As much as I hate to admit it, Christmas music can be a little tedious. Although most of us love a good festive song, there’s only so many times you can listen to Wham! before you swiftly delete Now That’s What I Call Christmas from your phone. It’s also completely normal to count down the days until you can visit a supermarket and hear anything else but Michael Buble through the speakers.
If you’re looking for something different this year, ‘A Very Kacey Christmas’ by Kacey Musgraves might just be the perfect album for you. Released in 2016 as her first holiday record, it combines Musgraves’ signature country twang with a multitude of other musical influences to create a unique collection of original songs and covers of classic favourites. Opening with her countrified version of the classic ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ Musgraves strays far from the traditional holiday song to which we are so accustomed.
The album cleverly and unusually incorporates the taste of Hawaiian music into Christmas songs. It’d be strange not to be sceptical but trust me, it works. The cover of the 1940’s song ‘Mele Kalikimaka’ leaves you pining for a festive season abroad. Featuring country legend Willie Nelson, ‘A Willie Nice Christmas,’ has a similar effect. A little tongue-in-cheek and a little comical, the duo sing, ‘May we all stay higher than the angel on top of the tree,’ which couldn’t be more Willie Nelson if you tried.
One of the greatest successes of the album is the undeniable nostalgia that runs throughout. Prepare yourself to be transported back several decades courtesy of the collaboration with ‘Let it Snow,’ and ‘I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.’ The latter certainly wouldn’t be out of place featured in a Disney cartoon sketch. An animated little girl setting out with her pet hippopotamus on a Christmas-filled adventure would be a perfect music video. Also conveyed in ‘Christmas Don’t Be Late,’ the longing for childhood is prominent in Musgraves’ version of the 1958 novelty Chipmunk Song. Though, it is very disorientating to hear the track without the voices of Alvin, Theodore and Simon.
While these covers are certainly pivotal additions to ‘A Very Kacey Christmas,’ the highlights of the album lie in two of the original offerings. ‘Present without a Bow’ featuring Leon Bridges is a soulful, romantic duet that encapsulates the feeling of love at Christmas time. The lyrics hint that the holiday season isn’t right without a lover by your side, ‘The holiday’s just another day that’s cold / standing all alone under the mistletoe / I don’t feel the cheer without you here.’ On the other hand, ‘Ribbons and Bows,’ while conveying a similar message, is upbeat and catchy, showcasing handclaps and the unmissable sound of the saxophone.
Musgraves closes the record with a gentle piano cover of the traditional ballad ‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,’ which is a poignant and classical end to a not-so classical Christmas album. ‘A Very Kacey Christmas’ is filled with whimsical, childlike covers that sit amongst country-inspired original songs with dashes of Hawaii and the 1940s for good measure. While far from your traditional holiday record, Musgraves successfully blends a multitude of genres to create an album worthy of a listen or two this Christmas time.