It is common for actors to explore their musical talents, as they complement each other like movies and popcorn. Growing up in the eighties, I recall Eddie Murphy, Don Johnson, and Philip Michal Thomas releasing projects. This week’s Second Listen Sunday pick is Gregory Hines, the late thespian and tap-dancing icon who released a self-titled album
Second Listen Sunday: Jaheim, A Really Chill Christmas
Sixteen years into his musical career, New Jersey native and R&B crooner Jaheim gave his fans a musical gift with his first Christmas album, A Really Chill Christmas. While some of his newer material hasn’t lived up to his full vocal potential, with A Really Chill Christmas, Jaheim appears to have studied the playbook Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis established for Alexander O’Neal’s classic 1988 Christmas album, My Gift To You. Like O’Neal before him, Jaheim has made an album that balances newer material with cover songs.
Opening with a cover of Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” which he entitled “Chestnuts,” Cole, who was not only a vocalist but a jazz pianist, sang the song with a natural smoothness. Jaheim does the song justice by letting his smooth vocals shine over the production.
“Christmas Wedding” is the next track, and it’s a lovely ballad for the grown & sexy crowd. Jaheim’s strong point has always been his ballads, and he shines on “Christmas Wedding.” Jaheim then transitions into the album’s title track, “A Really Chill Christmas,” which opens with an intro by an excited little boy telling his parents he wants to open his presents.
The album has its missteps, though. The first comes in the form of “Xxxmas,” which, in a word, is horrible. With its gunshot sound effects and profanity-laced lyrics, the song seems out of place on the album. The second misstep is two jingles for radio shows. While I am a fan of Steve Harvey and Tom Joyner and their iconic morning shows, the jingles come across as filler material. Granted, Jaheim started his career with an R&B thug persona, but at this point in his career, there is no reason to chase a young crowd, which he attempts to do here.
Thankfully Jaheim gets back to business with “Snow Makes The Grass Grow,” featuring Angie Stone & Dave Hollister. The trio of singers complements each other well vocally, and it’s always a joy to listen to auto-tune-free R&B. “From Me To You” is the last original song, and it’s another winner. The song has a Chicago steppers vibe and vastly improved over the album’s other up-tempo track.
As the album gets to the finish line, Jaheim blesses fans with two covers. The first is the legendary “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway. Jaheim sings the lyrics effortlessly, but the musical arrangements could have been more substantial, and the rap part was unneeded. When you take on a song by an artist as iconic as Hathaway, you must bring your A GAME.
“Auld Lang Syne” closes out the album and is a much better cover than the previous song. The New Years’ staple shows off his natural God-given talent, and I could easily see this song being played on New Year’s Eve during watch night services, as it has a gospel feel.
Christmas albums sometimes feel like a label obligation or a ploy to get money. However, with A Really Chill Christmas, Jahiem has produced a quality Christmas album with songs you can enjoy year-round.
Final Grade B
A Really Chill Christmas is available on all streaming platforms
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