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Of "Christmas Time is Here," Kem says, "It's one of those songs that I hear and it's like, 'I wish I wrote that.' " (Courtesy of the artist)

'What Christmas Means' To Soul Singer KEM

by NPR Staff
Dec 18, 2012 (Morning Edition)

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For KEM's What Christmas Means, the R&B singer wanted to cover several aspects of the season: the birth of Christ, for one, but also Christmas as a "romantic holiday."

"You spend time cuddled up by the fire, warm and cozy with your wife or your husband," KEM tells NPR's David Greene. "You spend more time being intimate with shopping — we're doing things with the kids, we're together. There's a lot of sincerity, a lot of warmth."

The album highlight, "A Christmas Song for You," is "a reflection of love that we cherish during the holidays." But there was a time that KEM was less fortunate: Growing up in Detroit, he was separated from family, living on the streets and addicted to alcohol.

"I'm very grateful that I had that experience," KEM says. "I do not regret my past, nor do I wish to shut my door on it. I learned a lot of valuable lessons. My life has turned around 180 degrees. Had those things not occurred, I don't know that I would enjoy the life that I have today."

Composed of half originals and half standards, What Christmas Means is sure to inspire some cozy fireside cuddling — but also warm memories, as in KEM's take on his "favorite Christmas song ever," the iconic "Christmas Time Is Here" from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

"The melody, the vibe of it — it's just a beautiful song," KEM says. "It's one of those songs that I hear and it's like, 'I wish I wrote that.' "

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