Review

Left without a major-label contract after her country makeover didn’t stick, there was one clear option for Jessica Simpson: sign with Ellen DeGeneres’ fledgling Eleven Eleven label to cut her second Christmas album. Compared to 2004’s brassy Rejoyce: The Christmas Album, Happy Christmas exists on a small stage: Simpson doesn’t belt songs out, doesn’t seem intent on wowing an audience with her pizzazz. Instead, she slips into whatever old-fashioned mode works for the song at hand, kicking off proceedings with the Phil Spector-styled “My Only Wish,” jauntily navigating a medley of “Here Comes Santa Claus/Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” putting on her serious face for “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” adopting her inner choir nerd for “Carol of the Bells,” singing amiably with John Britt on “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and with Willie Nelson on “Merry Christmas Baby.” She may be intent on being all things to all people, but her eagerness to please suits the season and helps make Happy Christmas a better holiday soundtrack than Rejoyce. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

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