Boyz II Men’s ‘Christmas Interpretations’ was released 30 years ago in October, just in time for Halloween
Written by B87FM on October 5, 2023
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: It is the beginning of October in the year of our lord two thousand and twenty-three. As of this writing, we are exactly 81 days away from Christmas Day — it could be fewer for you depending on when you read this. You may ask, since we’re over two and a half months away from Jesus’ alleged birthday, why are you writing about a Christmas album, Panama?
I’m glad you asked. I’m writing about Boyz II Men’s iconic Christmas album, “Christmas Interpretations” because it was released on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 1993 — exactly 30 years ago today, which, according to my calculations, was then also 81 days away from Christmas day. This realization that this album, which is a classic and sounds like it could be released today, was dropped in October 1993 got me thinking about when holiday music was released in general. But let’s get back to that, mmkay? First, let’s discuss just how good Boyz II Men’s album is.
“Christmas Interpretations” is an 11-song, 41-minute album of straight heat. Of course, the shining star is their a cappella rendition of “Silent Night,” which I’m sure you could toss on the end of your DJ set in December right after playing “Melodies from Heaven” by Kirk Franklin ‘nem if you’ve decided to go rogue and not use Maze featuring Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let Go” to end the night. Boyz II Men’s version is that good (as is their a cappella version of New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain”). But every song on this album — written and produced by members of Boyz II Men and Brian McKnight, save for “Silent Night”—is amazing. This album was released during their early ’90s heyday when the group could do no wrong. For perspective, this album was released between their debut album, “Cooleyhighharmony” and their sophomore album “II” and on the heels of their record-breaking single, “End of the Road,” from the “Boomerang” soundtrack.
Each song on the album sits in the perfect pocket for chillin’ in front of the fire, drinking hot cocoa or liquor-infused hot cocoa (age-appropriate, of course) and reflecting on life. I’m listening to this album right now and it has me in the Christmas spirit … almost. It might have me all the way there if not for the fact that we have 81 days until Christmas and, so, 49 days until Thanksgiving (2023), which means we haven’t even made it through Indigenous People’s Day, Halloween or Veterans Day, yet. All of that means that it is not, yet, time for Christmas music. Which begs the question, why release a Christmas album so early? Have Christmas albums always been released so early?
I did a surface-level, deep dive into some holiday favorites to see just when Christmas albums across the decades have been released and surprisingly, Boyz II Men’s album isn’t an outlier at all. For instance, the very next year, Mariah Carey’s “Merry Christmas” album, the one with “All I Want for Christmas Is You” on it, was released on Oct. 28, 1994. Later, but still pre-Thanksgiving. Nat King Cole’s “The Magic of Christmas,” was released on Oct. 3, 1960; you know this album, it is the one with songs sung by the Black man with two little white kids on the cover. The 1960s — what a time to be alive. Frank Sinatra’s classic Christmas album, “A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra,” was released on Sept. 21, 1957. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio was released on Dec. 4, 1965, but that also coincided with the release of the “A Charlie Brown Christmas” special on Dec. 9, 1965.
While the albums mentioned are only a smattering of Christmas albums released, they do indicate that over time, it hasn’t been out of the ordinary for Christmas albums to drop pre-Halloween. I suppose in times when albums had to be promoted through radio and concerts, it could take a while for an album to really catch on. Songs and albums needed to be “broke” for them to gain a critical mass of commercial success, so an early release didn’t actually guarantee that an album (or perhaps its lead single) would even be a thing right away. I suppose it just feels crazy because 1993 feels like yesterday even though it was 30 years ago. I had the album on cassette and then compact disc and if not for music videos that played countdowns and such, there are a lot of songs I never would have heard.
So with all that said, in honor of a time long gone, devoid of streaming services, playlists, social media promotion and TikTok’s blowing songs up, join me in celebrating and appreciating a Christmas album that you can play around the clock during the holiday season that will carry you right on through to New Year’s Day.
But it’s also quite alright if you’re annoyed that you’re reading a piece about the 30-year anniversary of a Christmas album when we haven’t even reached November. You’re welcome and … Happy (early) Halloween (if you celebrate).
Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things, drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).
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