Credit: Julia Terbrock

HO HO WHO: Kelly Clarkson, the American Idol darling who’s been passing the time by being a judge on The Voice and hosting a daytime talk show, has teamed up with some guy you might need to Google. Brett Eldredge, a country star, is so confident in his Christmas album that he’s selling merch online like socks and a sweatshirt. But does the song deserve a credit card swipe? 

READ THE ROOM: “Under the Mistletoe” is a kick in the flannel-lined pajama pants. Two flames spot each other across the room, presumably at some kind of holiday party, and inch toward the mounted mistletoe hoping to lock lips. But this is 2020, people. No one is kissing each other spontaneously. No one is even getting coffee spontaneously. That mistletoe belongs back in the forest, where nature is healing while we fight our way through a global pandemic. But let’s put our pretend hats on and try to evaluate this thing as if it were any other year.

COULD IT BE LOVE?: The lyrics attempt to capture one of life’s oddest feelings. You know, like when you realize you love someone but haven’t worked up the courage to tell them yet, so you’re just walking around like a steaming, screaming tea kettle ready to explode. A loaded kiss, perhaps, would be easier than finding the right words.

“I want your love / do you ever think of us?” Clarkson sings. “Is it too late, too late to open up? / I’m dying to say, ‘Oh how I love you.’” And here comes the chorus from Clarkson: “Push my pride aside / When I close my eyes / It’s just you and I / here under the mistletoe.” And later: “Santa, hear my prayer / here under the mistletoe!” 

Good news, you saps—the feeling is mutual. “Oh, everything I try to keep you / from getting inside / works until I see your face,” Eldredge finally pipes in, more than a minute into the tune. “Wrapped up in your arms / is where I want to spend my nights so hard.” 

CHEER FACTOR: 5/10, because the song makes you want to strap on tap shoes. Maybe it also offers enough encouragement to make a move this Christmas, even if it’s just over Zoom.

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