After almost two decades in the business, Whitney Houston is just now releasing a Christmas album. It’s a career benchmark for almost every vocalist of Houston’s caliber, but one can’t help but think that One Wish: The Holiday Album is nothing more than damage control. The singer hasn’t had a bona fide hit since 1999 and public declarations like “Crack is cheap” and “I make too much for me to ever smoke crack” failed to spark interest in her comeback album Just Whitney. Politics (if that’s what you can call it) aside, Houston’s voice just isn’t what it used to be—she warbles her way through an otherwise understated version of the contemporary classic “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and sings “Tiny little tots with their eyes all aglow/Will find it hard to sleep tonight” on Mel Tormé‘s “The Christmas Song” like she wants to eat them (cue MADtv’s Debra Wilson impersonation). Just compare these performances to the crystalline voice on the album’s final two tracks, “Who Would Imagine A King” and the gospel-infused “Joy To The World,” which were taken from the soundtrack to 1996’s The Preacher’s Wife. That said, it’s pretty damn hard to make a bad Christmas album (unless you’re Ashanti), and the spirit of the season is effectively captured on Mervyn Warren’s inspired arrangements of traditional tunes like “O Come O Come Emanuel” and “Cantique De Noel (O Holy Night),” one of the greatest Christmas songs ever written (and sung by one of our greatest vocalists—even if she’s no longer at the top of her game).
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