Artist: Kelly Clarkson
Title: Wrapped in Red
Label: RCA

While the jury’s still out on whether there’s a new holiday classic in the mix a la Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You,” one thing’s for sure: Kelly Clarkson does a fantastic job of spanning the genres for her first Christmas album, Wrapped in Red.

Instead of sticking with one stylistic motif, Clarkson successfully embraces a little bit of everything from classic country (“Blue Christmas”) to rockabilly (the superb “Run Run Rudolph”) to channeling her inner jazz chanteuse with “My Favorite Things.”

Yes, it’s clear that Clarkson is having a little fun with this fast and loose style, and her joy is evident in every track. Where many established artists’ holiday projects often feel a little phoned in, Clarkson seems intent on showing the audience a good time on Wrapped in Red.

As bright and fantastical as the album’s production value is, particularly the soulful title track that’s a nod to Phil Spector’s famed wall of sound that made ‘60s music, especially The Beatles’ work so memorable, it’s actually the quieter moments that end up sticking with you the most.

With Clarkson’s expressive voice serving as the main focal point, rather than a rush of competing accompaniment, familiar tracks such as “White Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” have an opportunity to shine in surprising new ways.

No doubt, the track list favors the secular over the sacred content-wise, but Clarkson did save the album’s best moment for last with a beautiful a cappella version of “Silent Night” with Trisha Yearwood and Clarkson’s new mother-in-law and fellow artist, Reba McEntire.

In a season where busyness and all the proverbial bells and whistles can sometimes distract from Christmas’s true meaning, it’s a quiet, reflective moment that points to the true reason for celebrating in the first place.

*This Review First Published 12/9/2013