R&B singer Ne-Yo released his first Christmas album, Another Kind Of Christmas, in 2019. For this week’s Slow Jam Saturday selection, I chose to highlight his cover of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want to Come Home for Christmas.” The song’s original message came about in 1972 after co-writer Forest Hairston saw pictures of people tying yellow ribbons around trees for Vietnam War troops who were prisoners of war.
Gaye initially wanted the song out as a tribute to the troops in time for the holiday season. Unfortunately, the song would go unheard by the masses until 1990. As a veteran who supported Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006, I remember keeping the song on repeat while I was on deployment during the holiday season. Moreover, while I was single at the time, I would have preferred being home with my family and friends instead. Ne-Yo takes a different approach with his version.
Initially appearing on the soundtrack to the 2013 classic The Best Man Holiday, Ne-Yo effortlessly adds his flavor to the Gaye classic. Director Malcolm D. Lee used the song in a third act scene of The Best Man Holiday as Morris Chestnut’s Lance races home to spend his final moments with his dying wife Mia, portrayed by Monica Calhoun. Lance has just broken the all-time rushing record, but all that matters is being with his woman love. It’s the perfect use of the song as Ne-Yo effortlessly croons:
“I’d give anything to see
A little Christmas tree
And to hear,
Hear the laughter of children playing in the snow,
To kiss my baby under the mistletoe”.
Covering Marvin Gaye is a vast undertaking, and per the commentary on The Best Man Holiday, director Malcolm D. Lee told Ne-Yo he needed to bring his A-Game when singing the song. Thankfully, Ne-Yo knocked it out of the park, and I have the song in my top twenty Ne-Yo vocal performances.
Final Grade: A
“I Want to Come Home for Christmas” from The Best Man Holiday soundtrack and Another Kind Of Christmas is available on all streaming platforms.