Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Track By Track Album Review: Kelly Clarkson - Wrapped in Red

One of the first holiday albums of the season, Wrapped in Red is Clarkson's 1st Christmas album, and her latest studio album, following 2011's Stronger. The LP features 5 new original tracks, and 9 classics.

Wrapped in Red: The title track opens up the set. It starts off as a pretty predictable Christmas song: "Everybody's happy / snow is falling." Hmm, you don't say? The second verse fares much better lyrically, breaking down the meaning of red: "Blue is where I've been / Green can't run to you / Silver does remind me / That mistletoe's for two / So I found a color / That only tells the truth." Nevertheless, the song can get lodged in your brain for hours upon hours; but thats not a bad thing, its still a good song, and one could listen to Kelly sing for years upon years. A-

Underneath the Tree: This song makes me want to do this dance from the very first notes:

Simply, it's a bop. Again, lyrically it's dangerously close to All I Want For Christmas, but it's just so much fun, you cant resist. And those F's and G's in the last chorus? Insane. A-

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: The first cover of the album. It's far more laid back than its two predecessors, and Clarkson's voice is far more tranquil. It's smooth and light, basking in the glory of her lovely falsetto. But of course, she hits a monster note in the latter part of the song, which isn't a bad thing at all; it adds an original take to a non-original song. A

Run Run Rudolph: The baby dance is back. Kelly moves from pop to jazz-rock. "Rudolph" is a lot of fun, it summons the same fast pace rock vibe as 2009's Whyyawannabringmedown. I can see this cover in the Christmas movies already. The main flaw? It's a little on the short side (though that's not necessarily her fault). A-

Please Come Home For Christmas (Bells Will Be Ringing): And from Jazz-Rock we get to Soul/R&B. This cover comes about 10 years late, she could've done it better during her Thankful era (when she was infatuated with R&B). It's nice, but it feels a bit out of place, it doesn't capture a Christmas vibe as well as the rest of the album. B-

Every Christmas: 3rd original! Again, it's an R&B track. But here, Clarkson sounds like an R&B pro. She's more than comfortable here, just letting her voice unleash some soulful pleading. But I just want to strangle Greg Kurstin for putting that organ in there, now it feels overdone. B

Blue Christmas: 3rd R&B vibe. This one settles in nicely, so kick back in your chair and relax. Unfortunately however, this laid back track quickly gets passed up by the rest of the album. Or in other words, it's an album filler. C+

Baby It's Cold Outside (Feat. Ronnie Dunn): It's a bit creepy that the two are doing a love duet, when Ronnie is nearly twice her age, but if Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett could do it, then by damn so can Kelly. Kelly sounds like an experienced actor, it's easy to picture her tossing her shoulders trying to leave a snowed in home. Her last note of course completely demolishes all hopes and dreams of this version being covered. A

Winter Dreams (Brandon's Song): If she hasn't made it clear yet, Mrs. Blackstock loves her Mr. Blackstock to infinity and back. It sounds so genuine, it's charming, and oh so very sweet. The pauses, her phrasing, it is perfect. You can't help but smile when hearing how in love she sounds in the verses. She nailed it with this one, about 47 times over. A++

White Christmas: Her voice sounds so pure and clean from the very note, it will make you throw your headback in awe. No power notes here, but surprisingly, our big voiced soprano doesn't need them here. It's nice to hear and discover that Clarkson doesn't need her belts to carry a song. A

My Favorite Things: Kelly fits right in with her big band on track No.11. The band sounds great here, their crescendos are perfectly harmonized (you should know without me saying for the 32nd time that Clarkson sounds great). Everything sounds effortlessly interwoven, but this allegro track would fit much better earlier in the album. A

4 Carats: The final original track of the album. An eye of the tiger-esuqe guitar kicks off this sneaky song. She's asking for a 4 carat ring from Santa, or at the very least a ruby. "Oh Santa make my christmas eve 4 carats please" sounds iconic. Again, this track is a lot of fun (I'm not sure how many other ways I can say that), it is charming like "Winter Dreams," and lyrically, it sounds like a classic. A+

Just For Now: Now that the originals are all gone, we are left with two covers. Just For Now seems like an odd choice at first, after all it was made by an unknown, and is still an unknown track, but it adds variety to the rest of the album. Its not talking about happy family times, or a sappy love song, rather it captures that imperfect Christmas: "Will you quit kicking me under the table?" she quips, it's a smart choice for the track list, and makes the album more relatable as a whole. A

Silent Night (Feat. Reba and Trisha Yearwood): Three powerful woman sing this lovely lullaby. It shall be a classic for newborn infants across the globe. Soothing, sweet and smart. Kelly starts out with a choir of her own voices backing her. Once Trisha finishes her voice, she then joins the choir while Reba sings, a seamless transition. Whoever thought of that is a genius. When the acapella section begins, Kelly plays nice and doesn't violently blast the others out of the way with her voice. A-

Kelly Clarkson has made good albums before, but never a great one...until now that is. Wrapped in Red sounds classic from start to finish, with only minor missteps here and there (I'm looking at you Blue Christmas). Kelly, you did good. I will be looking forward to your second Christmas album in 2027.

Vocals: A+
Lyrics: N/A
Production: A-
Overall: A