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Grading the Top 10 in … NEW AGE MUSIC

1. The Piano Guys, “What Makes You Beautiful”

The Piano Guys are a group of musician dudes from Utah who made their name with YouTube videos that are like a Michael Jackson–Mozart mash-up and a Star Wars parody in which cellos stand in for lightsabers. They signed with Sony based off their viral success, thus completing the ringtone cycle. Here they cover One Direction‘s biggest hit by gang-banging a piano.

Grade: C+

Best YouTube Comment: “honestly I wouldn’t do that to my piano” — AnnieYu

2. Jim Brickman, “If You Believe”

Jim Brickman is the most charted Adult Contemporary artist of all time. You have heard his music even if you are absolutely sure you haven’t. It is everywhere. He started out writing jingles and became known for his calmly luxuriant piano playing. He has an original song with Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) called “You” that will blow your mind.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “Joey comes home after the war on Christmas eve. The house just as he remembered. The only family member awake was Buddy, the golden retriever. They share a hug together. He pours over family photos, crying. His brother Jack had died just weeks into Joey’s deployment. A rare cancer took Jack’s life at only 15. He sat in the family room for hours, remembering their childhood. They never went anywhere without each other. Joey decided to sleep in Jack’s room that night. He cried himself to sleep.” — RyanPatterson

3. Santa Ana Players, “Christmas Time Is Here”

The songs from the Vince Guaraldi Trio album A Charlie Brown Christmas are a soft worn-in cashmere blend sweater where most holiday tunes are itchy red and green wool. This showy cover of the vocal version is gilding the tree.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “i’d buy your christmas album!” — holasoyrachel

4. Lifescapes, “The Beginning”

The Lifescapes website makes me feel like I’m in the dystopian future and the only thing that can possibly chill me out is downloading more Lifescapes straight to my dome. Based out of Minneapolis, Lifescapes created a New Age music empire from Target listening kiosks. They release an intense volume of music for a label so thoroughly focused on relaxation, with “a collection of more than 400 titles representing virtually every genre music has to offer.” There’s no dubstep … yet.

Grade: A-

Best YouTube Comment: “What is up with the fat stupid looking south park figure dumbly looking into space at the start of this video?” — julianmilam

5. Lifescapes, “Window’s Reflection”

The more Lifescapes I listen to, the more I find myself fantasizing about Lifescapes becoming a sentient soundtrack that follows me everywhere, answering my philosophical and petty questions like Siri or HAL, and then trying to kill me with soft things.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “I listen to this every time I am studying for my classes. It really helps. Chemistry and biology can make the mind frustrated!” — amwptec

6. Armik, “Reflections”

Armik Dashchi (he goes by one name) is an Iranian-Armenian flamenco guitarist, and the most popular New Age Nuevo Flamenco artist working. From what I can tell, New Age Nuevo Flamenco is flamenco with a rain stick and a drum machine.

Grade: B+

Best YouTube Comment: “Pure magic! Touching the soul and relaxing, like the warm summer rain washing all the dirt and weariness of the heavy days away.” — MegaLittlebrick

7. Yanni, “Voyage (Live at El Morro, Puerto Rico)

YANNI IS AWESOME? Seriously, this just sounds like Watch the Throne grinding on Coldplay at the thermae.

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “Nice song. I bought the album and I gotta say once again. Yanni you need to add some rappers.” — justray91178

8. Jim Brickman, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”

This is out on the Fisher-Price record label, which is about as indie and youth culture as it gets. “I only listen to toy records.”

Grade: C+

Best YouTube Comment: “a beautiful start to any morning if you ask me lol” — TylerDavis

9. Yanni, “Mi Ciudad”

From Yanni’s album “Yanni Mexicanismo,” released in 2010 in honor of Mexico’s Bicentennial. Here he covers Eduardo Salas and Guadalupe Trigo’s “Mi Ciudad” and gives it some Yanni realness.

Grade: B-

Best YouTube Comment: “gracias por subir esta magnifica canción!!!!! No importa quien la cante, siempre me hace llorar de emoción, soy chilango de corazón y ya puse tu video en mis favoritos, de nueva ceunta gracias!!!!!!” — burraburiash666

10. Steven Halpern, “Deep Theta Part 1 (Brainwave Entrainment Music)”

Steven Halpern was a jazz musician in New York who dropped out of the East Coast scene in favor of a move to California and a switch to minimalist Eastern-influenced piano compositions. He is a New Age music pioneer who aimed to make “anti-frantic alternative” music by utilizing non-Western tonalities. He is a believer in music therapy and “brainwave entrainment,” the practice of stimulating human brain waves into mimicking an external frequency.

Grade: A+