Ho Ho Ho
|Ho Ho Ho|
|Studio album by RuPaul|
|Released||October 28, 1997|
Ho Ho Ho, also known as VH-1 Presents RuPaul: Ho Ho Ho, is a 1997 Christmas album and third overall by American singer and drag queen RuPaul. It was released on October 28, 1997 by Rhino; it is RuPaul’s first album featuring Christmas music and serves as a follow-up to Foxy Lady (1996). RuPaul co-produced the album with American music producers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, who both work for the production company World of Wonder. Ho Ho Ho consists of ten tracks, including eleven covers of Christmas standards and carols, and three original songs written by Joe Carrano and the singer. The album was frequently referenced as an example of camp though RuPaul did specify that he recorded several more serious covers, specifically "All Alone on Christmas" and "Hard Candy Christmas".
Upon release, critics gave generally positive reviews of the album, praising its cheerful and humorous composition. However, some commentators responded negatively to the record's use of humor and the clarity of its overall message. It was also included in a parody list discussing the alt-right, the "War on Christmas", and bathroom bills. The album was moderately successful in the United States, peaking at number 27 on the Heatseekers Albums Billboard chart. It sold a little over 4,000 copies in one week. In support of the record, RuPaul filmed a television special as a part of his VH1 talk show The RuPaul Show (1996).
Recording and release
Ho Ho Ho was recorded in RuPauls' living room in New York City; it was completed over the span of three days in June 1997. RuPaul attributed the album’s success to his chemistry with Michelle Visage, saying, "You can hear us having a good time. So whether it was a Hanukkah album or a Kwanzaa album, it didn't make a difference, because the chemistry is there." RuPaul and Visage interpreted Christmas songs as examples of camp while still holding a clear message; RuPaul explained, "Even the camp stuff still holds the true meaning of Christmas, the sweetness and the love about another year gone by." Rhino executive promoted the album through the following line: "Celebrate Christmas with classic holiday songs and camp, RuPaul style!"
Ho Ho Ho was made available on October 28, 1997 by Rhino on cassette, CD, and digital download. RuPaul would release a second Christmas album (Slay Belles) in 2015, after years of attempting to record one with record producer Lucian Piane. RuPaul promoted the record by headlining a 1997 Christmas special, entitled A RuPaul Christmas Special, as a part of his VH1 talk show The RuPaul Show. The special featured a guest appearance from Nirvana.
The album’s opening track is "With Bells On", a classic Christmas song that is reinvented with a "disco-influenced country" sound. Visage is featured on the track, and sings about batteries as her only memorable Christmas present. The second track is RuPaul's re-imagining of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" as "RuPaul, the Red-Nosed Drag Queen". In "All I Want For Christmas", the singer lists "a litany of plastic surgery requests" that he would like to receive for the holiday. On the fourth track, he provides a "naughty" reinterpretation of the single "Santa Baby". He also recorded a cover of "All Alone on Christmas" as it was his favorite Christmas song, and clarified that he wanted to do a serious interpretation of the track.
Alternatively, his covers of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and "Hard Candy Christmas" were noted for their use of camp. However, RuPaul identified "Hard Candy Christmas" as one of the "serious ones" on the album, and said it was only referenced as camp due to "the fact that [he is] doing it". When recording the song, Visage was unfamiliar with its source The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and sang it according to RuPaul's direction. Carol Hall, who had written the song, had described RuPaul's cover as her favorite version of single, and ranked it above Dolly Parton's interpretation. The album also includes a cover of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" incorporating elements from funk, and "Christmas Train (Medley)", which serves as "a sassy summary of the season’s favorites atop a white-hot club mix". The final track is a remix of the "Celebrate", which had previously appeared on Foxy Lady (1996). It peaked at number 31 on Billboard Dance Club Songs chart on October 11, 1997 and remained on the chart for a total of seven weeks.
Ho Ho Ho received primarily positive reviews from music critics following its release. Darren Scott of Gay Times praised the album as one of his favorite Christmas albums of all time; during an interview with the publication, RuPaul and Visage stated that it had become a "classic Christmas traditional album" alongside releases by Johnny Mathis and Barbra Streisand. The record was described as a "collection of reinterpretations guaranteed to lift your spirits" by Vibe's Shawnee Smith, who commended it for its up-tempo instrumentals and ability to reverse "holiday depression". Ken Veeder of The Advocate praised RuPaul's interpretations of the Christmas classic in "the gay way", positively responding to the changes made to the songs' titles; Veeder highlighted "I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus" as his favorite track from the album. Even though Billboard's Melinda Newman referenced the album as a novelty record, she praised it for its humor. A writer from OutTV praised Ho Ho Ho as a "collection of cheeky and cheerful tunes", and E! News' Joal Ryan noted that the album was one of the most boundary-pushing Christmas releases of the year. Idolator's Robbie Daw described it as a "yuletide classic".
Some critics have negatively responded to RuPaul's use of humor in the album. AllMusic's Thomas Erlewine criticized RuPaul's reliance on camp in the album, writing that it was "tired, predictable, and simply not funny" and a "sad display from an entertainer who used to be hip, clever, and very funny". Newman questioned the effectiveness of the record's overall message, noting that RuPaul's message in the liner notes about "creating one's own family for the holidays" did not fit with the image of "Ru's Christmas panties around his ankles". While she responded positively to a majority of the songs, Newman viewed "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" as an unsuccessful cover. In an interview with Queerty, drag queen Hedda Lettuce revealed that RuPaul's cover of "Hard Candy Christmas" was her least favorite Christmas song of all time; Lettuce said that the song "[m]akes [him] want to shove a candy cane in [his] eye".
In a retrospective review, Serene Dominic of Tucson Weekly included RuPaul as part of its list of artists who should not have released a Christmas album for Ho Ho Ho. The article was written as a parody of the alt-right and the "War on Christmas", with Dominic joking that the album led to the creation of the bathroom bills.
In the United States, Ho Ho Ho reached a peak position of number 27 on the Heatseekers Albums Billboard chart, and remained on the chart for two weeks. It sold a little over 4,000 copies in one week.
Credits adapted from the liner notes of Ho Ho Ho. All songs produced by Joe Carrano and Welcome.
|1.||"With Bells On" (with Michelle Visage)||Dolly Parton||3:35|
|2.||"RuPaul the Red-Nosed Reindeer"||Johnny Marks||3:32|
|3.||"All I Want for Christmas"||3:25|
|5.||"All Alone on Christmas"||Steven Van Zandt||3:12|
|6.||"Christmas Train (Medley)"||
|7.||"Christmas Nite" (with Latasha Spencer)||
|8.||"Funky Christmas (Christmas at My House)"||
|9.||"I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus"||Thomas Connor||2:49|
|10.||"Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)"||2:57|
|11.||"You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"||4:47|
|12.||"Hard Candy Christmas" (with Michelle Visage & Barbara Mitchell)||Carol Hall||4:50|
|13.||"Celebrate (New Year’s Remix)"||
Credits adapted from AllMusic.
|US Top Heatseekers Albums (Billboard)||27|
|Worldwide||October 28, 1997||CD||Rhino|
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