ALBUM REVIEW: GWEN STEFANI’S “YOU MAKE IT FEEL LIKE CHRISTMAS”

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This past October, pop megastar and music legend Gwen Stefani released her first ever Christmas-themed album, You Make It Feel Like Christmas. In the fourth studio record for the singer, the album features a number of holiday standards and a few new originals penned by Stefani, producer busybee, and the ever-popular songwriter du jour Justin Tranter.  Despite its somewhat premature release nearly 2 months ago, You Make It Feel Like Christmas is poised to become a sure-fire hit of the season and a shot of momentum for Stefani as she explores her return to a solo career post-The Voice.

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The record opens with “Jingle Bells” –the played out, predictable holiday ditty we’ve all come to hate. But Stefani puts an interesting spin on it: favoring an upbeat, horn-based instrumentation that sounds something like her early No Doubt days combined with something from The Andrews Sisters. The same can’t quite be said for “Let It Snow”, “Silent Night,” or “Santa Baby”, which all sound very much like their respective classic recordings.

The real meat and potatoes of the record is in the originals. In “Never Kissed Anyone With Blue Eyes Before You,” we hear an entirely different, entirely grown up version of Gwen Stefani. The sound is something straight out of the 1970’s, with classic horns and effects-free piano. While it’s probably more of a love-letter to Blake Shelton than a holiday song, it still marks an exciting departure from the uber pop, uber hip version of Gwen we’re so used to hearing. The closing “Christmas Eve” is perhaps the best track on the album – a warm, heartfelt, somewhat melancholy ballad about feeling lost during the holidays. And while the song is a little bit longing, it’s not entirely “lonely” in tone as it still feels slightly hopeful and very appropriately “holiday-ish.”

Overall, You Make It Feel Like Christmas is an unlikely, sentimental move for a singer whose public persona has always been about being edgy and current. It’s a much more adult Gwen–perhaps smitten by new love later in life, or aged gracefully by an over twenty-year career and a few kids–but a gift nonetheless to the fans that have worshipped her for so many decades. One hopes it’s a glimmer into more things to come.

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