By Breana Moret
Hoya Staff Writer
Published: Friday, November 8, 2013
Updated: Friday, November 8, 2013 00:11
Like the decorations that appear earlier and earlier every year in stores, Christmas albums have begun to encroach on Halloween’s October territory. And while I don’t believe in listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving, Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red may force me to make an exception. The album is a standout, likely to be up there with Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas and the compilation effort of producer Jimmy Iovine, A Very Special Christmas.Wrapped in Red is a mix of jazz, pop-rock and country. Because it’s a holiday album, the sounds blend together well, allowing for Clarkson to move in and out of genres, infusing Christmas classics with her fresh pop sensibilities and newfound country sound.
The lead single, “Underneath the Tree,” is a radio-ready single that’s just what a modern Christmas song should be: upbeat and catchy, with a killer saxophone solo. In the current musical landscape, where holiday songs are usually uncreative and forgettable,Wrapped in Red offers up five original songs, all worthy of your Christmas playlist. The sweetest and most genuine of those five is “Winter Dreams (Brandon’s Song),” dedicated to Clarkson’s new husband, talent manager Brandon Blackstock. The song builds throughout and gives off a sense of the real love Clarkson has for her new husband. In the vein of “Santa Baby,” “4 Carats” is a song addressed to Santa, asking for a variety of expensive gifts. This is the most pop-infused track to make an appearance on the album.
“Every Christmas,” another original, channels a distinct jazz sound and the type of melodic wailing characteristic of Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald. The big-band sound of the song matches Clarkson’s powerhouse voice and makes for another highlight on the album. The obligatory rendition of “Silent Night” comes toward the end of the album, beginning a shift in the songs toward the more religious and somber. Country superstars Trisha Yearwood and Reba McEntire make an appearance on the recording. Halfway through the song, the three go into an a cappella harmony and give the most beautiful rendition of the song I’ve heard in a long time.
The last song on the album is “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel.” Clarkson is the sole voice on the track, save for a steady undertow of hums in the background. She captures the eeriness of the song by keeping the track simple and the focus on her voice. As the last track, you can’t help but feel that you’ve ended up in a different place than you did with the cheerful Wrapped in Red opening. And that journey makes Clarkson’s record such a standout and one to be listened to for years to come.