It’s that magical time of year again — temperatures are plunging, holiday lights are going up, and shoppers are out en masse. Like it or not, it’s definitely Christmastime. And that means the return of Christmas music! Every year, someone releases a new Christmas album to add to the festive spirit, and this year it’s Kylie Minogue’s turn with Kylie Christmas.
Minogue has released a few one-off Christmas-themed songs here and there, including a cover of “Santa Baby,” in 2000. Given her longevity, it’s surprising she hasn’t released a full Christmas LP before, but the timing is perfect — Minogue is between labels and plotting her next move after the relative disappointment of her 2014 album, Kiss Me Once.
Like any christmas album, Kylie Christmas naturally includes a number of familiar standards like “Winter Wonderland” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” You’ve heard these songs millions of times before, but Minogue’s versions still shine — largely because she is such a likable person. Largely scandal-free, Minogue has been unimpeachably beloved following her 2005 cancer scare, making her the perfect vessel to sing these well-known chestnuts. Additionally, while Minogue lacks the vocal chops of Adele or Christina Aguilera, she has always had a sweet voice; her soft coo is perfect for conjuring up a warm and cozy sitting-by-the-fireplace feeling. In short, she’s the perfect person to record a Christmas album.
Aiding Minogue’s cozy vocals is excellent production: The big-band sound on classics like “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is sublime. Additionally, a number of songs have a cute ‘60s feel: Minogue maintains the sock-hop feel on her cover of Connie Francis’ “I’m Gonna Be Warm This Winter.” And original composition, “White December,” is a doo-woppy song that sounds simultaneously classic and fresh, all at once; its lyrical reference to Christmas perennial, “Fairytale of New York,” is icing on the cake.
Of course, as with any Christmas album, the challenge is making super-familiar and much-loved songs sound new. Minogue accomplishes this courtesy of a two-pronged attack: First, she employs savvy duets, ranging from everyone from the late, great Frank Sinatra to Iggy Pop. Secondly, she has sprinkled the album with inspired covers of more contemporary Yuletide songs, including a beautiful cover of the Pretenders’ “2000 Miles.” The best results synthesize both additions: Minogue ropes in Iggy Pop to turn new-wave favorite “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses into a duet. While Minogue’s version does not snarl with the same bratty brilliance as the original, Iggy Pop’s contribution adds an interesting twist on a cult Christmas classic. Compare the two versions, below:
And even strange attempts, such as Minogue’s cover of Yazoo’s “Only You” manage to work. The original was not a Christmas song, per se; however, Minogue transforms it into a winter love song, with some help for duet partner, comedian James Corden. The net effect of all this is that Kylie Christmas consistently manages to sound both familiar and fun, which is exactly what you want from a Christmas album.
And while there hasn’t been a solid new addition to the Christmas canon since Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You” in 1994, Kylie Christmas has a number of valiant attempts. Some of the new compositions fall flat, such as “Every Day’s Like Christmas.” The song, written by Chris Martin of Coldplay, comes across like a watered-down version of Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.” It must be said, however, the remix by original Minogue-producers Stock Aitken Waterman is substantially better). Minogue and Coldplay have collaborated in the past, on the breathy, sensual “Lhuna” in 2008, suggesting that this Christmas collaboration could’ve worked as a duet.
Luckily, some of the new songs are brilliant: Aside from the aforementioned “White December,” there’s “100 Degrees,” which is a glorious disco-inspired duet with sister, Dannii Minogue. Hearing the sisterly Minogue camaraderie between Kylie and Dannii would’ve been a treat on any record, but it feels especially poignant on a Christmas song. The song percolates with an exuberant joy that is inherent in so many of Minogue’s classic hits. “100 Degrees” is the best song on the album, although it’s strangely tucked away only on the deluxe edition; instead of relegating “100 Degrees” to a bonus track, more of the original material on the album should’ve veered in this same direction.
Overall, Kylie Christmas is an endearing, solid addition to any Christmas playlist. While it doesn’t add anything essential to the Kylie canon, as a stop-gap until her next album, only a Scrooge would begrudge her efforts. So raise a glass of eggnog, get your Christmas lights up, and let Minogue get you in the holiday spirit!