Gwen Stefani has attempted to bring the Christmas feeling a little early with the release of her latest album, “You Make It Feel Like Christmas,” featuring her own takes on classic songs such as “Silent Night” and “Let it Snow,” alongside six new tracks.
Stefani opens up the album with a joyful rendition of “Jingle Bells,” which features her nasally voice accompanied by a lively horn section. The track also features impressive backup vocals, adding a bouncy rhythm to the song. The track has a throwback feel while still maintaining a sense of modernity. Keeping with that blend of throwback and modernity is one of her original songs, “My Gift Is You.” Here, the beat resembles Ben E. King’s song “Stand By Me,” mixing those poignant bass notes with Christmas chimes to evoke the holiday feel.
Stefani’s original Christmas songs all concern love during the holiday season, possibly fueled by her current romance with Blake Shelton. She flaunts her newfound love with the country singer in “My Gift Is You” as she disregards material possessions for Christmas, singing, “I don’t even need a wedding ring/ All I need is love and the truth/ And I got it, my gift is you.” In other songs, such as “Never Kissed Anyone With Blue Eyes Before You,” she relishes the lovey-dovey feelings she gets around Shelton in a country-inspired Christmas tune. The tone of the song is sweet and playful, but it could’ve been saved for her next album for it does not evoke a holiday feel.
Shelton even makes an appearance on the album in the title track, “You Make It Feel Like Christmas.” The track melds the couple’s modern country and pop sounds in a way that works for the melody. Upbeat drums provide that classic pop genre beat while the chord progressions of what sounds like a banjo demonstrate just that. The lyrics, on the other hand, are a bit cheesy and predictable. Stefani and Shelton sing, “I never thought I’d find a love like this/ But I found forever in that very first kiss,” sounding overly saccharine, even for the holiday season.
“When I Was a Little Girl” is a slow-tempo song recalling Stefani’s thoughts as a child who longed for a love like the one she currently has (see, mushy, right?). Her voice doesn’t sit well with the song’s slow tempo either, rather shining much more on the songs that showcase her poppier side such as “Last Christmas” and “Santa Baby.” Her voice is playful and flirtatious, a skill that Stefani has mastered for years.
Verdict: While there are a few songs on Stefani’s Christmas album that encapsulate the Christmas spirit and will have you singing along with her in the car — or while decorating the Christmas tree — there are far more songs on the album that don’t feel like Christmas; it’s more like she just added some holiday bells to a love ballad and mentioned a fireplace here and there. It’s a solid effort, but she has a way to go if she wants to be considered the new Queen of Christmas. That position is still very well in Mariah Carey’s hands.
Best Tracks: “Jingle Bells,” “My Gift Is You,” “Last Christmas, “Santa Baby”