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All Songs Considered

Tyler, The Creator And Sufjan Stevens Record New Holiday Songs — Just Not Together


Left to right: The Grinch, Sufjan Stevens.
Illumination Pictures (The Grinch); Denny Renshaw (Sufjan Stevens)

Left to right: The Grinch, Sufjan Stevens.

Sufjan Stevens has made holiday music integral to his catalog, even going so far as to release box sets of Christmas songs in 2006 and 2012. Tyler, The Creator is newer to the game, but he does contribute two high-profile songs to the soundtrack for Dr. Seuss' The Grinch, out today. (Hear his take on "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" here.) And, while you probably shouldn't listen to Stevens' "Lonely Man of Winter" and Tyler's "I Am the Grinch" simultaneously, you could do worse than to take them in back to back. The season contains multitudes, after all.

Stevens' holiday songs typically come in two settings: suffocating, painfully manicured ache and madcap whimsy. As its title suggests, "Lonely Man of Winter" leans more toward the former than the latter, especially in a stately arrangement that only briefly finds room for sleigh bells. But the song, a long-sought rarity he'd originally composed and recorded in 2007, is more wistful than dour, as Stevens sings of a desire to shake off seasonal melancholy and step out into the world. (You can also hear a busily floaty new remix of the song by Doveman, with additional vocals by Melissa Mary O'Hearn.)

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As for "I Am the Grinch," it's considerably less introspective, though Tyler does reflect on his antipathy toward Christmas — that counts, I suppose. But it is appealingly bonkers, as the rapper leans into the playfulness of his ever-evolving persona without sacrificing a sinister side. If you come to "I Am the Grinch" expecting an awkward attempt at hip-hop/movie-theme synergy — like, say, the "Whoomp! There It Is" remake with The Addams Family — you're especially likely to come away impressed with the unpredictable sonic adventurousness and buoyant spirit of it all. And if nothing else, it's hard not to chuckle every time the backing vocalists sing, "You're so problematic."

Dr. Seuss' The Grinch is in theaters today. Proceeds from the release of "Lonely Man of Winter" benefit JACK; click here for more information on both the charity and the song.

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