Idina Menzel’s Holiday Wishes is on track to enter this week’s Billboard 200 album chart right around #13. That will make it one of the highest-charting Christmas albums by a Jewish artist.
Three Jewish artists have reached #1 with holiday albums. Saxophonist Kenny G hit #1 in 1994 with Miracles—The Holiday Album. “Sing Along With Mitch” leader Mitch Miller had a pair of #1 albums: 1958’s Christmas Sing-Along With Mitch and 1962’s Holiday Sing Along With Mitch. Singer Eddie Fisher, a superstar of the 1950s probably best known today as Carrie Fisher’s father, topped the chart in 1953 with Christmas With Eddie Fisher.
Kenny G returned to the top 10 two years later with Wishes—A Holiday Album.
Two other holiday albums by Jewish artists have reached the top 15. Neil Diamond’s The Christmas Album hit #8 in 1992. Barbra Streisand’s Christmas Memories reached #15 in 2001.
You’ll notice that Menzel and Kenny G used the universal term “holiday” in their titles, while Streisand, Diamond and Fisher went with “Christmas.” Miller had it both ways.
Three other Jewish artists have reached the top 40 with holiday albums. Bob Dylan hit #23 in 2009 with Christmas In The Heart. Bette Midler hit #33 in 2006 withCool Yule. Barry Manilow hit #40 in 1990with Because It’s Christmas. (Midler also side-stepped the word “Christmas.”)
The Fine Print: Between 1963 and 1973, Christmas albums weren’t eligible to make The Billboard 200. That affected such hit albums by Jewish artists as Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You (1963) and Streisand’s A Christmas Album (1967).
More Fine Print: Harry Connick Jr.’s mother was Jewish, but he identifies with his father’s Catholicism. He has cracked the top 20 with three holiday albums.
Looking beyond the Jewish angle, Holiday Wishes will represent Menzel’s third trip to the top 20 on The Billboard 200 in 2014. She sings three songs on the Frozen soundtrack, which logged 13 weeks at #1 earlier this year. She sings 15 songs on the Broadway cast album to If/Then, which debuted and peaked #19 in June. (She also appears on the hits compilation Now 51, which debuted and peaked at #2 in August.)
And to think just seven months ago John Travolta stumbled over her name at the Oscars.
Menzel has a big-name guest star on her album: Michael Buble, who joins her for a remake of the Oscar-winning “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Buble’s Christmas was #1 for five weeks in 2012. It’s the most recent Christmas album to top the chart.
If it seems remarkable to see a Christmas album in the top 15 before Halloween, it is. But Garth Brooks pointed the way, back in 1992, when his Beyond The Season debuted at #5 in the Billboard issue dated Sept. 12. (That’s not a typo.)
Menzel’s “Let It Go,” the Oscar-winning song from Frozen, has sold just over 3.5 million copies in the U.S. It’s considered a strong contender for Grammy nominations for Record and Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance.
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