Kris Allen shocked the viewing audience—and himself—when he beat out favored Adam Lambert for the eighth American Idol title. Many critics (amateur and professional) still question whether the audience voters “got it right.” But one thing that is undeniable about Allen whether you like his style or not, is that he definitely has a distinct one. With a blend of soul, country, rock, and the singer-songwriter vibe of the 1960s and ‘70s, along with something that is entirely his own and uncategorizeable, Allen is without a doubt his own performer.
And he brings that to his first Christmas album, Waiting for Christmas. One thing that has set Allen apart is his willingness to take risks and apply his unique and definitive sound to his cover songs. He rearranges the outer layers of the track until they fit his style, while leaving enough of the skeleton in tact for listeners to still identify them for what they once were originally.
Of the five songs selected for the album, two are among my favorite standards—“White Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”—and that, coupled with my appreciation for what Allen has done all along with his cover arrangements, made me admittedly a little nervous to dive into Waiting for Christmas. There is always the question when an artist releases an album solely comprised of someone else’s creations, of whether it will hold up to the ones before it. Even more so when that artist has created a reputation of risk-taking, a fan like myself goes into the endeavor cautiously optimistic. And I must say, any doubts or worries I had before the first soft strains of “O Holy Night,” the opening track of Waiting for Christmas, were absolved even before he had even reached the chorus.
Waiting for Christmas is not a karaoke copy of Christmas with Frank and Bing. Waiting for Christmas is absolutely, 100% a Kris Allen Christmas album and, hopefully, not the last. I am, at my core, an indie-rocker chick, always on the look out for something new and innovative, original and risky, but I am intensely traditional when it comes to my Christmas carols collections. Few contemporary artists—Emmy Rossum, Charlotte Church, She & Him—have been allowed to join my Rat Pack, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby assortment of standards and hymns. But after a few spins of Waiting for Christmas, I must say my two biggest complaints are that it is too short and that it is not available on Spotify so I can’t add it to my shared-with-the-public Christmas play list.
Kris Allen’s Waiting for Christmas can be purchased exclusively through iTunes.