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BWW Album Review: HAPPINESS IS...CHRISTMAS! Is a Dose of Holiday Cheer


Kristin Chenoweth releases her second holiday album.

BWW Album Review: HAPPINESS IS...CHRISTMAS! Is a Dose of Holiday Cheer

With her second holiday album, Happiness Is... Christmas!, Kristin Chenoweth puts her own unique spin on the classic Christmas collection. Drawing on her iconic Broadway career and must-listen holiday tunes, Chenoweth strives to find the right balance between the old and new, resulting in an album that's just a little bit different than your standard holiday fare.

Instead of spending most of the album covering your typical Christmas carols, Chenoweth goes for a bit more variety. The opening track, which gives the album its name, is "Happiness (Is Christmas)/Christmastime Is Here." It's a sweet and heartwarming Peanuts-themed mashup that, in hindsight, makes total sense. Combining the beloved theme from A Charlie Brown Christmas with the finale from You're a Good Man Charlie Brown (with a few holiday-themed lyric tweaks), it's just the right balance of playful and sweet. It's a little cheesy, but in its own way, it works.

For the most part, the album bounces back and forth between the spiritual and the secular, and the gentle and the energetic. It does feel at times like the order of songs is completely random. It could be argued, I suppose, that the structure is meant to imitate the progression of the holiday season, starting with "Christmastime Is Here" and ending with a cover of Regina Spektor's "My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year)." The middle section, however, doesn't quite hold up the "story" the way it should. It's a minor quibble, but it's just noticeable enough to distract now and then.

In isolation, or even just as a casual listening experience, it's a pleasant enough album and addition to the holiday genre. "Why Couldn't It Be Christmas Every Day," along with another mashup, this time of "(Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man with the Bag" and "Jingle Bell Rock," provide plenty of joyous energy early on. It has the feel of a cheery Christmas singalong, inviting you to gather 'round and join in on the fun.

Chenoweth gets to break out her unmistakable pipes on some of the album's gentler, more introspective songs too. She performs a lovely rendition of "Merry Christmas Darling," and imbues "The Stories That You Told" with an authenticity that helps it avoid that all-too-familiar trap of saccharine holiday music. She also finds tender solemnity with the more religious songs on the album, such as "The Little Road to Bethlehem," and there's genuine emotion as she performs.

Not every song makes holiday magic, to be fair. "Santa I've Got a Bone to Pick with You!" is somehow both annoyingly cheesy and yet strangely low energy. It doesn't fit well with the tone of the album, and it definitely doesn't show Chenoweth to best advantage. There's an oddly low-key quality to the entire album, as well. It feels scaled-back in its arrangements and instrumentations, which works fine on some of the gentler, more intimate songs, but feels unexpectedly small on some of the others. Despite this, it's still an enjoyable listen and a fun addition to your holiday playlists!

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