Kylie Minogue’s first Christmas album is decidedly secular, but it’s also surprisingly traditional. Kylie Christmas begins with a rousing choral flourish followed by the opening strains of the Andy Williams chestnut “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” a statement of purpose that sets the tone for an album rife with references to snowmen, mistletoe, and the like, but with nary a mention of knocked-up virgins, sin-absolving babes, or cradles fashioned out of troughs.
Holiday pop standards like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Let It Snow” (previously released in 2010) offer further evidence of the chameleonic Minogue’s ability to adapt to just about any musical style. Both the singer’s buxom image, a throwback to old Hollywood, and coquettish voice make her a perfect match for Frank Sinatra, who’s resurrected here for a duet of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Minogue’s performance is woven seamlessly and believably with that of Ol’ Blue Eyes’s, even if Sinatra’s sonically enhanced vocals, recorded in 1948, still sound like they’re coming from inside a paper cup.
The album’s original material holds its own alongside the yuletide classics, the standout being the Chris Martin-penned “Every Day’s Like Christmas,” the most modern-sounding song in the set. And while the world doesn’t lack for ballads about being alone during the holidays, “Christmas Isn’t Christmas ’Til You Get Here” is a worthy, if somewhat derivative, addition to the canon.
Minogue delivers a faithful rendition of Peggy Lee’s brassy “Winter Wonderland,” but it lacks the magic of the song’s various other incarnations, most notably the Eurythmics’, a definitive example of a pop group successfully modernizing a holiday standard. And though “Christmas Wrapping” is a seemingly perfect fit for Minogue, the arrangement oddly almost sounds less contemporary than the Waitresses’ new-wave original. That’s not to say an album of disco or EDM-infused holiday songs wouldn’t have been predictable in its own way, but for a once fearlessly progressive pop star, the otherwise lovingly executed and heartwarming Kylie Christmas feels like a bit of a missed opportunity to innovate a well-worn genre.