Unpopular Opinion: Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red is the Best Christmas Album of the Last 33 Years

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As many of you certainly know by now, we’re smack dab in the middle of Christmas SZN, which means it’s prime time for Christmas music. There’s a lot of great Christmas music out there, and, if you’re somehow new to the genre, it can be a little overwhelming. The market is pretty darn saturated (it’s still one of my biggest dreams to record a Christmas album. That’s how I’ll know I’ve made it. Just imagine the cover of Brian’s Den Home for the Holidays), and it’s very easy to go down the wrong path. Luckily, I’m a bit of a Christmas music expert, and, in the spirit of the season, I’ll gladly give my two cents on what kind of Christmas music you should be listening to. Now, you can go anywhere on the Internet and find Christmas album rankings, and all of them will have the same five ones and it’ll just be the most famous ones and all that. But here’s a little tip you can only get here: Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red is the greatest Christmas album of the last 33 years. Why 33 years? Well, 33 years ago, this was released:

Enough said. With some notable exceptions, the majority of Christmas music was written before “Last Christmas” came out. So, for the most part, it was an even playing field for everyone who released a Christmas album afterwards, unless they felt like experimenting and releasing a new song. Some of these new songs worked. Most don’t. So, in the interest of creating the biggest pool from which to draw inspiration, only albums released after 1984 should be considered for the true connoisseur. Sure, there are some high quality pre-Wham! Christmas albums, but if half the songs you know and love haven’t even been written yet, what’s the point? I’d feel like I was cheating you, Christmas music neophyte, if I suggested a Johnny Mathis album that didn’t have a cover of “Santa Baby” included. Feel free to listen and enjoy, but some of the older albums have a much purer, more concentrated Christmas feel to them. Most of the time, only the more seasoned Christmas music listeners can handle the hopeful, more innocent, less cynical sounds of Bing Crosby and the like. We all know better than to feel optimistic about stuff these days, right? Every day was sunshine and rainbows for the folks in the 50s, and their Christmas music reflects that. So, modern=better.

I know what you’re thinking. “There must be a million Christmas albums released since 1984. What makes Kelly Clarkson’s the best?” Well, I’ll get to that shortly, but first I need to give out some honorable mentions, because there’s a lot of good Christmas albums out there. Two things to remember: 1. This is albums, not songs. I’m sorry I didn’t touch on your favorite song even though it’s really popular. That just means the rest of the album stunk. 2. This is non-religious only. There’s some hot, hot religious-only albums out there, but I figured I’d stick with the mainstream, mall soundtrack fare (for posterity’s sake, my top five religious Christmas songs: 1. O Holy Night 2. Oh Come, All Ye Faithful 3. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing 4. Angels We Have Heard On High 5. The First Noel). Most Christmas albums worth their salt have at least one religious song, anyway, so the singer can show off their range. It goes without saying, but if you like “Dominick the Donkey,” “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” or “Do They Know It’s Christmas” you should be euthanized.

Honorable Mention

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Mariah Carey-Merry Christmas

Need to give a shoutout to Mariah for the unquestioned GOAT secular Christmas song. “All I Want for Christmas is You” is somehow both the most overplayed song of all time and the one song in the world that never gets old. It’s a musical triumph. I’ll be totally honest, I’ve never listened to the rest of the album, so it could either be horrible or I could have picked the wrong album to base this whole post around. I’m gonna assume it’s just okay outside AIWFCIY, so I think it’s fine putting it here.

Best Song:

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Leona Lewis- Christmas, with Love

Man, I thought Leona Lewis had next in 2007. She’s got some serious pipes and I have no idea why she’s not the biggest star in the world now. Oh, well, at least she released a great Christmas album. Three original songs seems like a little much when two of them aren’t great (“One More Sleep” is my jam), but the rest of it is pure heat to warm up even the coldest of winter nights.

Best Song:

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*NSYNC- Home for Christmas

If you don’t like “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” you can go ahead and stop reading this right now.

Best Song:

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Michael Bublé- Christmas

I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t mention the unofficial voice of Christmas, Michael Bublé. Somehow he only has one Christmas album despite the fact that you can find a Bublé cover of essentially every Christmas song ever made somewhere online. Pretty sure 90% of the Bub-god’s salary is made in late-November and December, and for good reason. This is a classy album that perfectly serves as inoffensive background music, but definitely lacks the kind of spiciness other albums have.

Best Song:

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Various Artists- A Very Special Christmas 2

This kind of represents the entire Very Special Christmas franchise. Despite my hatred of of “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” I’m a sucker for star-studded ensembles. Very Special Christmas is essentially just a Christmas music greatest hits album, so it’s kind of cheating a little bit, but it’s still great. Very Special Christmas 1 is disqualified for having “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” on it, but 3 is also excellent.

Best Song:

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Michael Bolton- This is the Time

Michael Bolton is a god who came to Earth to give soulful, sultry ballads to the masses.

Best Song:

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Various Artists- Christmas on Death Row

Just the album cover alone gets this a mention.

Best Song:

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NewSong- Sheltering Tree

Just kidding.

Best Song:

Alright, enough of the also-rans. Let’s get to the reason you’re here: Kelly Clarkson Wrapped in Red. What sets it apart? Why is it so great? Well, for starters, it’s a prime time name. Wrapped in Red just screams Christmas. It’s a miracle it hadn’t been taken before 2013. Next, the album cover is perfect (see top of page): simple, elegant, festive. That’s all you need. The back cover brings it too:

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Before purchasing this Christmas album, I wasn’t really in the spirit of things, but now that I’ve seen this picture of Kelly Clarkson playfully blowing snow in my face, I’m definitely ready for Santa to come down my chimney! But what really matters is the music, and folks, it doesn’t disappoint. Full disclosure: I’m a huge Kelly Clarkson fan and am almost definitely overrating this album, but I trust my own objectivity to know good music when I hear it. And there’s a lot of good music here. The title song isn’t great, which, admittedly, kind of throws a wrench in things, but it quickly picks up. “Underneath the Tree” is criminally underrated. Sure, it’s only four years old, but it has to be put in the same category as the modern classics.

So good. Then, if your spirits are riding too high, you can slow things down with another good original, “Winter Dreams.”

Just makes me want to cuddle up with that special someone (theoretically, of course). I like my Christmas songs to either get my toes tappin’ or to be slow and a little melancholy-but-not-really-since-everything’s-happy-during-Christmas. Wrapped in Red does that throughout. When it comes to covering the classics, it’s really just about song selection. At this level, everyone can sing, so as long as you just pick good songs and don’t try to “make them your own” (see: Christina Aguilera “O Holy Night”) you should be good. “White Christmas,” “Silent Night,” Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” are all elite Christmas songs. Kelly Clarkson could smoke a hundred packs a day, never sleep, and drink a gallon of coffee a day for the next year and still have a dominant voice, so when she gets ahold of your favorite Christmas hits good things happen. No, not every song is perfect. But the bad songs are like 6s or 7s out of 10. Still decent, and it just makes the great ones stand out more. I think I’ve made a pretty convincing argument, but if you still don’t believe me, go and sit by your Christmas tree. I don’t care what you do. Read, watch TV, just look at your phone, whatever. Just as long you put this album on. If the combination of Kelly Clarkson and Christmas trees doesn’t get you in the most festive mood you’ve ever been in, you’re a bigger grinch than the Grinch himself. Wrapped in Red is the perfect Christmas album. Kelly Clarkson: GOAT of American Idol, and now, GOAT of Winter.

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My Christmas List

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Dear Santa,

I hope this finds you well. I understand this is a busy time for you and your staff, but, assuming you’re reading this, it appears I was correct in assuming my oversized envelope labeled only with magazine cutout letters spelling “I have Mrs. Claus” caught your attention. I realize it may seem extreme, but you do what you have to to stand out. To clarify: I do not actually have Mrs. Claus, so if she is currently missing, I would appreciate being removed from the suspect list. Thank you.

Anyway, as I’m sure you know, it’s the Christmas season. And, again, as I’m sure you know, the Christmas season is all about other people to buying you things. Or something. Either way, you’re the man to turn to when it comes getting stuff you want without paying for it, so I figured I’d drop you a line. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I have been good this year. I rounded up my change to help St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital the last time I went to the mall, I exposed a deep-seated conspiracy that goes back decades, I helped prop up the struggling hot dog industry, I saved New York City, and I recycle. Sure, I’m not perfect. I don’t always come to a complete stop at stop signs. I downloaded some music without paying for it. I speak to my family only slightly more often than Aaron Rodgers does. But I think you’ll find the good far outweighs the bad, and that I’m more than eligible for a haul of Christmas gifts. And while this is more of a guideline than a list of demands, I would prefer if you kind of stick to the script. I know it’s your workshop’s specialty and all, but I’ll be pissed if I get some crappy wooden toy. It’s 2017, the last thing in the world I need to a wood dog with wheels that I can pull around. Just give me coal instead, at least it has a practical use. Anyway, without further ado, I present my 2017 Christmas List.

  • A ton of money
  • My own Chick-fil-a franchise
  • A Japanese Cherry Tree sapling imported from Tokyo
  • The complete Take That discography
  • A signed copy of The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance
  • 20 more years of Tom Brady
  • A pony
  • One of the Crown Jewels, don’t really care which
  • A stylish collection of ascots so I can add some smoking lounge chic to my wardrobe
  • Gold
  • Frankensense
  • Myrrh
  • A couple Bitcoins
  • A Nintendo Switch with Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey
  • An end to fast food regionalism so I can have In-n-Out, Whataburger, Bojangles, Raising Cane’s, Zaxby’s, Cook Out, and every other Southern place without having to base a vacation around trying them
  • An all-expenses-paid vacation to go to every regional fast food place in America
  • An apparel and shoe sponsorship with Nike, Adidas, or Under Armour
  • Musical talent
  • A saltwater aquarium complete with a full range of fish. Seahorses are most important aspect
  • An appointment with the Pimp My Ride crew
  • A 10-day contract with literally any NBA team
  • Make UConn men’s basketball better
  • A role as whatever superhero is left in the next round of Marvel movies
  • A pair of game-worn Pitbull gloves
  • Access to the Book of Secrets
  • Tickets to Hamilton so I can tell people I’ve seen Hamilton
  • Matchstick Men on DVD
  • Russia to get re-instated into the Olympics so there’s someone to root against
  • Russia to win the World Cup in the most obviously rigged way possible because it would actually be kind of funny
  • A job as a nature documentary cameraman
  • My own used car dealership
  • A better cable company than Optimum
  • A private jet
  • Some kind of holiday in August
  • To find a hidden oil reserve in my backyard
  • A better feel for interior decorating
  • A lifetime supply of Cheez-It
  • A lifetime supply of DiGiorno
  • My own Margaritaville location
  • A time machine
  • Another time machine that I can give to a responsible person to undo anything I would do using my time machine
  • Better WiFi
  • A complete brontosaurus fossil
  • Someone who follows me around telling me not to eat all the really unhealthy stuff I eat
  • My own house flipping reality tv show
  • A good app idea that someone else designs but I get to sell
  • An English bulldog
  • Some new Transformers. Don’t know what they’re like now but I want to get back in the game
  • Another pony so the first pony has some company
  • My own Domino’s franchise
  • Diplomatic immunity in every part of the world except New England
  • A Manhattan brownstone
  • No more automated calls
  • A maid who’s only job is to fold laundry
  • The eradication of Dominick the Donkey and everyone who likes it
  • World peace and all that
  • An authentic Turboman

Continued on next three pages. Make sure to read all of it.

Thanks in advance and Merry Christmas,

Brian

I Would Like to Wish Everyone a Merry Hawaiian Christmas!

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Mele Kalikimaka, everybody! What a beautiful day to celebrate one of the most important days on the calendar. Hawaiian Christmas. What’s that? You’ve never heard of it? That’s a shame. It’s a truly wonderful holiday. A joyous occasion where we, the faithful public, celebrate the birth of the White Kahuna. The one sent from above to dazzle us with pinpoint accuracy and a mastery of the Run and Shoot offense. Today, we celebrate the birth of the greatest college football player of all time, Colt Brennan.

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Now, a short trip down Google Lane will tell you that his true birthday is August 16th. Well, what holiday worth it’s salt takes place in the middle of the week? That’s why Hawaiian Christmas takes place on the closest Friday to August 16th, so you’ll always have a long weekend spent living on Island Time, to go with the quiet midweek vigil you hold for the true date. And if the 16th falls on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday? Well, that’s grounds to take the whole week off, friend. Hawaiian Christmas is a time for leisure, merriment, and goodwill towards men. Your boss will understand.

The most important question facing a Hawaiian Christmas neophyte is, of course, how to celebrate. It’s quite simple really. The first step is to put on your finest Hawaiian linens. The more complex the pattern, the more bold the color scheme, the better. I’m partial to tropical flowers, birds of paradise, sea turtles, and perhaps fruit, myself, but Hawaiian Christmas is not a time for criticism. Wear what you will, as long as it’s in the spirit of things. Grab yourself a mai tai or two (more on that later), and settle in on your most relaxing beach chair for the most important part of any Hawaiian Christmas, watching a ton of Colt Brennan highlights. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen first.

You might need to take a cold shower if you get too deep into the rabbit hole, but hopefully you have access to a beach and can take a quick dip in the water. While his highlight videos are undoubtedly mesmerizing, don’t get so engrossed you lose track of time. Hawaiian Christmas dinner takes a while to cook when done right, and you certainly don’t want to lose track of time. While our savior typically feasted on helpless WAC opponents, cannibalism is unfortunately frowned upon during Hawaiian Christmas. So, instead, prepare a traditional Kalua pig. You’ll need a full pig and a pretty big pit and a bunch of hot stones, and you’ll need to learn a difficult and very specific cooking method that you’ll probably never use in any other scenario, but it’s worth it to impress your friends. Gather your family and any neighbors too lazy to cook their own pig and sit around the fire pit telling tales of gridiron glory. Traditionally, this is also where you engage in the ceremonial Hair Bleaching, so you too can look like the Heisman Finalist himself.tumblr_lmkx4zlahb1qapl86o1_500

Most pigs are probably going to be about 260 pounds, so when you add in all the tropical-themed side dishes, you’ll have plenty of leftovers! The White Kahuna isn’t an advocate for moderation.

Speaking of moderation, the most controversial part of the holiday comes at night. Here at the Brian’s Den, we would never dream of condoning drinking and driving. It’s a reckless, dangerous, and foolhardy decision. But, as with all great heroes, Colt Brennan is a flawed man. His DUI arrest is a dark mark on his otherwise spotless record. To walk in his path is to admit your own weaknesses and faults, which is the first step to personal growth. A true celebrator of Hawaiian Christmas knows how to honor the White Kahuna and keep the non believers safe, so find an abandoned patch of beach, woods, field, anywhere where you won’t have any company. Get a golf cart and your closest friends, and just drive around. If you’ve been observing Hawaiian Christmas customs all day, you should be sufficiently impaired. It’s a great time that I officially condemn, but it’s better than driving your actual car. Feel free to engage in golf-cart centric shenanigans into the wee hours of the morning, just make sure to be wearing your Hawaiian Christmas garb, so any passing law enforcement officers will know you’re merely recognizing the significance of the day.

The last part of any good Hawaiian Christmas comes the next morning. All you need to do is fail to make the NFL. Easy enough on paper, but you’d be surprised how many people mess it up. Now, go out there and have the best Hawaiian Christmas you’ve ever had. Mele Kalikimaka, indeed.