Kelly Clarkson: Wrapped In Red
Eleven years after winning American Idol comes Kelly Clarkson’s first Christmas album. It’s actually a bit surprising that it’s taken her this long, and although Wrapped In Red is not a bad Christmas Album, it’s not necessarily worth the wait. For most of the songs, Clarkson and producer Greg Kurstin stick to a ’60s, Phil Spector style of Christmas (though she doesn’t sing the Darlene Love classic “Baby, Please Come Home”) with a few dips into schmaltzy orchestral jazz and country ballad. She does a fine job with the standards like “White Christmas” and the Reba McEntire- and Trisha Yearwood-assisted “Silent Night,” but the highlights are actually the original songs. The five originals are exciting and fresh and worthy of a place in the contemporary Christmas cannon, especially lead single “Underneath the Tree” and bubbly, power-pop track, “Winter Dreams (Brandon’s Song).” On all the songs though, Clarkson finds herself over-singing, belting out every line without the grace or restraint we saw when she was a bit younger. It particularly brings down the sweeter ballads like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” where she not only sings too loudly, but seems to be unnecessarily auto-tuned.
Wrapped In Red won’t become a classic that you need to bring out every season, but it does have some great songs and arrangements, and makes some interesting choices. The decision to include Imogen Heap’s “Just For Now” is unusual, but becomes a highlight on the back half of the album. And with a few great original tracks, and classics everyone enjoys, it’s hardly coal in your stocking.