Kem - What Christmas Means

Kem
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Let’s just keep it real, ladies and gentlemen: While it’s a given that most people enjoy music and Christmas, combining the two in the form of a holiday-themed CD can garner results that are not unlike a badly-made fruitcake, where the effort is pain-staking and well-intended, but the results are a cloying and super-sappy mess. So it’s hard to not expect eyes to roll when any artist, no matter how talented, offers up their own spin on the recipe…..that is, until they  encounter one as grown, genuine and  gorgeous as Kem’s What Christmas Means.

Let’s just keep it real, ladies and gentlemen: While it’s a given that most people enjoy music and Christmas, combining the two in the form of a holiday-themed CD can garner results that are not unlike a badly-made fruitcake, where the effort is pain-staking and well-intended, but the results are a cloying and super-sappy mess. So it’s hard to not expect eyes to roll when any artist, no matter how talented, offers up their own spin on the recipe…..that is, until they  encounter one as grown, genuine and  gorgeous as Kem’s What Christmas Means.

In just under a decade, Kem has sold millions of CDs with his meticulous, yet mesmerizing approach to adult-contemporary sound and this collection of original and established holiday numbers is no exception: true instrumentation abounds, lending to its tender and timeless feel, and the warmth provided by his smooth and supple vocals definitely make this a decidedly adult affair. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is anchored with a lone piano and an understated, yet elegant vocal performance; “Christmas Time Is Here” is unhurried and enchanted; and yes, “The Christmas Song” does have that inescapable Nat “King” Cole feel, but his trademark insert of the affectionately-used “Girl” and its plush center make it another all-Kem event. “Merry Christmas Baby” is delivered in the expected jazzy jubilance, but “We Three Kings” is one of the best covers, thanks to its mid-tempo melody, heavenly infusion of harps and a sinewy, ad-lib-filled take describing the most holy of journeys and births (“We’re going down to see the King, yeah, give little Jesus his crown…”).

Anyone who’s familiar with Kem’s triumphant and personal back-story knows that he gives much credit to his faith, so the poignant title track and sanctified, choir-featuring original, “Glorify The King,” sets the pace and makes it clear what the holidays mean to him and why Jesus’ sacrifice is all the more powerful: “Because You gave your life for me, I’ll worship you with every breath I take/The more I pray, the more I love Christmas day, and this is why I say, I’ll glorify the King.” The two romantic renderings, “A Christmas Song For You” and Kem’s sultrily-spirited duet with Ledisi, “Be Mine For Christmas,” definitely qualify as ‘curl-up-in-front-of-a roaring-fire’ moments that could spark a few new romances (or engagements) by New Year’s Eve. “Doo-Wop Christmas” wraps it all up with shine and sparkle, filled with playful finger-snaps and a Temptations-esque cascade of a cappella tenors and bass that inject mirth and underscore the real reason for the season: “Kids love presents and Santa’s alright with me (alright with me), but I really wanna tell ya what a treasure God’s love can be (love can be, yeah).”

Kem’s debut Christmas CD is not like a reindeer-covered sweater, something that you’d only be seen using once or twice a season, but like a well-chosen accessory or outfit given by that special someone that makes you gasp in delight and gets worn, then worn out, all year long. Its blend of the sensual and the sentimental, as well as Kem’s signature craftsmanship, are the factors that set apart What Christmas Means from other holiday releases and makes it essential in getting the vibe right for that family-filled day, the New-Year kiss and even beyond. Enthusiastically Recommended.

By Melody Charles

 
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