Christmas: A Season of Love

Christmas: A Season of Love

For Tony Award-winning performer Idina Menzel, the holidays haven’t always come without complexities. “My parents announced that they were separating on Thanksgiving morning,” she tells Apple Music. When Menzel gave birth to her son and got remarried, these moments granted her the opportunity to rewrite her version of the holidays. Billy Porter, Josh Gad, Ariana Grande, and husband Aaron Lohr help her usher in the season with a medley of rejuvenated favorites and spirited originals. “I wanted it to feel like you could be at a great holiday party back in the ’40s or ’50s,” Menzel says. “I also want you to be able to decorate your tree, put on the music, and feel excited for the holidays.” Here, Menzel talks through some of Christmas: A Season of Love’s most festive moments. Sleigh Ride “I love the arrangement; it feels nostalgic. I wanted it to feel like old Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong—these were my influences.” At This Table “We started with ‘At This Table,’ which was meant to be an original song—it wasn’t necessarily a holiday song, but once we had written it, it felt like a song for the holidays. It’s a song about inclusivity, acceptance, and forgiveness. It felt very important for this day and age and time that we’re in. It was really exciting to cowrite something with my friend Jonas Myrin, and this set us on our journey to make a holiday album that’s for everybody.” O Holy Night/Ave Maria “There was a time when Pavarotti was supposed to sing at the Grammy Awards but he got sick, and Aretha Franklin was backstage. He was supposed to sing ‘Nessun Dorma’ and Aretha said ‘I can do it!’ and she sang it in his key but she didn’t turn into an opera singer, she sang it like Aretha. It’s the most magnificent vocal accomplishment that I’ve ever heard her do. I was inspired by that, so I wanted to do something more on the classical end, because I studied that when I was younger and wanted to have fun playing with something very classical while trying to stay true to my voice.” I Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (feat. Billy Porter) “Billy and I go way back to our theater days. I’ve always wanted to sing with him, and when I curated the setlist for the album, I was listening to a lot of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, and they have a duet called ‘I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.’ When we were thinking of people, I thought, ‘Oh my god, if Billy would do this with me, I’d be so excited.’ We had to switch the key because he doesn’t sing in Louis Armstrong’s key, he sings more in my key! He brought so much light. He’s such an incredible interpreter that I actually went back and re-sang my vocals because I was inspired by his and I wanted to match my harmonies to his phrasing. It’s light, it’s fun, and it’s a little sexy.” We Wish You the Merriest (feat. Josh Gad) “This is a song I found on Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby’s album, and I just loved it. I thought it was so fun and old-fashioned, and I knew I had to find somebody that would be spontaneous and off the cuff. I’ve been hanging with Josh a lot these days, and I begged him to do this with me. I just let him do his thing—he did a couple of takes where he was being a really great singer and others where he was being a really great comedian. Josh and I, we’re grown-ups in a film that resonates with young kids—when we can find a way to encapsulate all the different ages in our music, it’s exciting when we can figure that out.” A Hand for Mrs. Claus (feat. Ariana Grande) “The song was written by Bobby and Kristen Lopez, who wrote ‘Let It Go’ and all the music from both Frozen movies. I called them and asked, ‘Could you write me an original Christmas song for this album?’ and Kristen comes back and tells me, ‘I’m writing you a feminist Christmas song!’ Ariana’s always been so sweet and respectful to me and loves Wicked and the Broadway community. We met at the Wicked 15-year reunion, and I just thought that she’d be perfect if I could get her.” I’ll Be Home for Christmas (feat. Aaron Lohr) “My husband and I met at a play a long time ago. I thought this would be a good song for us to sing because I’ve been traveling a lot and we were long-distance when we first started dating, so it felt authentic for us to sing something like this. I knew his voice could handle this material. He has such a burnished, leathery vocal sound that I find very sexy. The sound and the texture of his voice really puts me at ease, so it was fun to get into the studio and sing that together, and he didn’t need that much direction.” Walker’s 3rd Hanukkah “As I was thinking about how I could lead into ‘Ocho Kandelikas,’ I remember I had this great video of [her son] Walker and I at the table. I was trying to teach him what the prayer was to light the candles for the menorah at Hanukkah. I want people to feel that it’s very personal and they can relate to it no matter what religion and how they celebrate.” Seasons of Love “‘Seasons of Love’ is from the Broadway show Rent, where I got my start—it was the first professional gig I ever had. There’s a song within Rent called ‘Christmas Bells,’ and the opening flourish you hear is from that song. I stripped a piece that I knew fans would really remember and then I had a friend—Stephen Oremus—arrange that with ‘Seasons of Love.’ It dawned on me after years and years of singing ‘Seasons of Love’ onstage and in concerts that it was the perfect holiday song. It felt like a tribute to where I’ve come from, where I got my start, and what that show is all about: Love will bring us all together.”

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