Jessie J: This Christmas Day review – bigger-is-better seasonal fare aiming for world domination

Republic

Whitehall apparatchiks tasked with making Brexit Britain a global trading partner could perhaps take inspiration from Jessie J, who became massively successful in China this year after starring in a TV singing competition there, and then consolidated her north American links via a special relationship with Channing Tatum. She now aims to seal her intercontinental appeal with her first Christmas album.

Flanked with beautifully arranged backings that emphasise the “big” in big band, you initially worry she oversells these standards. Where Bing Crosby made the public service announcement of Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town seemingly to a child on his knee, Jessie blares it almost threateningly, as if from a cop car announcing a curfew. On the original Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, Brenda Lee was like a hostess amenably offering you a crispy prawn; at this party, Jessie barges to the fireplace and suggests everyone do a turn, starting with her. Every note, no matter how short, is spritzed with earnest vibrato, and also occasionally toasted with vocal fry. But if your Christmas involves a 12ft illuminated Santa on the lawn, eggnog on the breakfast table and red glitter on everything, you will find much to love here.

Some swingtime innovations, such as singing the chorus to Let It Snow jazzily off-beat, are unforgivable, but Jessie’s sheer technical prowess makes Jingle Bell Rock and Man With the Bag sparkle like the Rockefeller tree. A symphonic pop-rap mashup of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells is actually about a tenth as monstrous as it sounds, helped by a rather lovely middle eight and the firm hands of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on the boards. A peppy jazz kit keeps Winter Wonderland skipping along, even as Boyz II Men turn up to histrionically deliver lines such as “we’ll have lots of fun with Mr Snowman” as if Mr Snowman has told them it’s just not working out and they’re trying to convince him otherwise. And a waltzing, Babyface-produced take on The Christmas Song is perfectly judged, with the kind of sax solo that, played live in a mall on Christmas Eve, would have harried shoppers slowing to exchange chastened smiles with one another.

Contributor

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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