Elizabeth Chan, a singer-songwriter, has been using the word "contested" a lot lately. This summer, she made headlines for filing a lawsuit to prevent Mariah Carey from being allowed exclusive use of the moniker "Queen of Christmas," which has also been applied to her. But Chan's methods will probably continue to be accepted in at least one respect. Chan further surpasses her own record for having the most entirely original Christmas albums in circulation of any globally recognised pop artist this week with the release of her 12th album, "12 Months of Christmas."
Chan is the only nationally recognised artist who only creates Christmas albums, and although "most Christmas albums" is not the kind of record where Santa is keeping a list and checking it twice, nor the Guinness Book, for that matter, it seems safe to say that no one else is even close. Chan established the one-per-year pace.
Chan's legal position, in which she is awaiting potential court action over her attempt to prevent Carey from legally claiming the title of "Queen of Christmas" completely as her own, is even referenced in one of the songs on the new album. (Queen Darlene has not herself taken Carey's bid to trademark the phrase to court, but there has been much public opposition to it.)
The New York-based Chan says, "I never imagined in a million years to be in the position I found myself this year with all the legal actions." "On top of everything else, running a record label, working as a full-time mom and an independent artist-producer is a lot of effort. To make sense of what I was feeling this year, I simply did what came naturally to me: I put it back into the music. She claims that each song on "12 Months of Christmas" "certainly represents a piece of where I was this year and how I was feeling. We produced a duet, "The Santa Clause," as a tribute to it and dedicated it to our legal team because the legal cases included both me and my daughter Noelle (Carey is also attempting to copyright the terms "Princess of Christmas" and "Christmas Princess," which Chan has used for her daughter).
With regard to the album's lead song, "Merry Merry," Chan states it was "formed from a day during recording when I found myself joyfully in my safe place of producing Christmas music, where for a rare moment, I was so ecstatic to be back in my comfort zone and in my Christmas music element." It was a desperately needed getaway.
Chan is this time around particularly interested in numerology. She continues, half-jokingly, "Did you know that most professional sleigh bells come in 12s or 25s? Christmas is very much about the numbers, from advent calendars to the 12 Days of Christmas to December being the 12th month of the year. … Additionally, I had jokingly told my pals that I had a record for each month of the year or each hour of the day when I was working on my 12th album. I genuinely spend every day of the year, 365 days a year, working on Christmas music.
Chan strives to turn each new collection of songs into a concept album in an effort to break up the monotony of simply producing and publishing a random batch of Christmas songs each year. "My followers are aware that my albums provide a picture of where I am in my Christmas journey and are autobiographical in nature. My debut record, "Naughty and Nice," made reference to leaving my job to pursue a career in holiday music. I created the album "Songs for Noelle" as a tribute to my daughter Noelle and as a first-time mother. I created the album "If the Fates Allow" while battling a serious illness. My story as an Asian American mother giving birth during the epidemic is the subject of the CD "Celebrate Me Home." The source of my record curation is my life.
There isn't much to say about Chan's efforts to prevent "Queen of Christmas" and the other disputed terms from becoming trademarks, but she maintains her belief that the law will rule in favour of the descriptions not becoming monopolised. "For the past 11 years, it has been my work to promote community throughout the holiday season. Now, it is my duty to ensure that Christmas will be celebrated by everybody for countless generations to come."
There isn't much competition for Chan's run of 12 entirely original holiday albums, so if Christmas album records were officially kept, it's hard to say where she would rank. Very few artists release even one Christmas collection that is made up entirely of original songs, with no hymns, carols, or covers. Even with those more flexible requirements, there are still not many rivals for Christmas CDs that are entirely original studio works rather than collections of previously released music.
There are 26 Christmas albums by Mannheim Steamroller listed in its discography on Wikipedia, but the majority of those are compilations or live albums with minimal original music. With eight holiday recordings to her name, including compilations, Anne Murray was a Christmas king in her own right among female pop solo singers when she stopped releasing music. Four of Amy Grant's nine Christmas albums are collections. Three of Reba McEntire's six holiday albums are compilations.
Although the vast majority of musicians who have done it — most recently, JD McPherson, Amanda Shires, Pistol Annies, and Lori McKenna — have only done it once, the trend of producing albums of entirely original, self-penned Christmas music has intensified in recent years.