Less than a year after the release of her first record, Britain’s Got Talent sensation Susan Boyle now presents the world with her second effort, a holiday release entitled The Gift. One can only imagine that her staggering level of fame, added to the tried-and-true trope of a holiday album, will lead to mad sales for the Scottish songbird. If you’re anything like me, though, you’re bound to be skeptical of anyone whose rise to musical prominence comes via a television show. And for us, the question stands: is The Gift actually any good?
Haters be damned; this woman can sing! The vocals on The Gift deliver. The legions of critics who’ve extolled the virtues of Boyle’s vocal ability were correct. Listen to The Gift; Boyle’s voice truly soars here. Take a track like “O Come All Ye Faithful.” You’ll wish your church had singers like this! The main problem lies with the rest of the sounds on the album. Boyle’s production crew essentially bury The Gift in a wash of sappy strings, overwrought piano and choirs that occasionally drown out our star’s lead vocals. The album never pushes its tempo above that of a coma patient’s heartbeat, which leads to a pretty same-sounding, drowsy listening experience. “The First Noel” breaks from this slightly to give us some crisp acoustic guitar accompaniment, thus taking its place as my favorite song on the album.
The Gift does finds some redemption in its song selection. For being a holiday album, its track list offers surprising variety. It has its share of standards, sure, but three of its first four tracks dip into pop music. This blog has already covered her treatment of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day;” we can add to that renditions of Leonard Cohen‘s “Hallelujah” and Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” It’s refreshing that the songs on The Gift come from thinking about the spirit of the holidays as opposed to picking public domain songs out of a hat. Hopefully more seasonal albums will follow its lead.
Still, the most impressive thing about The Gift remains the conviction in Boyle’s voice. Though not much really sets The Gift apart musically, you can tell she completely believes and feels everything she’s singing. Whether or not you think she should be singing in the first place, on a holiday album that spirit has to count for something.
The Gift Track Listing:
01. Perfect Day
03. Do You Hear What I Hear?
04. Don’t Dream It’s Over
05. The First Noel
06. O Holy Night
07. Away in a Manger
08. Make Me a Channel of Your Peace
09. Auld Lang Syne
10. O Come All Ye Faithful
Check out more Susan Boyle at her website.