Acoustic Hearts of Winter

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Acoustic Hearts of Winter
Studio album by Aly & AJ
Released September 26, 2006
Recorded 2006
Genre Christmas, pop, pop rock, teen pop
Length 29:40
Label Hollywood
Producer Antonina Armato, Gerry Cagle (exec.), Tim James, Carrie Michalka (exec.)
Aly & AJ chronology
Into the Rush
(2005)
Acoustic Hearts of Winter
(2006)
Insomniatic
(2007)
Singles from Acoustic Hearts of Winter
  1. "Greatest Time of Year"
    Released: November 21, 2006

Acoustic Hearts of Winter is a Christmas album and the second studio album by American pop duo Aly & AJ. The album was released on September 26, 2006 in the United States, via Hollywood Records. The album was conceived as a project after completing the deluxe edition of their debut album, Into the Rush (2005). All production of the album was done by Antonia Armato and Tim James. The majority of songs are cover versions of religious Christmas carols or contemporary classics. Two originals appear on the set, which were written by Aly & AJ with Armato and James. Musically, the album has an instrument-driven acoustic feel, primarily by guitar. It utilizes pop music influences on Christmas music. The album sold 110,000 copies in the United States.[1]

The album received generally positive reviews, with critics complimenting the lyrical content of the original songs and the overall sound. Acoustic Hearts of Winter debuted on the US Billboard 200 at 78, and peaked on the Top Holiday Albums chart at 14. It was the second best-selling holiday album of 2006. The sole single from the album, "Greatest Time of Year", used to promote The Santa Clause 3, peaked at 96 on the Billboard Hot 100. Aly & AJ promoted the album mainly on CD USA and at the 2006 Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade. In 2007, the album was re-released with three new traditional cover songs.

Background[edit]

During the summer of 2006, after wrapping up the production and recording of their debut album, Into the Rush, Aly & AJ began recording their first Christmas album.[2] Antonina Armato and Tim James who worked on the duo's debut album and several other Disney-related acts, were recruited to executive produce the effort.[2] They anticipated finishing the album by the end of the summer, in order for it to be released for the holiday season.[2] Aly & AJ thought it ironic that they were prepping a Christmas album during the hottest days of the year.[2] Alyson Michalka told the Saginaw News that producers Armato and James filled the studio with Christmas decorations, Christmas cookies, and a tree with gifts to open after they were done, in order for them to get in the Christmas spirit.[2]

Composition[edit]

A sample of "Joy to the World", a part of the album's traditional Christmas carols, utilizing several instruments and having an acoustic feel.

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Acoustic Hearts of Winter is musically based on Christmas music with pop, pop rock and teen pop inclinations.[3] All songs were produced by Antonina Armato and Tim James. Aly & AJ, along with executive producers Armato and James, adapted and arranged most of the cover songs on the album.[4] Many of the songs incorporate heavy instrumentation, such as guitar, cello, percussion, bass, and piano.[4] The album is mainly composed of cover versions of Christmas carols and contemporary holiday classics, while two original numbers are included. "Joy to the World", "We Three Kings", "The First Noel", "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", and "Silent Night" are religious traditional carols.[3] Also included are the traditional "Deck the Halls", as well as "I'll Be Home for Christmas", "The Little Drummer Boy", originally performed by Harry Simeone and "Let It Snow", notably performed by Vaughan Monroe.[4]

The album's opening number "Greatest Time of Year", the first of the album's two originals, was written by Aly & AJ, Armato, and James.[4] The second original and closing track, "Not This Year" is a reflection about past Christmases, and how the current is different. According to the duo, the song is dedicated to their grandmother Carmen, who died on Christmas Eve a few years previous.[4] On the 2007 edition of the album exclusively available at retailer Target, the traditionals "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and "Winter Wonderland" were bonus tracks, as well as "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree", originally performed by Brenda Lee.[4]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[3]
Jesus Freak Hideout 3.5/5 stars[5]
Tampa Bay Times C+[6]

Matt Collar of Allmusic complimented the classic Christmas songs composed in a "light, contemporary pop fashion," noting Aly & AJ's original songs as standouts on the album.[3] Logan Leasure of Jesus Freak Hideout commended Aly & AJ's "powerhouse" vocals on the tracks, but said carols such as "The First Noel" and "Deck the Halls" were a bit boring, due to the acoustic feel of the set.[5] Overall, Leasure said "This album has its good share of standout tracks that are sure to satisfy any fan of modern Christmas music."[5] He specifically pointed out "Little Drummer Boy" and the impressive lyrical content of "Not This Year.[5] Tampa Bay Times critic Sean Daly praised the duo's original songs, on which they "ditch the wispy routine".[6] On the other hand, he viewed the rest of the album as "unflat and unforgettable".[6]

Chart performance[edit]

On the chart dated December 2, 2006, nearly two months after initial release, Acoustic Hearts of Winter debuted at number 78 on the Billboard 200, where it peaked.[7] It remained inside the top half of the chart for three weeks, and maintained a position inside the top 200 albums for seven weeks.[7] On the Billboard Top Holiday Albums chart, on the chart issued November 25, 2006, the album debuted at number 20.[7] A week later, it moved up to number 14, where it peaked, and spent 14 weeks on the chart.[7] Acoustic Hearts of Winter was the second best-selling Holiday album of the 2006 holiday season.[2] During the 2007 and 2008 holiday seasons, the album re-entered the Holiday Albums chart at 45 and 28, respectively.[7] The album had sold 110,000 copies in the United States to date.[1]

Promotion[edit]

"Greatest Time of Year", a contemporary Christmas song utilizing pop rock and teen pop elements, was used to promote The Santa Clause 3 and peaked at ninety-six on the Hot 100.

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"Greatest Time of Year" was used to promote the Disney-affiliated film, The Santa Clause 3.[8] On November 21, 2006, it was released as a single on the iTunes Store in conjunction with Radio Disney, as the song was packaged with an interview with the duo on the station.[9] The song first appeared on the Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart on the December 2, 2006 issue.[10] Propelled by its debut at number 67 on the Hot Digital Songs chart, "Greatest Time of Year" debuted at number 96 on the Billboard Hot 100.[7] Additionally, it peaked at number 72 on the Pop 100.[10] Two music videos were developed for the song, one that is intercut with scenes from the film, and a second, which solely features the sisters.

The duo performed the "Greatest Time of Year" live on CD USA.[11] Additionally they performed it at the 2006 Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade,[12] and in 2007 on tour as an opening act for Miley Cyrus on The Best of Both Worlds Tour.[13] Also in 2007, the album was re-released as a deluxe edition by Target, and included covers of the traditional Christmas song "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" as well as "Winter Wonderland" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."[14] Variations of "Greatest Time of Year" are also included on the Walt Disney Records compilation albums Disney Channel Holiday (2007), and All Wrapped Up (2008).[15][16]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Greatest Time of Year"   Aly Michalka, AJ Michalka, Antonina Armato, Tim James Armato, James 3:41
2. "Joy to the World"   George Frideric Handel, Lowell Mason, Isaac Watts Armato, James 2:52
3. "We Three Kings"   John Henry Hopkins, Jr. Armato, James 2:54
4. "The First Noel"   Traditional Armato, James 1:44
5. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"   Traditional Armato, James 2:33
6. "Silent Night"   Fr. Josef Mohr, Franz X. Gruber Armato, James 3:05
7. "I'll Be Home for Christmas"   Kim Gannon, Walter Kent, Buck Ram Armato, James 2:44
8. "Let It Snow"   Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne Armato, James 2:08
9. "Deck the Halls"   Traditional Armato, James 1:54
10. "Little Drummer Boy"   Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati, Harry Simeone   2:37
11. "Not This Year"   Al. Michalka, A. Michalka, Armato, James Armato, James 3:24
Target bonus tracks[14]
No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
12. "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"   Traditional Armato, James 1:22
13. "Winter Wonderland"   Richard B. Smith Armato, James 2:43
14. "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"   Johnny Marks Armato, James 2:05

Personnel[edit]

As listed in liner notes.[4]

Charts[edit]

Chart Peak
position
US Billboard 200[7] 78
US Top Holiday Albums[7] 14

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Aly and AJ - Acoustic Hearts of Winter: review". Entertainment Africa. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Norwich, Grace (2007). Amped Up: The Official Biography. New York City, New York: Grosset & Dunlap. ISBN 978-1-101-09832-5. 
  3. ^ a b c d Collar, Matt. "Acoustic Hearts of Winter - Aly & AJ". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2010-11-20. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Aly & AJ Acoustic Hearts of Winter (Liner notes) Hollywood. (2006).
  5. ^ a b c d Leasure, Logan (2006-12-12). "Jesusfreakhideout.com: Aly & AJ, "Acoustic Hearts of Winter" Review". Jesus Freak Hideout. Retrieved 2010-11-21. 
  6. ^ a b c Daly, Sean (2006-11-23). "Pop: Download this, Santa". Tampa Bay Times. Times Publishing Company. Retrieved 2012-04-19. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h "Aly & AJ Album Chart History". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 2010-11-21. 
  8. ^ Orzeck, Kurt (2006-09-26). "New Releases: Ludacris, Janet Jackson, Aly & AJ, Mewithoutyou, Scissor Sisters, My Morning Jacket & More". MTV News. MTV Networks (Viacom). Retrieved 2010-11-21. 
  9. ^ "Release: Greatest Time of Year - MusicBrainz". MusicBrainz. Retrieved 2010-11-21. 
  10. ^ a b "Billboard - Singles Chart Search Results". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 2010-11-21. 
  11. ^ "Christmas Special: The Dan Band, Aly & Aj". CD USA. Season 1. Episode 49.
  12. ^ "We Love a (Walt Disney World Christmas) Parade". Disney.com. Disney. 2006-12-19. Retrieved 2010-11-21. 
  13. ^ "Aly & AJ Writing New Songs, Plot Films". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 2010-11-21. 
  14. ^ a b "Aly & AJ - Acoustic Hearts of Winter". ultratop.be. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-11-21. 
  15. ^ "A Disney Channel Holiday - Various Artists". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2010-11-21. 
  16. ^ "All Wrapped Up - Various Artists". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2010-11-21. 

External links[edit]