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Time for new Christmas CDs

Christmas albums can accomplish anything, in theory. They can reinvigorate the careers of those who attempt them. (Though they usually don’t.) They can launch new classics into the world. (This hasn’t happened since “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” in 1994, but still.)

They can, and often do, serve as a lucrative source of income for decently voiced mainstream singers on the downward slope of their careers. (You can look forward to “A Very Bieber Christmas,” its cover art depicting Justin Bieber posing on a bearskin rug in front of roaring fire in 2019.)

There are rules, mostly artistic ones, that every singer attempting a holiday album seems to instinctively know: There’s no way to sing “The Little Drummer Boy” without sounding awkward, but you should do it anyway; one should choose either “The Christmas Song” or “White Christmas” (there’s no need for both); avoid “Away in a Manger,” as it’s difficult to sing.

Because there are other, less obvious rules that any artist contemplating making a holiday album should consider, we’ve assembled a list of Christmas album Do’s and Don’ts using some of the year’s top holiday collections as examples.

Do not attempt to make a holiday album if you are under 30. Holiday songs are one thing. Ariana Grande’s great new cover of “Last Christmas” is the stuff tween Vine soundtracks are made of. But full-length holiday albums are worse than uncool — they’re helplessly corny, even more so than Christmas sweaters. They’re blunt instruments made for the likes of Susan Boyle, not Selena Gomez. Boyle’s “Home for Christmas” is her second Christmas album — she’s made only five albums total — and it’s virtuous and bland and, in its own cautious way, perfect. This is holiday comfort food: songs you already know, arranged in a familiar fashion, sung by someone with the voice of an angel.

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