she enjoys making balloon animals and spinning plates! You can reach her at [email protected].
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