With a lineup that includes Miley Cyrus, Carrie Underwood, Colbie Caillat, Sean Kingston and others, the seventh "A Very Special Christmas" Special Olympics benefit album has a younger audience in its crosshairs.
"That was the game plan," Vicki Iovine, "A Very Special Christmas" co-founder and wife of Interscope chief Jimmy Iovine, tells Billboard.com. "On the first album we had all those superstars of rock, then we moved into pop...For Special Olympics it's important that the next generation sees it and understands it. So it's so huge to have the next generation step us as benefactors.
Since its inception in 1987, the "A Very Special Christmas" series has raised more than $100 million for Special Olympics worldwide, the most ever generated by a recording series. Besides the albums -- which also include the "Jazz to the World" and "World Christmas" compilations -- the series also includes a boxed set and a DVD. U2, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Bon Jovi, Sting, Mary J. Blige, Reba McEntire, Run-DMC, Bob Seger and Bryan Adams are among the dozens of artists who have contributed tracks to the series.
On the new set, due out Nov. 23, Cyrus sings "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" in Hannah Montana mode, Underwood delivers "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and Kingston performs "The Little Drummer Boy." Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Gloriana, Kellie Pickler, Mitchel Musso, Kristiana DeBarge, Charice, the Carter Twins and Leighton Meester also take on a selection of Yule favorites.
"When I grew up my parents bought all of them, so that's what we listened to ever Christmas," recalls Caillat, whose rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was produced by her father, Grammy Award winner Ken Caillat.
"That's one of my favorite Christmas songs," Caillat says of her choice, which was recorded during September in a Santa Monica studio decked out in holiday ornaments and lights. "I wanted it to have a little more acoustic, beachy feel, 'cause there are all the Christmas songs that have big production. Those are gorgeous, but they're a different style, so I wanted a California Christmas song where it's more laid back."
Iovine says that "A Very Special Christmas 7" is made all the more resonant by the August 11 passing of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver. It's the first album to bear the "A Very Special Christmas" title since "A Very Special Acoustic Christmas" in 2003, and like the others it features cover art by the late Keith Haring.
"There is nothing like the enthusiasm of somebody in their teens or twenties," Iovine says of the "7" gang. "They'll go anywhere. They'll do anything. They'll play games with the athletes, they'll ski...It's really given the project a new burst of energy."