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With barely a jingle, Sia keeps it joyfully real, while Cheap Trick have a blast, but this year it’s the King in all his crooning glory
Christmas albums are tricky things. Strike gold and you’ve got a pay cheque for life. Get it wrong and it’s forgotten by the time the season rolls around again. They can be charmless, phoned-in collections of standards (the Michael Bublé route), shameless attempts to add new songs to the canon (Leona Lewis and Kelly Clarkson both tried recently; Mariah Carey has a pop every couple of years), or a genuine celebration of the season (Sufjan Stevens writes a low-key Christmas album every year for family and friends). Whatever the motivation, stars make an annual grab for the tinselly pound, and you suspect most musicians reckon there’s a Christmas classic inside them. Will the class of Christmas 2017 still be soundtracking the sherry this time next year? Probably not, if we’re honest.
Gwen Stefani’s You Make It Feel Like Christmas justifies its title only because it’s both cloyingly sentimental and charmlessly tacky. The fun in Jingle Bells is in singing it, not listening, and no amount of faux rat-pack swing is going to make it any more appealing. Her Santa Baby, like versions by Kylie, Madonna and Ariana Grande, bloodlessly retreads Eartha Kitt; Let It Snow tries to swing but misses; and adding a 60s girl-group sheen to Wham!’s Last Christmas and a key change to Silent Night (which has rubbed along fine without one for 200 years, thanks) is more evidence of Stefani’s tendency to over-fig the pudding.