Album Review: Clay Aiken, “Merry Christmas, With Love” (2004)

So what’s the perfect gift to give a Clay Aiken fan for Christmas? A copy of Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life? Of course! But even better is Clay’s holiday album, Merry Christmas, With Love.

I was so excited to hear that Clay was releasing a holiday album. I love holiday music, and I love Clay. So I absolutely love this CD. This time around, Clay and the producers of MCWL have managed to avoid the various mistakes of Measure of a Man, and the result is a beautiful mix of holiday standards and new favorites that you’ll want to listen to year round.

The CD starts off with holiday classic, O Holy Night. This is my favorite Christmas song, so it’s a bit thrilling to hear Clay sing it. Many artists have tackled this one, including Christina Aguilera, Josh Groban, and *NSYNC, but I think Clay’s voice adds some originality to it. This track is very simple, and doesn’t stray far from the standard version that everyone is used to, which, in my opinion, is a good thing. Clay’s vocals are wonderful here, and this is a great first track for the album.

The bouncy tune and memorable melody of Winter Wonderland works well after such a serious song as O Holy Night. Clay sounds jovial and cheerful as he sings the familiar lyrics. This track also, doesn’t stray far from the original rendition, but it’s also fun and worth listening to. Silent Night isn’t one of my favorite Christmas carols, probably due to the fact that it’s everyone else’s favorite (meaning you can’t go shopping during the holiday season without hearing it at least twice). Although I don’t care for the song, I have to say that Clay does a good job here. I really am in love with his voice, and this track focuses mainly on it, with occasional backing from the choir. An interesting thing here, though, is that Clay’s southern accent is VERY prominent during the song, which shows just how stripped back the production is in comparison to MOAM.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing/O Come All Ye Faithful is a neat little mashup.  The song begins with Hark, which is very jubilant and the choir adds a festive touch. After about two minutes, there is a smooth segue into O Come, which works extraordinarily well. This song starts off very slow and quiet, then builds up to a great ending.  Joy To The World continues with the fun, starting off very loud with the Broadway Inspirational Voices opening the song. Clay soon joins, and you can practically feel the energy coming off of this song. The choir, just like on the other songs where they are used, adds a jovial touch that makes this track listening to. Even though this song is a bit shorter than the others (it’s only 2:13), it’s still one of my favorites.

Before this CD was released, I had NEVER heard of Mary Did You Know.  Soon after the release though, I heard quite a few renditions of it, but I have to say that Clay’s tops all (and that’s with all biases aside, I swear!). First off, Clay sounds WONDERFUL on this track. His vocals are strong, yet sweet, and he sounds very passionate about what he singing. The backing vocals of Quiana Parler, Jacob Luttrell, and Angela Fisher (who also tour with Aiken) add a haunting and powerful touch. The lyrics and meaning behind this song are also what makes this track so appealing. It’s nice to hear a Christmas song about the true reason for the season: Jesus’ birth.

Don’t Save It All for Christmas Day was originally sung by Celine Dion, but I haven’t heard her version of it. I like this track- Clay sounds good, and the meaning is sweet (Christmas isn’t the only time of the year to spread love- do it year round), but this song is a bit too cheesy and clichéd for me too enjoy it as much. Clay does have a nice glory note around 3:28 which reminds me of the old days when he was still on American Idol.

I remember hearing that the title track, Merry Christmas, With Love hadn’t been recorded for fifty years, until Clay choose it for his album, that is. Honestly, I think it would’ve been just fine if it went on another ten or so years without being recorded. Don’t get me wrong, this is a nice song. The sentiment is sweet, and as always, Clay sounds really good. But this song is somewhat of a bore and I usually skip it. There is nothing musically that stands out, and Clay doesn’t do anything too interesting either. I liked watching him perform it on his holiday special, but listening to it on CD is tiresome.

Thankfully, Sleigh Ride follows, as it’s another of my favourites.  It starts off with jingle bells, and they make an appearance throughout the song. Clay sounds really exciting to be singing this song- I can almost imagine him back in Raleigh as a little boy, getting all excited at the first sight of snow. This song is the perfect soundtrack for decorating the Christmas tree or looking at Christmas lights, as it really puts you in the holiday mood. You can try to listen to this track without singing or dancing along, but it’d be very hard, trust me.

The album ends with What Are You Doing New Years Eve? Automatically, the tempo and mood slow down a bit from Sleigh Ride, as this song begins. I really like this track. It has a classic, schmaltzy type feel to it, without being over the top. Clay sings it perfectly, he really sounds quite bashful as he asks what the listener’s New Years Eve plans are. It’s funny, because I can really imagine Clay asking someone this exact question, and being worried he’d get turned down. But I’m pretty sure there are few people who would say no to him, especially after listening to this charming song.

Merry Christmas, With Love is a great holiday album, for fans of Clay and fans of Christmas alike. Clay’s renditions of classic holiday songs are delightful, and you’ll want to add this to your Xmas music collection.

Rating: 200px-4_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. O Holy Night
2. Winter Wonderland
3. Silent Night
4.  Hark the Herald Angels Sing/O Come All Ye Faithful
5. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
6. Mary Did You Know
7. Joy To The World
8. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
9. Don’t Save It All For Christmas Day
10. Merry Christmas With Love
11. Sleigh Ride
12. What Are You Doing New Years Eve?

*This is a “classic” review. I have edited this review for content and formatting, though retained my original opinion of the product.

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