Fantasia, Christmas After Midnight | Album Review
4 stars out of 5
Underrated R&B standout Fantasia delivers a well-rounded, enjoyable Christmas album with ‘Christmas After Midnight.’
‘Tis the season for Christmas albums! What better way to celebrate Christmas than a Christmas album by a pop, rock, or R&B musician? In this case, the respective Christmas album arrives courtesy of R&B artist Fantasia. We last heard from the American Idol winner in 2016 when she released The Definition Of… Unfortunately, following a Top-10 debut, The Definition Of…plummeted as opposed to excelling. Nonetheless, sometimes, all it takes is a little holiday magic to reignite the fire. For Fantasia, her quietly released Christmas album, Christmas After Midnight, is definitely worthwhile.
Fantasia kicks things off right with soul holiday classic, “This Christmas.” Given her ripe pipes, she’s a perfect fit to tackle the Donny Hathaway gem. While “This Christmas” has arguably become one of the most over-covered holiday joints, Fantasia still ends up making it special. She keeps things soulful on “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto,” a James Brown Christmas classic. It’s always interesting when this carol appears because it’s not as often covered. Anthony Hamilton covered it in 2014 on his Home for the Holidays Christmas album. It’s definitely spirited.
“The Snow is Falling”
Some of Fantasia’s best moments on Christmas After Midnight arrive with the jazzier numbers. “The Snow is Falling” is a perfect fit, showcasing a different side of the gospel-infused soul singer. Furthermore, this ends up being a more obscure choice than most Christmas classics, adding to its specialness. She comes back to a more familiar classic with “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” where she collaborates with CeeLo Green. This isn’t her first go-round with Green – he assisted her on a personal favorite from her 2010 album, Back to Me, “The Thrill Is Gone.”
“The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” makes a predictable, but sound appearance. More outside of the traditional realm is a fine cover of The Temptations’ beloved carol, “Give Love on Christmas Day.” The Fantasia version is slower with less production – piano serves as the accompaniment. Nonetheless, it’s a beautiful, refined performance that ranks among the best of Christmas After Midnight. Naturally, she pushes at just the right moments.
“Merry Christmas Baby”
“Merry Christmas Baby” brings back some of that sultry jazziness that made “The Snow is Falling” a gem. This is a perfect fit because it requires a feisty performance – one with ample attitude. Fantasia offers plenty of that. She offers up another ‘predictable’ Christmas offering with “Silent Night.” Following a mysterious introduction, the traditional carol as we know it rears its head, consistently and soundly performed. Like most editions of “Silent Night” these days, she doesn’t reinvent the wheel.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” ends up being as lovely as everything that precedes it. Here, Fantasia’s vocal tone truly stands out, particularly when she exhibits great poise. Two more jazzy joints are golden in the artist’s hands: “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.” The inclusion of the brief but beautiful “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” is among the surprises of Christmas After Midnight. No surprise is how capably Fantasia performs the closer, “Hallelujah.” Simply put, she was made to sing this classic. The soulful, gospel cues only add fuel to her fire.
Simply put, Fantasia can sing anything. The biggest rub against her as an artist has often been the lack of material ‘good enough’ for an elite, ‘once in a lifetime’ voice like hers. While she doesn’t offer anything transcendent or ‘brand new’ on Christmas After Midnight, this is a solid, well-rounded, and enjoyable Christmas album. It definitely meets, if not exceeds, expectations.
Gems: “This Christmas,” “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto,” “The Snow is Falling,” “What Are You Doing on New Year’s Eve?” & “Hallelujah”