I’m an absolute believer that the Christmas album is often the death knell of a pop star’s career. Ashanti and Jessica Simpson are artists that come to mind with some of the worst Christmas songs ever. And they aren’t exactly selling or streaming like hot cakes are they? (#cautionarytale)
So when it came to Samantha Jade’s second covers album this year (seriously Sony, it’s time to find a new way to promote artists) it really didn’t bode well.
Much like her disco album, it’s not a total disaster but it certainly isn’t innovative or fresh.
‘The Magic Of Christmas’ is actually a lovely traditional Christmas album. Spending time in Nashville (it worked for Dami, why wouldn’t it work for Sammo?), the finished collection is polished and showcases Samantha Jade’s stunning voice, albeit in a far more subdued way than I expected.
I absolutely adore the album opener for its lush strings and sweeping arrangement. It’s a glimpse into what could have been. Sammi doesn’t stray far from the songs original form, but you feel the magical moments she makes all her own. The strings are what really make the song for me, something so closely associated with Christmas.
Most of the album follows this formula with more ballads than you can shake a stick at.
Self-penned ‘Home’ is a highlight for me because of its honesty and personal connection. She writes some great songs and I’m glad she gets to showcase another here (hint hint Sony – more of this and less covers thanks!).
Her friend and fellow label stablemate Guy Sebastian makes an appearance on the duet ‘The Magic Of Christmas Time’.
The two of them can sing circles around each other, but it doesn’t feel forced or overdone on this song. It’s cute and Christmasy, even if Samantha gets drowned out at times by Guy.
Other magical Christmas moments include a very cool rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ where Sammi goes a capella and bonus track ‘This Candle Time Of Year’ has a lovely message linked to her work with The Salvation Army. We know how powerful and diverse Sammi’s voice is and she let’s rip on several songs beautifully.
Like any Christmas celebration though, there are a couple of wobbles that appear after having a touch too much to drink. ‘O Holy Night’ for me is the track to avoid – the arrangement doesn’t sit well for such a highly recognised song. Good for her on trying something different, but I’d have left it off this album. It feels unresolved and forced.
There are also a couple tracks where the strings feel like an afterthought. Whether it was to pare things back or a cost cutting measure, it makes a few of the songs feel cheap – something you can’t afford to do with Christmas music (as I’m sure Ashanti will tell you).
The best bits of this album were those that were under-utilised. Why not join forces with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and do a stunning orchestral Christmas album? Or go crazy with some original disco themed Christmas songs? Think of the live show and TV special opportunities either of these could have had.
It’s time we stop thinking small and go big. If you’re going to do Christmas, you’ve got to go big or go home.
‘The Magic Of Christmas’ lands squarely in the middle of the road. It lacks the grandeur and budget an artist of Samantha Jade’s calibre deserves.
This is by no means the worst Christmas album ever, but it feels undercooked. Put it on rotation this Christmas.
But I’m curious whether it will reappear next year or be forgotten amongst the mass of Christmas songs.
VERDICT : 3/5.
MUST LISTEN : Home, The Magic Of Christmas Time, I’ll Be Home For Christmas.