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Knight Ridder: 'One Wish - The Holiday Album' Review
Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service via COMTEX

Date: November 3, 2003

By Jonathan Takiff Knight Ridder Newspapers

There are plenty of reasons to start your holiday shopping in music stores this month, as new albums, music DVDs and box sets galore drop from Jay-Z, Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Coldplay, Johnny Cash, Tenacious D and the ever-popular "many-many more."

...Holiday Sweets: Getting back to her musical roots, Whitney Houston sounds extremely comfortable doing up Christmas classics on "One Wish" (Arista). Tastefully modernized in contemporary gospel fashion are "The First Noel," "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and a surprising (but it works) uptempo version of "O Holy Night." Daughter Bobbi Kristina makes her vocal debut on "Little Drummer Boy." B+


November Fall Music Preview: Whitney Houston
By Mike Street, BET.com Staff Writer

Who: Whitney Houston
What: One Wish - The Holiday Album
When: November 18, 2003
Where: Arista Records

Is It Gangster?

Recently named America's favorite bad girl by Access Hollywood, Whitney will clean up her act for her first ever Christmas album. Whitney promises to spice up the holidays with soulful remakes of Christmas classics. The album will feature songs such as "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", "Joy To The World", and hte title track "One Wish". Joining Whitney on this album is her daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown on the timeless classic "Little Drummer Boy". Expect Whitney to be less talk and all singing on this project.

Was It Drama?

No Bobby Brown on this album means no drama. Whitney is going to keep it nice and clean. With all the bad press still surrounding Whitney, a family album is exactly what she needs to start repairing her image. Follow the album up with a nice video with lots of falling snow, Whitney with her family, and this could be the road to a full comeback for this fallen diva.

Slant Magazine Review
Whitney Houston
One Wish: The Holiday Album
Arista, 2003
Buy CD
3 out of 5 stars

After almost two decades in the business, Whitney Houston is just now releasing a Christmas album. It’s a career benchmark for almost every vocalist of Houston’s caliber, but one can’t help but think that One Wish: The Holiday Album is nothing more than damage control. The singer hasn’t had a bona fide hit since 1999 and public declarations like “Crack is cheap” and “I make too much for me to ever smoke crack” failed to spark interest in her comeback album Just Whitney. Politics (if that’s what you can call it) aside, Houston’s voice just isn’t what it used to be--she warbles her way through an otherwise understated version of the contemporary classic “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and sings “Tiny little tots with their eyes all aglow/Will find it hard to sleep tonight” on Mel Tormé’s “The Christmas Song” like she wants to eat them (cue MADtv’s Debra Wilson impersonation). Just compare these performances to the crystalline voice on the album’s final two tracks, “Who Would Imagine A King” and the gospel-infused “Joy To The World,” which were taken from the soundtrack to 1996’s The Preacher’s Wife. That said, it’s pretty damn hard to make a bad Christmas album (unless you’re Toni Braxton), and the spirit of the season is effectively captured on Mervyn Warren’s inspired arrangements of traditional tunes like “O Come O Come Emanuel” and “Cantique De Noel (O Holy Night),” one of the greatest Christmas songs ever written (and sung by one of our greatest vocalists--even if she’s no longer at the top of her game).


Here Boston Review
Whitney Houston/One Wish – The Holiday Album
by Jeremy Sugar
Music Contributor

Street Date: November 18, 2003

No one knew what to expect when it was announced that Whitney Houston was in the studio recording a Christmas album. Fans held their breath while critics sharpened their claws. One thing is certain, when it comes to Whitney, its either a brilliant success or a monstrous disaster. Those of us who knew about the upcoming album were eager to see which it would be.

There is a formula to Christmas albums, whether deliberate or not – one good up-tempo song, one good ballad, a few boring classics, and a few new spins on old classics that just don’t work. Even Mariah and Celine stuck to the tried-and-true formula. It’s not surprising that Whitney didn’t stick to the formula. She and producer Mervyn Warren threw a little of everything into the mix: pop, R&B, gospel and even a little jazz.

Does it work? You better believe it does. Each track is unique and very well-done. Whitney sings her heart out and the music and production are top notch. They really made ‘One Wish – The Holiday Album’ a must-have for those of us who like Christmas music.

Whitney’s rendition of ‘The Christmas Song’ is perfect. It’s hard to pinpoint what Whitney does different than the thousands of other artists who have previously recorded this song, but Ms. Houston clearly bests them. ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ features her daughter Bobbi Kristina. Junior sings a sweet little intro, but Whitney takes it from there and really adds something special to a usually predictable song. The title track is a sweet ballad with a 23 piece orchestra. A real gem on this album is ‘Deck The Halls/Silent Night’. You could never have imagined this interpretation. ‘O Holy Night’ is the traditional Christmas ballad and Whitney makes good on this one, from the slow haunting beginning to the bombastic ending. But the song that really proves that Whitney hasn’t lost a thing is ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’. Singing crystal clear at the top of her lungs over an all male choir and subtle finger snapping, Whitney really takes this one home.

Also on the album is ‘The First Noel’, ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’, and ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,’ along with two previously recorded Christmas tunes – ‘Who Would Imagine A King’ and ‘Joy To The World.’ All equally enjoyable.

For those fans who wished for a Whitney Christmas album to show the other divas how it’s done - wish granted!

T M HXone Review
Whitney Houston
"One Wish"
(Arista Records)

Despite the recent trials and tribulations this diva has suffered through, Whitney Houston has recorded the first Christmas album in her twenty year career. With the title track being the single original song, Houston relys on her interpretation to make these songs hers, a la "I Will Always Love You." The medley "Deck The Halls/Silent Night" shows how Houston uses her interpretation nowadays and not the notes to pull a song off, unlike some of her peers. The way she sings "falala" is haunting, yet catchy at the same time. Houston seems at home and relaxed on the collection, especially on "The Little Drummer Boy" where Houston's other Bobbi opens the song with Houston excaliming in the background, "that's my baby!" The only strain that seems to stand out on One Wish is in the title song itself. At the end of the bridge, Houston goes for a falsetto note it seems, but comes up flat. If I had one wish for Christmas, it would be for Miss Houston to regain her prime.
- Dave (T M H)


New York Daily News
28 November 2003

Holiday music 2003 - David Hinckley rates this year's Christmas CDs

There's plenty of fa-la-la to be found at the record store this holiday season.

With "One Wish" (Arista), Whitney ­Houston reminds us why we liked her so much in the first place: her voice, for which holiday songs are a splendid vehicle. There's some elaborate ­production behind songs like "Joy to the World" and "O Come, O Come Emanuel," but also a stocking-full of lovely singing. "O Holy Night," or the opening of "I'll Be Home for Christmas," clinches the deal.


People magazine
One Wish - The Holiday Album
Spotlight On ... Holiday CDs
By Chuck Arnold

ONE WISH--THE HOLIDAY ALBUM Whitney Houston Houston brings a decided spirituality and gospel fervor to her first Christmas collection. In strong voice throughout, the diva takes it back to church, where she began singing, on such carols as "The First Noel" and "Joy to the World" (one of two songs that originally appeared on 1996's The Preacher's Wife soundtrack). The soulful set, however, may be best remembered for the singing debut of Houston's daughter Bobbi Kristina, 10, who, on the duet "The Little Drummer Boy," shows that she could follow in the footsteps of her mother, father Bobby Brown and grandmother Cissy Houston.


Associated Press
Whitney Houston, "One Wish: The Holiday Album" (Arista)

Whitney Houston has had her share of problems in recent years, but her voice is still in fine shape, and it dazzles on "One Wish: The Holiday Album."

Houston sounds like the star of a gospel choir as she soulfully reinterprets holiday classics such as "The First Noel" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." In many ways, this album echoes the gospel-inflected soundtrack, "The Preacher's Wife," she did a few years ago - in fact, two songs from that album, the lovely "Who Would Imagine a King" and a buoyant "Joy to the World," are also here.

Her voice - though at times a bit raspy - captivates on every track, whether it's soaring to a crescendo or she's singing with the tenderness of a mother's love (her duet with daughter Bobby Kristina on "Little Drummer Boy" is a special highlight).

Although "One Wish" is a Christmas album, chances are you'll want to keep this one around after the holidays are done.

-Nekesa Mumbi Moody, AP Music Writer


Vancouver Sun
One Wish: The Holiday Album
2 stars

Whitney does the classics, and just like her TV appearances, you get the feeling the lady is miles away from her subject matter. Alongside goofy David Foster-style production, Whitney decks the halls with her vocal histrionics, making for a not to subtle Christmas power-dazzle.

- Kerry Gold


Music Week
Whitney Houston 'One Wish - The Holiday Album'
Arista/BMG 82876 567822

With her chocolate vocals and delicate take on classic Christmas songs such as Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, this worthy addition to the Whitney catalogue is a surefire festive seller this year.


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Whitney Houston: "One Wish"

Grade: B-

Whitney Houston's new Christmas record saves the best for last, concluding with a gigantic rendition of "Joy to the World" featuring the mighty Georgia Mass Choir. Beyond that, it's uneven. Her oddly arranged "Deck the Halls/Silent Night" sounds cheaply made -- not an effect Houston is known for -- but the record gets some mileage from "Little Drummer Boy," on which Houston and daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown pa-rum-pa-pum-pum over a skittering programmed beat. Though many of the tunes are familiar, credit Houston for this: She went beyond the obvious standards and chose at least two songs ("One Wish" and "Who Would Imagine a King") that most listeners probably don't already know by heart. That's refreshing.

-- Nick Marino


Akron Beacon Journal
30 November 2003
Whitney Houston

Fresh off the less-than-stellar sales of her last album of new material, singer Whitney Houston returns with a Christmas collection. On Just Whitney, Houston often sounded distracted and winded and seemed to avoid the high notes. On One Wish her voice sounds healthier, though she still seems to be piling on the melisma and elongated vocal runs.

The arrangements are mellow synthetic R&B grooves perfect for The Quiet Storm. Highlights include an a cappella O Come O Come Emanuel with producer Mervyn Warren providing layered backing harmonies like a one-man Take 6.

Padding out the disc's 11 tracks are Who Would Imagine a King and Joy to the World from The Preacher's Wife soundtrack. Besides being previously available, the inclusion of these tracks, particularly the tastefully orchestrated ballad whose melody Houston caresses lovingly, also demonstrate the slow deterioration of Houston's voice.

Appropriate for:
Party at the hair and nail salon.


All Music Guide
Whitney Houston - One Wish: The Holiday Album


Whitney Houston delivered One Wish: The Holiday Album, her first Christmas record, a year after her 2002 comeback Just Whitney. If it seemed like that record played it safe, that's nothing compared to One Wish, which is the straightest adult contemporary record Houston has released in years. Of course, holiday records are the last place anybody would want to take a risk, since they're designed to be nice, pleasant mood music and, apart from a rather horrid version of "Little Drummer Boy" — which features her daughter Bobbie Kristina Brown on vocals, but that's not what sinks it: it's Whitney's bewildering scat on "rump-pum-pum" that ruins the cut — this suits the bill nicely. The clean, pristine production, heavy on synths, sounds as if it was cut in the late '80s, yet it's also strangely spare, often being no more than a synth and a drum machine. Still, it's a sound that's well-suited for Whitney and her thoroughly predictable set of material (the title track is the only new song, then the final two songs are recycled from the soundtrack of The Preacher's Wife). Ulitmately, One Wish is the kind of album that may only appeal to a fan of Whitney who has already yearned for her holiday album, but for those fans, it will be satisfactory. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine


Austin City Journal

Whitney's One Wish

I'm sure that Whitney Houston's One Wish with this new collection of Christmas songs is that the public would see past all the drama surrounding her personal life and focus on her music. Unfortunately this collection doesn't cut it. A decent effort but far from the classic it was meant to be. Whitney's often quirky ad-libbing technique is distracting. Her vocals, once considered among the very best, are adequate and average for someone of Whitney's stature. Sounding strained at times and unusually raspy throughout. I can only wonder why the considerable change. Sadly, One Wish pales in comparison to the classic Christmas releases of her contempories Celine and Mariah. My grade. C


Colorado Springs Gazette

When it comes to a gospel flavored holiday album a new release by Whitney Houston fits the bill to a certain degree. Miss Houston, obviously in her element, reaches for the heavens with such classics as Oh Holy Night, The Little Drummer Boy, and the exceptional O Come O Come Emmanuel. Her now deep and throaty voice add a distinctly different sound that is pleasing at times. This budget package (two recylced tracks) is a nice enough addition to your holiday collection. However, I would say Yoland Adams Christmas is a must. Simply superb. This is more in line musically and vocally with what was expected from a Whitney Houston album.


Tower Records & Best Buy

Whitney Houston's soulful, elastic voice was practically made to wrap around Christmas standards, but despite the naturalness of the match, ONE WISH, out for Christmas 2003, as the singer neared her third decade of performing, marks her first holiday album. What lies within shouldn't disappoint as she covers many familiar tunes with just a sprinkle of recent music, the sweet-as-sugar title track originally by Freddie Jackson.

While Houston's been through her share of publicized drama over the years, her voice betrays no hint of the strife on ONE WISH. She begins in the vein of a female Nat "King" Cole, smoothly crooning "The First Noel" and "The Christmas Song" in a manner shifting between agreeable acrobatics and welcome subtlety. Her daughter Bobby Kristina Brown joins in to provide rum-pa-pa-pum backup on a cute version of "The Little Drummer Boy." The best moments sneak up on the listener when Houston gets lost in the classics, delivering unabashedly sentimental and lovable songs perfectly suited for her style, as with "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." ONE WISH fulfills the promise laden in a long-awaited Christmas record from a larger-than-life performer.


San Jose Mercury News
Hum-along holidays
Some could-be-chestnuts in this season's CDs
By Marian Liu and Mark Whittington

Whitney Houston, "One Wish: The Holiday Album," Arista: She still has it. Plagued with drug problems, the diva may not have shown the full capacity of her voice on 2002's "Just Whitney," but her classic pipes have their full force on this disc.


New York Times

WHITNEY HOUSTON: "One Wish" (Arista).
Momentarily freed from the pressure to choose the right pop pose, Whitney Houston can simply bestow her vocal gifts on the familiar songs (plus two inoffensive new ones) that fill her Christmas album. The lavish swoops, the sultry whispers, the gospelly asides and the meteoric crescendos are all applied to songs that are usually arranged with the burnished keyboards and subdued percussion of current R&B. The ballads are impressive, though they can verge on soupy; turning ecumenical, she adds Hanukkah and Kwanzaa to Mel Tormé's "Christmas Song." A medley of "Deck the Halls" and "Silent Night" shows a frisky side, and "O Come O Come Emmanuel" is the tour de force: Ms. Houston sailing above an unaccompanied male choir, harmonizing like Take 6, that's actually the multitracked voice of her producer, Mervyn Warren. It's enough to make a listener forgive Ms. Houston for pushing her daughter forward on "Little Drummer Boy."


Boston Ledger

"One Wish -- The Holiday Album" (Arista)

By Bill Dean
The Ledger

Believing in Santa Claus makes it hard to believe this is Houston's first Christmas album.

Believe it: On seasonal chestnuts such as "The First Noel," "The Christmas Song," Houston sounds like the songbird of Christmases past, as in strong, vibrant and winning.

Put this platter on for a breezy, mistletoe-like effect on your party.


Plain Dealer - Cleveland, Ohio
Whitney Houston
"One Wish: The Holiday Album"

Those angels we have heard on high will be evergreen with envy when they get a load of the R&B diva's updates of "The First Noel," "Little Drummer Boy" (featuring a cameo by Houston's daughter, Bobbi Kristina), "Joy to the World" and other carols, offset with a timely new tune, "One Wish (For Christmas)."


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
1 December 2003

By Dave Tianen

Whitney Houston, "One Wish: The Holiday Album"

Given the frequent speculation about her health and personal problems, it's good to report that Houston sounds fine in this new Christmas set. Although she's guilty of excessive showboating on "The First Noel" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas," this is a better-than-average R&B holiday outing.

There's an interesting, contemporary twist on "Deck the Halls" and an appropriately jubilant, raise-the-roof collaboration with the Georgia Mass Choir on "Joy to the World."


The Halifax Daily News (Nova Scotia)
4 December 2003

Whitney Houston: One Wish, The Holiday Album (Arista)

Sure, the production is slicker than the Waverley Road in the freezing rain. But this new disc is loaded with yuletide classics, and Houston's voice is in top shape. Warm and fuzzy, perfect for roastin' by an open fire.


Canadian Press
5 December 2003

In the "Why Bother" category are popstars Ashanti and Whitney Houston.

Hip hop's latest sexpot fills her disc, which includes about a dozen baby photos, with predicable tracks like Joy to the World and Silent Night. Likewise Houston hits us with The First Noel and Deck the Halls.

While both can carry the tunes, they don't really offer anything inspirational and the CDs won't likely become soundtracks to your family's Christmas morning.


Washington Post
5 December 2003

Whitney Houston, "One Wish -- The Holiday Album" (Arista). Houston's first holiday album feels like a contractual obligation-slash-holding action. Her versions of standards are decidedly mainstream, more pop than R&B, with surprisingly dated arrangements (two songs come from her 1996 soundtrack for "The Preacher's Wife"). Houston seldom invests herself emotionally, only occasionally giving in to melismatic flurries that showcase her still-considerable vocal skills. The title track, the album's only original song, is not particularly memorable; neither is this album.


The Guardian
Caroline Sullivan
Friday December 5, 2003

Whitney Houston, One Wish: The Holiday Album

Also reviewed: Ashanti, Ashanti's Christmas

Soul princesses and Christmas albums go together, for some reason, like P Diddy and mink gaiters, and here two generations stick their tinselly oar in. For Houston, especially, it's a chance to prove that she's still up to it. Straightforward renditions of 11 festive baubles - how hard can it be? And that's the problem: stuff like this is so piddling for her that she seems to have zoned out halfway through. Why put any elbow grease into the "project" when all she need do is set her larynx to "reverent," then doze off? Saying that, she gives Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas some a cappella welly, and the cocktail doo-wop of O Come, O Come, Emanuel is quite irresistible. Still, this is the Voice at its numbest.

Ja Rule's frothy duet partner, Ashanti, exhibits more zip. Her pure tones complement a very contemporary minxy streak that's dying to unwrap all those exciting presents. Hey Santa is the stand-out: a list of demands ("How about a diamond bracelet, a baby-blue convertible...") delivered with the charm that typifies the rest of the album.


Newark Star Ledger
9 December 2003

"One Wish -- The Holiday Album," Whitney Houston (Arista)

Houston's career is in limbo: Her 2002 album "Just Whitney" bombed, and she has made virtually no public appearances since admitting to drug use in a television interview a year ago. This album won't catapult her back to the front of the pop-diva pack, but it's a decent start, with performances of holiday classics and one new song (the title track) that will remind listeners of her voice's enormous power. Highlights include an "I'll Be Home For Christmas" that's full of steely determination rather than the yearning most singers convey, and a medley that pairs a jaunty "Deck the Halls" with "Silent Night." The biggest misstep is a bombastic "Cantique De Noel (O Holy Night)." "Who Would Imagine a King" and a fervent gospel take on "Joy to the World" (featuring the Georgia Mass Choir) are recycled from the soundtrack to Houston's 1996 movie, "The Preacher's Wife."

-- Jay Lustig


Malay Mail (Malaysia)
Whitney’s best wish for Christmas

Jerry Z

WHITNEY HOUSTON (One Wish – the holiday album)

Whitney Houston was huge. She was the first with seven consecutive No. 1 singles, and her 1993 Dolly Parton cover I Will Always Love You was the biggest hit single in rock history.

Coming from a gospel/soul background, she could do it all from show-stopping ballads to dancefloor numbers. Her gorgeous tone and complex vocal improvisations set new standards which all aspiring divas had to follow.

But in recent years, she has undergone marital problems with hubby Bobby Brown, accused of taking drugs, and generally regarded as unreliable in keeping her obligations, with several cancelled shows.

Her studio album in 1998 was critically acclaimed but didn’t sell well by her standards, as she experimented with different musical approaches.

But for this album, she is on comfortable territory.

It’s the first Christmas album of her career, and given songs with great melodies and lyrics she goes to work with great enthusiasm.

The First Noel and the Christmas Song have slinky R&B grooves. Whitney shows her tone is as gorgeous as ever.

It’s not exactly a singalong though, as she swoops, scats, in occasional virtuosic displays of vocal gymnastics.

Her little daughter Bobbi Kristina starts off Little Drummer Boy, showing a nice sweet voice. The song develops into a funky joyous arrangement with lots of harmony vocals filling out the song.

The title track is a waltz time ballad which she works over in her distinctive style.

One of the highlights of the album is her reverent reading of O Holy Night, which showcases her vast range of vocal colours, from whispers to big brassy operatic crescendos.

Deck the Halls/Silent Night, has a fingersnapping hiphop beat that adds to the celebratory air of the song.

O Come O Come Emanuel is sung practically a capella and handles her voice like a saxophone, swooping all over the scale.

Joy To The World is an exuberant workout with a lively arrangement, and a gospel choir filling out the sound wonderfully.

If you like your yuletide favourites from the traditional and contemporary songbooks with sleek contemporary lite-soul arrangements, it doesn’t get any better than this.




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