Hayley Westenra’s “My Gift To You”
Hayley Westenra‘s second release in New Zealand is not much different from her first. My Gift To You was rushed out for the Christmas of 2001 after her success of her debut. Essentially, it is a Christmas album and probably not entirely appropriate to review in February, but it can be listened to anytime due to five neutral tracks.
What makes this album standout next to the debut is the first appearence of ‘Pokarekare Ana’, a traditional Maori song. Westenra is probably most well known for singing this track and although Hayley went on to re-record it for subsequent albums, this original arrangement sets the premise of her international marketing tool, and that is the purity of her voice. ‘Pokarekare Ana’ is the perfect song for Westenra. It does not demand emotional delivery, and has the sweet, mild temperament of its singer. The version on this album starts off as an acapella, showcasing the bell like clarity of her voice, until a vague arrangement of meek instruments quietly seep through her vocals. I have always felt that this is the exact treatment this song, and Westenra, deserves, but as she went upmarket with Decca, overproduction ensued.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album, much like its debut, just washes over you. Yes, the flawless delivery of notes is there again, yes, it is still pretty and yes, she is still a little girl singing little girl songs. It has not taken any daring steps away from young child prodigy market and therefore, I do not have much to add about it on top of what I said about her debut. The only difference is that this album is a little Christmassy!