If ever there was an ideal candidate for a holiday album it’s Susan Boyle, the reality TV show contestant who caused a sensation with her pretty, old-fashioned performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” in 2009. If ever there was a genre that calls for old-fashioned prettiness it’s the holiday album, a genre that cares not for the whims of fashion, a genre where predictability is cherished. For the most part, The Gift is indeed predictable in its sound -- a continuation of the glassy, stately march of I Dreamed a Dream -- and songs, relying on carols, not secular seasonal tunes. Well, that’s not entirely true. There is a very, very large exception to that rule and that is the inclusion of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day,” Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and Neil Finn’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” These three modern standards are given the same somnolent treatment as the rest of the record and popped right into the thick of The Gift without explanation. Presumably, they exist in order to call attention to the album, to give Boyle a single that could be played on radio outside of the holiday season, yet it’s exceedingly odd to have The Gift dotted with tunes that by no stretch of the imagination could be called Christmas carols. Of course, since they sound as stuffy as the rest of the record, they don’t necessarily stand out; they merely meld into the wash of pianos, strings, and choirs that provide an appropriately tasteful aural wallpaper to any holiday occasion you may choose.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Amber Stassi