The holiday music floodgates are officially opened with this seasonal offering from the inaugural “American Idol” victor. “Wrapped in Red’’ should prove a welcome gift to fans of the powerful pop star as Kelly Clarkson mixes classic carols and hymns with several originals co-written by the singer. The best of the new is a bouncy, cooing number called “Underneath the Tree,” tailor-made to soundtrack sleigh rides. The title track, a retro throwback to the Wall of Sound, is a sparkly treat, with a nice melancholy undertone familiar to anyone who knows the holiday blues. On the well-known songs Clarkson plays it fairly straight. She starts gently on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” before belting out the money notes. She ambles assuredly through the soulful favorite “Please Come Home for Christmas (Bells Will Be Ringing)” and hangs by the piano for a torchy “White Christmas.” She also invites some of her country friends over, harmonizing sweetly with Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood on an appropriately somber “Silent Night” and getting frisky with Ronnie Dunn on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL "Underneath the Tree"