The holidays just wouldn’t be the holidays without the music that we’ve all come to associate with that very first snow of the season, and this year Kanisha K delivers a landmark performance in her cover of the standard “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” The Bing Crosby original has been heard in films, commercials and homes from one side of the States to the next, and this season Kanisha K’s version of the song makes its way to the soundtracks of stores and malls across America to remind everyone of what the holiday is truly all about. With a melodic wit and wisdom that has become her trademark, she dusts off this seventy five year old classic and gives it the modern makeover it deserves.
Kanisha K doesn’t try to completely redesign “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in her new single but instead stylizes it with a jazz vocal that fits with the energy of the song perfectly. She channels Billie Holliday in the chorus, swaying against the beat of the music with an endearing harmony that is as alluring as a roaring fire on an icy winter evening. The mix shaves down any rough edges the percussion might have created and makes everything flow so smoothly that half the time it’s hard to tell where the band’s melody starts and that of the vocal begins.
The horn, strings and airy drum track aren’t messily compressed and smashed into each other in the production; they’re delicately layered in a manner that lets us appreciate their individual contributions to the glory of the song. Like unwrapping a present, we peel away the sonic ribbonry that softens the highbrow jazz packaging to find an ethereal melodicism buried where we would least expect it – between the hollow percussion and the vocals. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” might be a black and white seasonal song on paper, but in this format it’s a symphony of cerebral sounds merging to create a singular tour de force.
From the very second she starts to serenade us to the moment that the track stops and the music fades into darkness we’re powerlessly spellbound by Kanisha K’s vocal, which is quite possibly more polished and robust here than it has been in her previously recorded material. The substance of this track, like all Christmas music, is the mood that it sets regardless of the venue that it’s played in, and instead of trying to recycle the mood that others have projected with the words she conjures up something fresh and original out of its stylish grooves. If that isn’t the right way to do a cover song, I really don’t know what is.
She’s proven time and time again that she’s an ace in the studio, and with the release of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” Kanisha K demonstrates that there isn’t a corner of the pop lexicon that she isn’t capable of understanding, adapting and reproducing with wildly evocative results. Alongside a low-key, jazz club-inspired music video for the single, this single elevates her persona to new heights within the industry and solidifies her reputation as a knockout performer and versatile recording artist, which is something that cover songs (especially those of the so-called “theme” persuasion) aren’t typically known for doing.
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