I posted this one a few days ago on the Sputnik website. I thought I posted it here, but apparently not so much. So here it is:
As Gwen Stefani continues to develop her solo career outside of No Doubt, it makes sense she'd record a Christmas album. Nevertheless, certain things about You Make It Feel Like Christmas are surprising. For one, while exactly half of its twelve songs are covers of traditional Christmas classics, the other half are new original numbers. For another, stylistically, it's got something of a split personality -- some the arrangements and song choices are decidedly in the realm of jazz pop, which isn't exactly a shocker. What I wouldn't have predicted, though, is how much influence her current beau Blake Shelton had on this album. Stefani is still a pop rock singer, but most of the original tracks here are decidedly country-flavored, especially the title track (which she and Shelton sing together). And what's really funny is that although she and Shelton have only been together for about a year and a half, if you listen carefully, you'll hear that on some of the numbers, Stefani is singing with a slight twang. Now that's love!
Overall, this is a decent Christmas album, although I don't think it's one for the ages. The title track is definitely the strongest -- it's upbeat and fun, and Stefani and Shelton sound like they're genuinely enjoying themselves. I think this one will have a shelf life, and that you'll continue to hear it during the holiday season for at least the next few years. "Christmas Eve", another one of the originals, is also pretty good.
As for the covers, Stefani is at her best on tracks with jazzy arrangements, like her version of "Jingle Bells", and on some of the songs where she's allowed to be a little playful and flirtatious, like "Santa Baby" and George Michael's "Last Christmas". Other tracks, such as "Let It Snow" and "White Christmas", are pretty forgettable.
I'm not sorry to have this in my Christmas music collection. I've always liked Stefani, and I respect that she took a chance and filled half of the album with originals. I don't think it's an album I'll necessarily be pulling out every December, but it won't go to the bottom of my pile either. As for the title track, I'll definitely include it in some Christmas playlists. It won't replace No Doubt's cover of The Vandals' "Oi to the World" as my favorite Gwen Stefani Christmas song, though.
Rating: 3 of 5 stars