The title of David Foster and Katharine McPhee’s holiday album “Christmas Songs” was chosen for the most practical of reasons.
“Someone at the record company said, ‘If you call it ‘Christmas Songs,’ when you say to (Amazon’s) Alexa,’ it will play your album,” Foster explains.
And how well does it work?
“I’m not sure; I haven’t tried it yet,” he laughs. (No, it does not.)
“Christmas Songs,” a seven-song EP of Yuletide classics, is not only Foster’s (Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand) and McPhee’s (Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand) first Christmas album. It’s their first recorded collaboration since meeting on the set of “American Idol” in 2006, where McPhee’s second-place finish and golden voice catapulted her music career.
McPhee, 38, and her husband have been married since 2019 and have a 22-month-old son, Rennie. The couple was “too busy being a couple,” McPhee says in a joint interview, to focus on a shared musical project.
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However, a favourable review in USA TODAY prompted them to consider releasing an album: During the pandemic, a 2020 story highlighting the best at-home concerts praised their “cute chemistry” and ranked their themed YouTube series (Movie Night, Disney Night) first, ahead of Pink, Chris Martin, and John Legend.
Foster, 73, says the recognition triggered the realisation that there is an audience for a Foster/McPhee venture, and seasonal songs seemed like a natural starting point.
“One of my favourite things to do is listen to Christmas music. With the charts, there is no real pressure. In some ways, you get a free pass. “Of course, it has to be good,” Foster says.
Working with her husband was not a difficult task for McPhee.
“David makes it so easy for artists; he’s a fantastic director and producer,” she says. “All you have to do is show up and stay focused. You bring your ideas and yourself. I delegate a lot of responsibility in this genre of entertainment to him.”
A swinging, horn-infused romp through “Jingle Bell Rock,” a delightful rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (in which McPhee improvised the line, “Rudolph, you’re the GOAT!”) and “My Grown-Up Christmas List,” a tear-inducing ballad of hopefulness written by Foster in 1990, are among the album’s highlights.