For those of you who haven’t checked out Sam Tsui on YouTube yet, you really should. (His YouTube channel is right here — PS, you’re welcome.) To give a little background, Sam regularly releases covers of popular songs on YouTube as well as makes the audio available for download on iTunes. The difference is, he’s not just another guy sitting with his guitar or piano in front of a camera and a messy bedroom singing a horrible rendition of the latest pop song. No, that’s not Sam. He and his friend, producer Kurt Schneider, put together quality recordings and music videos and release them to the world, first on YouTube, then on iTunes. In fact, in May, Sam released his debut original album. The results are surprisingly great, so it’s no surprise that his Christmas EP, which came out last December, is just as great.
1. I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Starting off the EP with an a cappella version of this holiday standard, Sam gives us a glimpse of his pipes while teasing the rest of the collection of Christmas classics.
2. All I Want for Christmas Is You – Typically, if a YouTuber wants to cover Mariah Carey’s Christmas classic, the answer should always be a giant NO. Sam, however, is the exception. With a poppy backing track and a playful vocal style, Sam gives his own twist to the song while staying true to the original. There are a few parts that sound a little shouty, but what can you expect? Even if he is a YouTube star, he’s still a novice singer, not to mention the impossibly high bar Mimi set when she recorded the song back in 1994. Sam pulls it off, even adding his own falsetto notes towards the end of the song.
3. Silent Night – With this track, you can tell that Sam didn’t have access to a symphony to help him record the tune (and what YouTube star does!?). Using synthesizers that sound robotic, and Sam humming/moaning the second half of the song, this one falls short. But you win some, you lose some, right?
4. The Little Drummer Boy – This song is where Sam redeems himself. Staying true to the message of the song while simultaneously showing off his impressive pipes, Sam draws back on the robotics of synthesizers and delivers a nice cover of this Christmas standard. A brave choice, being that it is often left off holiday albums for big-name stars, but Sam pulled it off well.
5. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – This is possibly Sam’s best effort on the EP. With only the piano backing him up, Sam delivers a soulful tune to offer all his fans and family and friends a great Christmas. This song is gorgeous, and everyone should take a listen.
6. Christmas Everyday – With the only original track on the album, Sam shows that he’s not just a talented vocalist but also a gifted songwriter (which shows on his debut album, “Make It Up,” which features 14 songs penned by Sam and Sam alone). It’s far from being a Christmas classic, but it’s still a beautiful love song for the holidays.
Give this album a chance. Only $5.99 on iTunes, and you know most of the money is going directly to help Sam continue to deliver amazing music. Still not convinced? Check out his videos below, and make sure to check out his YouTube channel!