Gwen Stefani

You Make It Feel Like Christmas

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Showbiz has been in Gwen Stefani's blood since the start of her career, which is the reason why she, unlike many '90s alt-rock veterans, can seem at home within the confines of the televised musical competition The Voice. Her very presence on The Voice, one of the last genuinely popular franchises on network television in the 2010s, guaranteed the existence of an album like You Make It Feel Like Christmas, one that's pitched directly in the mainstream. You Make It Feel Like Christmas plays upon her romance with co-host Blake Shelton, making her bouncy duet with the country singer the album's title track and first single. "You Make It Feel Like Christmas" bops along to a Motown beat, just one of many intentional nostalgic nods at the past -- "Never Kissed Anyone with Blue Eyes" grooves to a simmering '60s soul groove, her version of "Santa Baby" has a mid-century swing, Wham!'s "Last Christmas" is given drippy strings that turn it into a girl group number -- but the record is surprisingly heavy on new material for a holiday album. Occasionally, this means Stefani veers into territory that doesn't feel strictly seasonal: "When I Was a Little Girl" plays like a diary entry, not a memory of Christmases past, "My Gift Is You" is a love song bearing the faintest hint of mistletoe, and "Never Kissed Anyone with Blue Eyes" has only a tangential relationship with Christmas. They don't seem out of place, since they're given the same bells and whistles as "Let It Snow" and "White Christmas," but they also diminish the album, making it seem smaller than the season. Still, the moments that work have a coquettish charm that is appealing, which is reason enough to warrant a listen.

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