Gwen Stefani, You Make It Feel Like Christmas | Album Review
3 ½ stars out of 5
Gwen Stefani rings in the holiday season with a fun, well-rounded Christmas album, ‘You Make It Feel Like Christmas.’
‘Tis the season for Christmas albums! What better way to celebrate Christmas than a Christmas album by a pop, rock, or R&B musician? In this case, the respective Christmas album arrives courtesy of pop artist Gwen Stefani. We last heard from Gwen back in 2016 when she made a comeback with her third solo album, This is What the Truth Feels Like. A respectable album if not game changing, Truth debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200, but performed so-so ultimately. Nonetheless, sometimes, all it takes is a little holiday magic to reignite the fire. You Make It Feel Like Christmas is a fun, well-rounded Christmas album.
Gwen Stefani gets things started off right, going for two traditional carols with “Jingle Bells” and “Let it Snow.” Both set up the retro vibe of You Make It Feel Like Christmas, which ends up being a superb look for Stefani. From the start, she sounds better than anticipated. After offering up the predictable, she branches out for the first time with an original, “My Gift is You.” Originals are tougher to pull off in the holiday genre, but the love-oriented tune is heartwarming if nothing more.
She pivots back to the traditional route with a respectable interpretation of “Silent Night.” “Silent Night” rarely misses a Christmas album, so making it a gem is a rarity as opposed to the standard. Here, Stefani does it justice, with an arrangement that plays to her sensibilities. She then opts for another original, “When I Was a Little Girl” once more co-written written with Busbee and Just Tranter. The results, like “My Gift is You,” are enjoyable and pleasant, without being game-changing.
She pays ode to the late, great George Michael, covering “Last Christmas” soundly. It doesn’t eclipse the original by Wham! obviously, but Stefani does it justice. It’s eclipsed by the best original of the album, “You Make It Feel Like Christmas,” which adds Blake Shelton as a featured guest and co-writer. Old-school, tongue-n-cheek, yet fresh, one can envision “You Make It Feel Like Christmas” being a recurrent ‘new’ Christmas tune. The vocals are great and the vocal chemistry between Stefani and Shelton is on-point.
Following the crowning achievement is tough, but “Under the Christmas Lights” has plenty of charm boding well in its favor. Standard “Santa Baby” follows, matching the quality if not eclipsing it. Does Stefani bring new life to this classic? Not necessarily, but its consistent and pleasant, typically the M.O. of the holiday effort.
One more classic graces You Make It Feel Like Christmas – the Irvin Berlin staple, “White Christmas.” Performed in a tongue-n-cheek manner, it continues to play to Stefani’s strengths. Two originals close out – “Never Kissed Anyone with Blue Eyes” and “Christmas Eve.” The best of the two is the soulful “Never Kissed Anyone with Blue Eyes.” This is definitely different from her work on her solo albums, which makes it refreshing.
All in all, Gwen Stefani delivers the goods on You Make It Feel Like Christmas. As aforementioned, it’s a fun, well-rounded Christmas album. The wheel is not reinvented, but it didn’t and doesn’t need to be. This Christmas effort meets expectations without a doubt, particularly from an artist you wouldn’t necessarily expect to record a holiday offering.
Gems: “Jingle Bells,” “Let It Snow,” “You Make It Feel Like Christmas” & “Never Kissed Anyone with Blue Eyes”