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Disney Channel Holiday
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Walt Disney
Length: 14 songs/44 minutes 40 seconds

Branding isn't just about getting a marketable name out to the buying public. It can be just as much about creating a sense of community. By proffering 24/7 cable programming featuring an array of clean-cut role model-able personalities, the tween-centric Disney Channel has perfected a most familial branding. The Radio Disney feed, whereby kids hooked on the TV operation's shows can find out biographical tidbits about those series' stars, feeds into the media synergy that extends the impression that those stars are friends to their viewers. Or friendly to the fans, at least.

As previously stated in these web-pages, Disney has given a fair number of professed Christian kids their showbiz breakouts. Additionally, it has revived the career of an adult whose daughter is the hottest property the House of Mouse can claim nowadays. Disney Channel Holiday's this year's Christmas letter from many of those telegenic "friends." As it would happen, those known to be saintly among this throng sing some of the stronger numbers here.

It's anyone's guess as to why Miley Cyrus has to be credited " Hannah Montana" for her spin on "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" (maybe she sang it on her show? I'm just here for the music). The firebrand 15-year-old practically shakes the tinsel off the Brenda Lee oldie all the same. Her dad--who benefited from his scion's stardom, Billy Ray Cyrus--gets only a hairsbreadth mellower as he turns Chuck Berry's red-nosed freight animal ode, "Run Rudolph Run," into Big & Rich-styled tech-arena rockabilly.

Surpassing the Cyruses, however, may be the channel's sibling favorites. The Jonas Brothers' pop-punk intuition on their original "Girl Of My Dreams" serves their pop-punk inspiration arguably better than on their recent eponymous album. Distaffly, Aly & A.J. rev up from their own acoustic Christmas album from a couple years back to deliver an anthemic rouser with their own co-writing, "Greatest Time Of Year." And though I can't glean from her web presences whether she places faith in the Reason for the season, Jordan Pruitt hits closest to the holiday's spiritual significance on the down-tempo "Celebrate Love."

And though no tune here proclaims Jesus explicitly, the emphasis on Christmas--not the mere "holiday" time implied by the title--from a general market company is appreciated, as might some of the other ten selections that sound to be more or less cite from portions of the same rhythmic pop/r&b cloth.

On that note, the softly bouncing treatment The Cheetah Girls give to "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" revives the spirit of the female ensemble sound largely missing from urban radio. The harmonies on High School Musical's Lucas Grabeel's turn on "Let It Snow" bring to mind the days of Take 6's higher media profile, too.

His HSM co-star, Ashley Tisdale, alas, reminds us with a remake of Wham!'s "Last Christmas" how much of a crap-shoot renovating a standard to poppy hi-NRG disco specifications can be. Country gal Taylor Swift's new rendition of it strikes to the song's heart more evocatively. And should Swift be around the charts long enough for a second Christmas album, she could do well to re-do HSM alum Monique Coleman's "Christmas Vacation," heard here as a bit of early '60s girl group sound revisited.

As for the rapping of Kyle Massey, currently on Nickelodeon's _Zoey 101_ (starring Jamie Lynn Spears, sister of former Mouseketeer Britney; Massey's Disney cred comes from a stint on That's So Raven), his rapping on "Jingle Bells (A Hip-Hop Carol)," he's quite a fine actor. What's become of Fan _3, the Jewish girl MC of Disney favor not so many years ago?

As with any family, you're likely to have your favorites among this clan. Whether you'll treasure it for years to come depends on who's adopted into the clan by next Yuletide, though, eh?

Jamie Lee Rake December 28, 2007


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