If there was anyone I was counting on to deliver a good Christmas release this December, it was Taeyeon. As expected, she pulled through with “This Christmas – Winter is Coming,” a seven-track holiday album that’s so good, I almost prefer it to her regular releases. The jazz-ballad semi-genre of Christmas music provides Taeyeon an outlet from pop, one that allows her to explore more imaginative compositional, as well as vocal, territory than she usually does on her standard releases. Title track “This Christmas” is a wonderful example of this.
Strangely, I wasn’t too impressed with the song upon first listen, and even now I’m still trying to figure out why—because when I listened to it again a day later, I noticed a whole host of compositional nuances that drew me in immediately. It may simply be that this song needs a few repetitions to sink in. The details here are often subtle, such as the slightly altered instrumental chords in the second chorus, or the occasional dissonance of the vocal melody with a salient piano note. As usual, Taeyeon’s vocals also make an impressive showing. There’s this one moment I adore, at the end of the phrase “gieokhago isseo” (“I’m remembering”) in the chorus. Here I keep expecting to hear a warble of vibrato, but instead Taeyeon lets out an airy straight-toned note that ends in the lightest flourish. It’s so satisfying to hear—I mean, jeez, the woman’s got style.
The rest of the album is just as delicious as the title track. The fully English-language “The Magic of Christmas Time” has an ever-so-delicate tenderness which, when I first listened to it while half-awake early this morning, somehow almost made me cry. “Let It Snow” and “Candy Cane,” the token upbeat tracks on the album, are pretty standard SM jazz bops: good, but not standouts. The smooth, sexy “Shhhh” is where the real party’s at. Taeyeon again shows off elegant vocal panache over a slow jazz instrumental, and the result could not be more fun. Mid-tempos “Christmas Without You” and “I’m All Ears” are similar enough that they’re easy to lump together, but try not to—both tracks have a lot to offer, especially in their cool, sweet melodies. Taeyeon’s releases are always a gift, but this Christmas album brings a side of her that we don’t usually see to the table, and the result is a wintry delight.
THIS CHRISTMAS: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Bop.
Take a look at Taeyeon’s “This Christmas” MV below: