Susan Boyle “Home for Christmas” Album Review

Susan Boyle is the poster child for grace.  In a cultural milieu where the success of the next star is based on her ability to raise testosterone levels of her audience via her bodily gymnastics and her gaudy attire, Susan Boyle is the antonym of all of this.  Rather, unveiling her debut appearance on "Britain's Got Talent," was a middle- aged lady of slightly ample proportions delivering a gallant version of Les Miserables' "I Dreamed a Dream" devoid of any slattern innuendoes.  This performance was watched by over 10 million viewers and Boyle became an overnight sensation. Her audition YouTube video was watched by 2.6 million people within the first 72 hours.  And by the end of that year with 120 million viewings, her clip was the most watched YouTube video of the year.  One of Boyle's greatest strengths is that she has brought back a bygone era whereby singers appealed to the audience not through the prostitution of their body parts but through their stately and awestruck singing of pop hits and standards.  Therefore, it is of no surprise that her debut release "I Dreamed a Dream" was UK's fastest selling debut record of all time.

Boyle has spent the bulk of 2013 wrapped up in Christmas projects.  Later this year, we will see her acting debut as Eleanor Hopewell in the movie "The Christmas Candle." Written by famous Christian author Max Lucado, "The Christmas Candle" is a story about a 19th-century village of simple people in the English Cotswolds in need of a miracle.  Out of this movie project is the theme song "Miracle Hymn" which is included here on "Home for Christmas." Interestingly, of Boyle's 6 album portfolio, 2 of them are seasonal offerings.  "Home for Christmas," unlike her preceding "The Gift," contains entirely of traditional carols and previously released seasonal favorites with only original tagged to the end of the record.  The original is the aforementioned "Miracle Hymn."  "Miracle Hymn" bears all the trinkets of a Christmas song: a re-telling of the birth of the Christ child, a children's choir and an orchestrated backing.  But relative to the classic Christmas songs on the disc, this Candace Lee and Luke Atencio composition pales in terms of its melodic prowess.

Highly anticipated is Boyle's "duet" with the late Elvis Presley on "O Come All Ye Faithful."  Thanks to modern technologies, Boyle gets to sing around an early recording of the King of Pop.  The song starts off with Boyle singing the first verse before Presley's low reaching bass comes in at the second.  After which a children's choir gets to sing with the two bringing the carol to a climatic high. One of the most touching carol is "Little Drummer Boy." A story song that tells of a poor boy being summoned by a Magi to the nativity scene; without a gift, all the boy could offer to Jesus was to play his best on his drums. Here Boyle with his sensitive and measured delivery succinctly captures the innocence and the vulnerability of the song's gist.  While on "The Lord's Prayer," Boyle shows us the full range of her mezzo-soprano from the soft opening whispers to her high octave elongated belts.

Johnny Mathis, though a safe and comfortable duet partner, hardly adds much color to their version of "When a Child is Born."  More adventurous is Boyle's take of the controversial "I Believe in Father Christmas."  Written by Greg Lake and Peter Sinfield and first recorded by Toyah Wilcox in 1982, this song is iconoclastic smashing all rose-colored images of Christmas exposing us to the reality of celebrating Christmas in our sin infested world.  Thus, "Home for Christmas" is not just your average warm and cozy effort; but home for Boyle is realistic.  Yet, even in life's ups and downs, through her expressive and comforting voice she still leads us to the Christ of Christmas.