Avatar Four Word Reviews: Christmas

So, it turns out that tomorrow is the first day of May, and not as I had assumed another day in April. That means that this post is being thrown online in a hurry so that it counts towards my April beans and not my May beans.

Anyway, since it’s April, and since it’s Four Word Reviews time, tradition dictates that we must listen to a Christmas album. In Aprils gone by we have heard from Mahalia and Barbra Streisand. This year we’re going for the big one: Christmas, the 2011 album by Michael Bublé. It rewrote Christmas music as we know it – a solid album of Christmas classics, reworked by the smoothest sounding chart act since Sade stopped releasing new music. Now everyone comes along and releases a few slick Christmas cover versions every year. Especially Michael Ball.

We all know, of course, that Michael Bublé is the Canadian superstar singer with the buttery smooth voice, and you will without a doubt know a fair number of the songs on this album, because in the decade since it was released they have become Christmas standards and are rolled out every year without fail. So with all that smoothness and familiarity in mind, let’s see what’s in this stocking.

TrackWord 1Word 2Word 3Word 4
1. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like ChristmasSupertwinklysmoothstarter
2. Santa Claus is Coming to TownOccasionalthreateninghornstabs
3. Jingle Bells (feat. The Puppini Sisters)Muckingaboutwithtiming
4. White ChristmasSuperjiggymotownbacking
5. All I Want for Christmas Is YouAllpiano.Insufficientlytwinkly
6. Have a Holly Jolly ChristmasDaftnonsensenavigatednicely
7. Santa BabyAwkwardreworking,deflatedappeal
8. Have Yourself a Merry Little ChristmasStandardsloworchestraltreatment
9. Christmas (Please Come Home)Unexpectedelectricguitarsolo
10. Silent NightChoirpresentasexpected
11. Blue ChristmasWeirdburlesquespeakeasymusic
12. Cold December NightNewtome.Average
13. I’ll Be Home for ChristmasExtremelyslow.Hurryup
14. Ave MariaIt’sevenslower:unacceptable
15. Mis Deseos (Feliz Navidad) (with Thalía) HesingsinSpanish

I still don’t know who sends me these albums, and the investigation launched back in 2019 by Interpol still has no promising leads. But whoever it is tends to have a very good idea of what I will dislike and almost universally everything I’ve been sent, and have subsequently Four Word Reviewed, has been terrible. Whoever that mysterious person is, though, this album might be their first mis-step.

I don’t love it, certainly… but I didn’t dislike it at all. It’s quite nice. If I was at a Christmas party and someone put this on I’d find it really very tolerable. Some of these versions are even quite good. I mean, he’s got a very good voice, the instrumentation is nice, they all have a little twist so they’re a bit different to the originals. It’s pretty good.

In common with the other Christmas records we’ve looked at, Mr Bublé has changed some lyrics here and there, especially in “Santa Baby”. In an album that mostly works, this is a real miss. The original is, of course, written to be a woman attempting to seduce Father Christmas into giving her lots of presents. In this version, it’s a man tip-toeing around anything that might suggest homosexuality while still clearly trying to chat up an old bearded man in the hope he’ll agree to be a sugar daddy. One line near the end that implies marriage now goes “forgot to mention one other thing – cha-ching! I don’t mean as a loan.” If you’re not willing to commit to it, maybe just don’t sing it?

The other miss is Silent Night. He’s just too lounge musicky for it, and the reverent music and children’s choir just make him sound even more out of place singing it. He doesn’t do a bad job, it’s just… no. Not that song. Not for you.

In summary, then, I really didn’t mind this and have considered keeping it for next Christmas. My favourite thing about this album was the absolutely inexplicable music accompanying Blue Christmas that made it sound like it belonged in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. My least favourite thing was the hidden track at the end, billed as “a Christmas message from Michael”. It lasts five seconds and is just him saying “this is Michael Buble, wishing you a very merry Christmas”, in tones that suggest that this was a contractual obligation and he in no way wishes you anything of the sort. After fifteen very festive songs, it ruined my Christmassy April mood.

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