If American Idols are ready for anything, it's that industry standard, the Christmas album. It is to Kelly Clarkson's credit that she waited a decade to deliver a seasonal platter, but 2013's Wrapped in Red is worth the wait; a testament to her confidence as an interpreter. Generally, the 14 songs here emphasize Clarkson's skills as a full-throated diva -- the arrangements are bold and brassy, as is her delivery -- but when the tempo slows and the arrangements scale back, she's perhaps even more alluring, turning "Blue Christmas" into a sweet fireside crawl and effortlessly overshadowing the overmatched Ronnie Dunn on "Baby It's Cold Outside." Clarkson's selections favor the bold -- there aren't many carols here, these are primarily secular holiday tunes, and she doesn't resist Vegas glitz, giving "My Favorite Things" a bit of a gaudy makeover -- but she fares well in this setting, always sounding like the strongest element in the mix. Perhaps the concept and execution are conventional, but even in this utterly expected setting, Clarkson retains her fiery, individual spirit, and that's what makes Wrapped in Red appealing: to the letter, it delivers what it promises.
Wrapped in Red Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine