Wednesday 4 December 2013

The Christmas Diva Face-Off

This December, there are three new Christmas albums released: from two of the most successful reality show alumni, Kelly Clarkson and Leona Lewis, and from soul singer Mary J Blige.

That can only mean one thing - it's time for...





For her album, Mary keeps it classic in white fur, with a forlorn expression that reflects exactly how I feel listening to it.  And don't even get me started on that pun.

Kelly, meanwhile, keeps things simple with a scarlet outfit that mirrors the title 'Wrapped In Red', but it's lacking the sense of fun that's in abundance throughout the album.

And then there's the vintage feel of Leona's 'Christmas With Love'.  Sure, there are some cheesy expressions - including the inimitable 'heart hands' and 'disco eye'. But all is forgiven because THERE'S A PUPPY.



'A Mary Christmas' is the most traditional of the three, with a mixture of carols and Christmas classics - from Little Drummer Boy to Do You Hear What I Hear and Silent Night.  Minus points, though, for the lack of any originals as the album comprises purely covers.  It's also a sedate and spiritual affair that lacks any sense of Christmas fun.  The only exception is a jazz rendition of Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer at the end of which she cries "that was fun!". Back in your box Mary.

+1 diva points for featuring Barbra Streisand. -1 for duetting with Jessie J.

Leona, meanwhile, includes some originals amongst her selection of classics and carols.  Upbeat tracks like lead single One More Sleep and Mr Right certainly bring a sense of pop fun, but they don't live up to the classics - even if Winter Wonderland and I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday have been horribly overproduced.  And anyway, Leona has always been best at the ballads - thankfully O Holy Night and Silent Night fit the bill.  It beats me, however, why she decides to put on an out of character opera voice for Ave Maria...

And then there's Kelly, with the most diverse album of them all.  Every base is covered, from the rock n roll Run Run Rudolph, to the bluesy Blue Christmas, the jazzy White Christmas, the heavier pop rock of 4 Carats and the haunting carol Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel.  It's like a 'best of' of Christmas songs, but perfectly suits her personality.  Most of all, the originals are worthwhile inclusions - Underneath The Tree is an instant classic.



Mary's lead single is Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, for obvious pun-intended reasons.  There are plenty of superior versions of this classic however.

Leona's One More Sleep crams plenty of jingle and tubular bells into the old school doo-wop style.  A Christmas power ballad would've been a better choice though - it might not have the same instant appeal but Your Hallelujah is ultimately a more poignant and beautiful track.

Basically, nobody can compete with Kelly's Underneath The Tree.  From the twinkly opening to the brassy, catchy chorus and the sing-along melodies, it's got everything you could want from a Christmas pop song.



Everyone knows that Mariah is the ultimate Christmas diva - not only in her vocal runs and dog-pitched high notes, but in both the upbeat pop feel and sense of longing in her classic All I Want For Christmas Is You.  I mean, just look at her...

Thankfully, Mary sings with far more restraint than in her shouty pop tracks.  As a result, she never really stretches her vocal chords and takes herself far too seriously throughout.  Perhaps her diva status is already above the others, or perhaps she's just dull.  Either way, with its sedate tone, 'A Mary Christmas' is the sort of album you put on to lull your excitable child to sleep on Christmas Eve, rather than soundtracking your Christmas Party.

On the flip side, Leona takes the Mariah factor far too literally. Of course her vocal style features plenty of runs and high notes, but most of all the theme of All I Want For Christmas Is You is sprinkled throughout the album - on both the covers (Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)) and the originals (One More Sleep, Mr Right).  For her, Christmas is all about finding a man.  It's not, it's about presents and food (maybe).

Kelly gets the balance just right.  Sure, she sings in an edgier, rockier style but she still has the diva personality. Most of all, Underneath The Tree is essentially the spiritual successor to Mariah's track, with similar themes in addition to the sing-along factor, but without being a carbon copy.  This is the track you'll be drunkenly singing with your mates.



Mary has by far put in the least effort for her video for Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.  Blank, white and devoid of personality, she simply chooses to showcase some appalling outfit choices.  Where's the Christmas cheer?


Kelly's video for Underneath The Tree takes the form of a studio perfomance.  It might be full of Christmas cheer and fake snow, but where are the disgusting Christmas jumpers, the frolicking in the snow and the sense of family?  


Leona on the other hand has everything you could possibly want from a Christmas video, even if it's essentially a retread of both Wham! and Mariah.  She gazes upon her family home that's glittering with snow, before heading inside to decorate the tree and wrap the presents.  Then her friends arrive (actually her real-life friends) before embarking on a snowball fight and a food fight, dressed in outfits that will seem dated within a matter of weeks.  There's even room for some nostalgic sepia-tinged camera shots.  It might contain every cliché in the book, but if you can't be cheesy at Christmas when can you do it?


Mary - 0
Leona - 2
Kelly - 3


Well played everyone.  Well played.