Kacey Musgraves entered the festive music market three years ago with the release of A Very Kacey Christmas. Now, she’s back to carve out more of the holiday pie with an Amazon Prime Video special and an accompanying soundtrack that makes Mariah Carey’s Merriest Christmas on Netflix seem edgy by comparison. The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show revels in old-fashioned seasonal kitsch as familiar as the old woolly jumper that comes out of your wardrobe every December. (Savvy viewers will also question whether the doll’s house-style setting was inspired by Taylor Swift’s video for Lover.) The schmalz is very much intentional and the special zips along thanks to its tight running time – just under 45 minutes – and sardonic narration by Schitt’s Creek’s Dan Levy.
It’s the music that falls flat. Anyone tempted to spin the soundtrack on the strength of Musgraves’s excellent 2018 album Golden Hour is in for disappointment. Her new takes on Christmas standards have zero fresh ideas bar occasional twangy guitars, as if added to assert her country bona fides. Other numbers are little more than skits – such as the Musgraves-James Cordon duet of Let It Snow – though the blockbuster Lana Del Rey team-up I’ll Be Home for Christmas finds both singers in good voice as they whisper over acoustic plucks. Three of the four Musgraves compositions from A Very Kacey Christmas are performed with varying success: Ribbons and Bows features a similar drum and horn pattern as Swift’s Shake It Off, but lacks the same oomph.
The best track of the set is Musgraves’s Christmas Makes Me Cry, a raw ballad and one of the few songs that acknowledges that the holiday season is often difficult for people. The star feels the void of missing loved ones and the pain of a heart still broken. “And they always say, ‘Have a happy holiday’ / And every year, I sincerely try,” she sings tenderly. The song is a brief shot of soul in a breezy special that will be fine as background TV on Christmas night. As for most of the soundtrack, Musgraves gives little reason to replace the classics on your Christmas playlist with her new versions.