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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Audio Beaverhausen: Idina Menzel's Holiday Wishes

Idina Menzel's Holiday Wishes (Warner Brothers) is a Christmas album of unadulterated and unabashed Yuletide hooey. Here we have an assortment of the standard Christmas numbers ("White Christmas," "The Christmas Song"), for the most part, with some newer, but nonetheless already well-canvased, ones like covers of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" and Joni Mitchell's "River."

The first song on the album is the carol "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and Ms Menzel attacks it, as she does every other track on Holiday Wishes, with overly eager intensity. How can we help but hear! Her style, while perfectly suited for Broadway pop musicals, is an awkward fit for a holiday recording. Brought to bear on "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas," it's positively unnerving. Idina Menzel's voice is that of a Broadway belter combined with the pop melismatic, tremulous stylings a'la Whitney or Beyonce. Should that be suited to your musical sensibilities, the album will be a smorgasbord for your ears, but others may have reason to beware.

Menzel's duet with Michael Buble on (you guessed it) "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is the lamest version of this venerable tune I've yet to hear. Bereft of any sense of sincerity or, even more simply, playfulness, it's as chilly as the weather described in Frank Loesser's lyrics. "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" contains some awkward phrasing and little else to distinguish itself. (What I'll be doing New Year's Eve will be avoiding hearing this particular cover of the pop classic.) "When You Wish Upon a Star" (from Disney's "Pinocchio") is a nice inclusion for a holiday album but suffers from a horrible arrangement and overly dramatic, hyperbolic production and vocal.

While "December Prayer" is something fresh and not altogether hard on the ears, Ms Menzel's version of "All I Want for Christmas Is You" is both badly arranged and delivered. It brought me all the Yuletide joy of discovering a lump of coal in my Christmas stocking. Oppressive rather than peaceful, the album's rendition of "Silent Night" hurt my ears. At that point, I began to long for a silent night myself but managed to make it through the final three tracks.

Listen, Idina, even Carole King came a cropper when she came a-caroling. Girl, we loved you in Wicked and in Rent, we loved hearing your voice in Frozen and your version of "Let It Go" that took us to the dancefloors last winter. Maybe not so much love for you in If/Then, but, be that as it may, we sincerely wish you'll cease and desist recording any future holiday anthems. Let it go indeed.

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