Clay Aiken

Merry Christmas with Love

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Clay Aiken is a show-biz creature, so it's only appropriate that the sequel to his hit 2003 debut, Measure of a Man, is 2004's Merry Christmas with Love -- after all, there are few things quite as show biz as a holiday album. Aiken is a rarity in the new millennium: an old-fashioned, unironic middle-of-the-road singer. Those are the kinds of vocalists that always fare very well on Christmas records, so it should be no surprise that Aiken turns in a good holiday album. Actually, there are no surprises on the album -- the song selections are all standards, the arrangements are traditional and unobtrusive, always emphasizing Clay's voice, and the record is given a safe, high-gloss sheen ideal for adult contemporary radio. If there are any surprises with Merry Christmas with Love -- well, apart from Clay's impish, elfin look on the front cover -- it's that his singing is better, more assured here than it was on Measure of a Man. Then again, that debut was released a little over four months after he came in second on the second season of American Idol. He's had more time to work on Merry Christmas with Love, and it seems to benefit his performance, which bodes well for his second proper studio album.

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