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Kelly Clarkson, ‘Underneath the Tree’ – ToC Critic’s Pick [Listen]

Underneath the Tree
RCA Nashville

Degree of difficulty plays a role in judging what one thinks of any Kelly Clarkson song, especially her new Christmas single ‘Underneath the Tree.’ The woman can do things most singers cannot. When she’s on — and she’s been on since she began offering dedicated singles to country radio — she stands alone.

This is hardly a country song, but come Christmastime, the format loosens up. Blame the eggnog. Clarkson is whirlwind of energy after a delicate piano interlude gives way to the first chorus. There’s barely room for a breath before she begins to soar high above the snow-frosted pines. A well-placed saxophone and bell solo will give her time to catch up should she take this cut live.

You’re here, where you should be / Snow is falling as the carolers sing / It just wasn’t the same, alone on Christmas Day / Presents, what a beautiful sight / Don’t mean a thing if you ain’t holding me tight / You’re all that I need / Underneath the tree,” Clarkson sings.

Lyrically, this song (co-written by Clarkson and producer Greg Kurstin) is a familiar love song about how worlds collide when two hearts became one. OK, that comes across as cliche, but don’t the holidays embrace cliche? “Tonight, I’m gonna hold you close / Make sure that you know / I was lost before you / Christmas was cold and gray / Another holiday, alone to celebrate,” she opens in the first verse.

In truth, there is not much lyrical originality around the holidays. Typically, an artist offers covers or new arrangements that describe a ‘Blue Christmas,’ ‘White Christmas’ or red-hot Christmas. Clarkson’s vibrant delivery makes this song seem like something totally new, however. ‘Underneath the Tree’ could light up Rockefeller Center.

Key Lyrics“You’re here, where you should be / Snow is falling as the carolers sing / It just wasn’t the same, alone on Christmas Day”

Did You Know?: Clarkson’s influences for the ‘Wrapped in Red’ album include Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Hugh Grant. Wait, the actor? Yep, his 2003 film ‘Love Actually’ inspired her to write the title track.

Listen to Kelly Clarkson, ‘Underneath the Tree’

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