I have idolized Lea Michele ever since she first appeared in “Glee” back in 2009. I’m not a singer by any means, show tunes are not my thing and I’d like to think I’m not as outrageously difficult as Rachel Berry, but something about her character’s I-just-don’t-give-a-f*** attitude captivated me. So, naturally, when I heard Michele was releasing a Christmas album about two whole months before Christmas, I was incredibly excited.
Michele has two albums under her belt already, but frankly, I’d be surprised if you’d heard of either one of them. She released “Louder” in 2014 and “Places” in 2017, and while “Louder” outperformed “Places,” neither did exceedingly well. Her Christmas album, “Christmas in the City”, is a chance to redeem herself.
“Christmas in New York” features 11 songs – 10 being classic covers and one original. It opens with a classical rendition of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and I think everyone can agree it was a good play on Michele’s part to stay away from a modern take on the song. She then takes on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which I was more than a little nervous about. I’m a huge fan of Sam Smith’s version of the song, and I was definitely afraid this wouldn’t live up to it. But, as my two friends who watched me burst into tears at the sound of her voice will attest, I think she got the job done.
The third song on the album is Michele’s original: “Christmas in New York.” While I’m not quite sure it’s ready to sit on a shelf with the songs it’s placed next to in the album, she did a great job. It’s fast-paced and youthful – simply a happy Christmas song.
Michele next introduces the first of three features in the album. Jonathan Groff, a “Glee” co-star (yay!) accompanies her in a Hawaiian-style “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” There isn’t much to say other than, of course, their voices have always worked well together. “Glee” star (double yay!) Darren Criss is featured later in the album on “White Christmas,” making for a beautiful blend of two spectacular voices. Finally, Cynthia Erivo joins Michele in “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Their voices are very different but complement each other well. It was refreshing to see Michele highlight a voice that wasn’t the typical broadway belt.
Michele finishes the album with the only song she repeated from her time on “Glee:” “O Holy Night.” It was one of my favorite solos then, and it is probably my favorite song on the album now.
Michele found her voice again with this album, and I’m really glad to hear her back in her wheelhouse. I don’t expect any of these songs to replace any of the classics on your Christmas playlist this year, but hopefully you’ll be able to tack a few new ones onto the end.
Edited by Joe Cross | firstname.lastname@example.org