Ever since Mariah Carey’s multi-platinum Merry Christmas, celeb-Christmas albums have become obligatory rites of commercial passage (the Jewish Barbra Streisand even gives messianic props for the second time in her career this fall). But for the most part, listening to ’Nsync, Christina Aguilera and, now, soulstress Toni Braxton spreading holiday cheer seems strangely inappropriate. Just like Carey wouldn’t be able to pull off another pristine Christmas album at this skanky stage in her career, Braxton’s Snowflakes would have worked better pre-“You’re Making Me High.” (In fact, “Breathe Again” would fit inconspicuously on any holiday mixtape.) “Gosh! I wish one year I could go to Jamaica or a tropical island for the holidays,” a young Toni Braxton once declared. The excruciatingly banal “Christmas in Jamaica,” featuring an extra-irritating Shaggy (“Just call me Santa Claus!”) is the singer’s urban-soaked attempt at transporting herself (and us) to a tropical holiday hideaway. There’s nary a festive note in original songs like “Santa Please” and “Holiday Celebrate,” co-written by Braxton. More classic-sounding tunes like the jazzy “Snowflakes of Love,” based on an instrumental composed by Issac Hayes, lift the collection’s spirit, but (call me old-fashioned) faithful renditions of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “The Christmas Song” are the only moments that conjure images of Christmas. What’s next, “He Wasn’t Santa ’Nuff for Me”?
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