Before Black Friday, there’s no reason to set up a Christmas tree, bake Christmas cookies, watch Christmas movies or listen to Christmas music. Unfortunately, singer, songwriter and actor John Legend thinks he’s above this rule. Friday, Oct. 26 Legend released a 14 track Christmas album titled “A Legendary Christmas.” He plans on touring with this album beginning Nov. 15.
The album includes eight traditionally recognizable Christmas songs and six Legend originals. The early release of the album is an affront to both Halloween and Thanksgiving. However, the blending of new and existing tracks creates an album that may not necessarily be a jam, but could definitely provide modern, yuletide ambiance to an office party or a car ride home from the airport.
Jazzy Christmas music has been done before. We see it all the time in Charlie Brown Christmas scores or in boring parties featured in 90s movies. However, Legend gives many traditional songs a new energy with solid beats and smoothly fluctuating vocals. His tone varies just enough from previous versions so you can hear his unique contribution, but not so much that it loses the familiar sentiments of the songs we love.
In “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” featured artist Esperanza Spalding’s voice complements Legend beautifully. I could also picture Legend making the exact same face displayed on the album cover while singing this song, a little bit smug but in a suave way. Legend’s rendition of “Christmastime is Here” gave a melancholy song more energy while his version of “The Christmas Song” seemed more organic and casual. His take on Marvin Gaye’s “Purple Snowflakes” was a little somber but fantastic, working between some of the more upbeat tracks.
Legend’s album wouldn’t have stood up if he had given us 14 stale songs. By including his own original tracks, he introduced a more modern vibe. Songs like “Bring Me Love” include refreshing lyrics and a new Christmas energy.
The decision to make “Merry Merry Christmas” the final track was brilliant. Closing the album with a lot of pomp, the song features the ambient sounds of a Christmas party or family gathering in the background, almost as if the album leads us right into Christmas itself.
Ultimately, while I can’t completely forgive Legend for disrespecting two great holidays, I do understand how releasing his music early pumps people up for his tour and will hopefully boost sales by Christmastime. This new album definitely isn’t the Christmas music I would play for carols, given that Legend’s voice warbles unpredictably, but it still has its merits. With a fresh take on a smooth, jazzy Christmas and his new lyrics, wavering voice, playful tone and lively sounds, “A Legendary Christmas” is definitely something to check out. After Thanksgiving, that is.
Alex Houdeshell is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.