It’s that most wonderful time of the year again — the annual rush of new holiday albums is upon us.
This year Australian pop icon Kylie Minogue gets into the festive spirit with her first holiday album, “Kylie Christmas.” Holiday albums are ubiquitous this time of year and it’s easy to understand why. They can be produced rather quickly and can be reintroduced for a new round of sales every holiday season.
Of course, some are better than others. Many artists go through the motions and produce what amounts to a karaoke collection of the same old Christmas standards that we’ve heard a million times before, while others put more care and ingenuity into their project. Thankfully “Kylie Christmas” is of the latter variety. It’s an engaging and entertaining mix of old standards and new songs with a couple of duets and surprises thrown in for good measure.
“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is the buoyant opener and it’s brimming with good cheer and smiles. For the most part, Minogue goes for a more traditional arrangement and instrumentation, giving “Kylie Christmas” an elegant warmth. Apart from a couple tracks, this is not dance diva Christmas with heavy electronic beats. Through the magic of studio technology, Minogue duets with Frank Sinatra on “Santa Claus is Comin To Town,” again mixing the classic with the modern and creating a sheer delight.
It’s hard to match Chrissie Hynde’s exquisite vocal on the Pretender’s bittersweet classic “2000 Miles,” but Minogue does her best. She sings the song with grace and reverence. Minogue and British comedian James Corden deliver a beautiful duet on the old Yaz classic “Only You.” While it’s not a holiday song per se, the romantic ballad’s expression of love fits beautifully with the festive favorites.
Chris Martin of Coldplay wrote “Everyday Is Like Christmas,” and it’s the one track on the album produced by Europop hitmakers Stargate (who also produced Coldplay’s upcoming album “A Head Full of Dreams”). Not surprisingly, it’s the one song that sounds like it could fit on just about any of Minogue’s recent albums, with soaring vocals and keyboards over a smooth electronic beat. While it does have a more modern vibe than the old-school stylings of most of the album, it still fits nicely into the collection as it has such joyous charm.
Minogue resurrects the new wave chestnut “Christmas Wrapping,” originally recorded by the Waitresses, and reinvents it as a duet with Iggy Pop. “I’m Gonna Be Warm This Winter” is a pleasantly nostalgic holiday gem originally recorded by Connie Francis.
“Santa Baby” seems like an obvious choice for Minogue and she delivers it with plenty of verve. She coos through the song with an obvious nod to Madonna’s famous take from the 1987 classic compilation “A Very Special Christmas.” “Christmas Isn’t Christmas ‘Til You Get Here” is one of several new tracks co-written by Minogue, and while it probably won’t go down as a new Christmas classic, it’s a jubilant holiday confection that will immerse even the Grinchiest into good holiday cheer.
Minogue closes the main disc with a sparkling version of the standard “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” It’s one of the season’s most magical carols and even though we’ve all heard it a million times, Minogue gives us ample reason to enjoy it yet again. The deluxe edition of “Kylie Christmas” is worth seeking out for the three bonus tracks, especially the high energy duet with her sister Dannii, “100 Degrees.”
“Kylie Christmas” is fun and festive, with moments of real heart and emotion. Minogue clearly tried to make this project a treat for her fans and she succeeds beautifully. Whimsical and nostalgic but with a modern sheen, “Kylie Christmas” is a delight for anybody who loves to get into the holiday spirit by singing along.