We all need a little bit of festive cheer to get us through the rest of 2017, a year that somehow managed to even surpass the hell that was 2016. Every year I enjoy those few weeks in December when I can listen to any old cheesy Christmas song on repeat. I was looking for a new Christmas album to review this year and stumbled onto Gwen Stefani’s Christmas special on TV the other day and it had enough sparkle to cheer up any Scrooge. The accompanying album You Make it Feel Like Christmas is a flourish of festive fun from start to finish.
Gwen has talked about listening to Motown, The Andrews Sisters and Spector’s Christmas Albums as a kid and those influences inform the sound of the whole album. Jingle Bells has a vintage jazzy vibe which I absolutely adore – there’s this little backing singer breakdown which is a perfect throwback and feels the right kind of kitschy.
Let it Snow has orchestral flourishes in the mix, which recur throughout the album and make it sound really lush. She’s creating the vintage style but using production that is modern. Gwen sounds like she’s enjoying herself and who wouldn’t? Christmas albums must be a relief from the usual serious grind – you know you’re going to have a good time from the start (I felt that on Kacey’s Christmas album from last year too).
My Gift is You starts with the Be My Baby drumbeats and the oohs add to that gorgeous girl group feel. This song along, with the other two love songs When I Was A Little Girl and Never Kissed A Boy With Blue Eyes Before, are the least Christmassy of the original songs. These songs are quite simple and sweet compared to Gwen’s usual songs, which is probably why they’ve ended up here.
The title track, a duet with Blake is surprisingly one of my favourite things on the album. It’s cheesy as hell but it’s Christmas and that’s the time when you have to embrace the joy, jingle bells and all. I’m not a fan of Blake Shelton’s solo material but I always liked his duets with Miranda and Ashley Monroe – his voice just seems to suit being contrasted with a female. And I’m not going to say anything about the personal lives of these singers either, that’s their business and in my opinion ALL fans should just concentrate on the music and STOP THE HATE. It is Christmas after all.
Another great pop tune is Under the Christmas Lights which feels like a song you already know, it’s a kind of obvious metaphor but enjoyable because of that. The arrangements of Santa Baby and White Christmas work really well with her voice. The last song Christmas Eve is a ballad, and is quite spiritual in theme (hey I believe Christmas isn’t just about Santa and puppies). The melody isn’t quite as strong as the meaning but I like the personal touch to finish the album.
Sure this doesn’t break any new ground in terms of Christmas albums, some of the originals feel a little shoehorned into the theme and yeah I would have preferred her to include a couple of rocky numbers in the No Doubt style but overall this is an enjoyable listen.
You Make it Feel Like Christmas is a stylish and sweet festive treat worth indulging in.
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