With Mountain High, Valley Low, one of the best albums released last year, and her urban-radio hit “Open My Heart,” Yolanda Adams became one of contemporary gospel’s hottest singers. On the strength of her recent mainstream commercial success, Adams has recorded a Christmas record, Christmas With Yolanda Adams. This project might have been much more interesting if she had recorded it several years ago, before the concern of appealing to both secular and Christian listeners diluted her performance.
Like a high-profile politician, Adams carefully positions herself in the middle. She lets loose just enough to please the secular crowd and holds back just enough to keep her gospel following happy. Adams’ approach of trying to please everyone tragically homogenizes her style. She comes across as uncharacteristically bland, and at times she’s even flat-out boring. The only tracks that have any flavor are “Born This Day” and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” and they aren’t exactly spicy.
If gentle background music suits your holiday taste, then Adams has you covered. But if you’re looking for a little sizzle, you should try a real cooker — Shirley Caesar’s festive 1998 album, Christmas With Shirley Caesar.