Over the past few years, SM Entertainment has made an annual tradition of releasing the same sort of gentle piano ballad for Christmas. All have been enjoyable in their own right, but none have matched EXO’s utterly gorgeous Miracles in December from 2013. EXO will be coming back with another winter single next week, but first up we have Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon with This Christmas.
Taeyeon has had a strong year so far, releasing the solid My Voice album and embarking on her first solo Asia tour. She’s cemented her status as one of k-pop’s leading female soloists, with an instantly recognizable tone that has only begun to reveal its versatility. She can rattle off a simple pop ballad like This Christmas in her sleep, and that becomes both the song’s greatest asset and biggest drawback.
In short, This Christmas just doesn’t give Taeyeon much to do. The producers have resisted the urge to drench the track with sleigh bells, opting to go more somber than celebratory. This works for her voice, as she’s able to tease all sorts of nuance from each line. There are moments when the instrumental follows suit, introducing a brush of percussion to usher in the track’s climactic moments. But when it comes down to it, everything about This Christmas feels too cookie-cutter. The melody isn’t memorable enough to break through and demand attention, and it’s hampered by an arrangement that flat-lines throughout most of the song. If it wasn’t for Taeyeon’s reliably strong performance, it would be a very forgettable Christmas indeed.