tue 23/07/2024

CD: Kelly Clarkson - Wrapped in Red | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Kelly Clarkson - Wrapped in Red

CD: Kelly Clarkson - Wrapped in Red

The original American Idol gets theartsdesk's festive music roundup underway

Kelly Clarkson mixes self-penned songs with updated festive classics on 'Wrapped in Red'

This year, even legendary punk rockers Bad Religion released a Christmas-themed album - as if to underline that, for just about any recording artist, it’s not a matter of "if" but of "when".

Christmas Songs only shares one track with Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red - two if you’re counting the bonus tracks - but I can imagine them nestled comfortably together in some completist’s iTunes folder, alongside every other version of “White Christmas” committed to tape.

With a Greatest Hits collection now under her belt, it’s probably as good a time as any for the American Idol-winning Texan to release a collection of festive novelties, and the gimmick here is that we get five original compositions too. The album opens promisingly with the two strongest of these: the title track, which combines the perfect mix of sleigh bells, lovestruck festive cliches and soaring choruses to produce something that could have been written for the Love Actually soundtrack; and lead single “Underneath the Tree”, a just-as-catchy update of perhaps the last great Christmas song, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You”.

It is, however, on the artist’s performance of the classics that the fate of a festive album rests, and despite some lesser-known choices (including Imogen Heap’s “Just For Now”) most of the usual boxes are checked. While her piano-led version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, on which she duets with suitably creepy country songwriter Ronnie Dunn, is particularly schmaltzy and insipid, her “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Please Come Home for Christmas” are worthy additions to the canon. It helps that Clarkson’s rich, warm voice is one of those with the timelessness of a Garland or a Crosby; not something that’s obvious if you’ve only heard her pop hits, but something that manages to flawlessly update the classics for a new generation.

Oh, the collection is still pretty unnecessary: the self-penned consumerist anthem “4 Carats” is an embarrassment; “Every Christmas” is pretty unmemorable, despite featuring one of the album’s most spectacular vocal performances; and I’ve yet to figure out why adding in a full brass band qualifies “My Favourite Things” for inclusion on an otherwise seasonal collection. Still, if Clarkson had to succumb to the inevitable, best to do it while at the peak of her powers.

Overleaf: watch the lyric video for "Underneath the Tree"

Clarkson’s rich, warm voice is one of those with the timelessness of a Garland or a Crosby


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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