NEW YORK — Some artists record Christmas albums to fulfil a recording contract. But not John Legend. And now he has a Grammy nomination to prove it.
The 10-time Grammy winner said when he was recording 2018’s “A Legendary Christmas,” he didn’t treat it like a part-time project, which might be the reason it earned a Grammy nod for best traditional pop vocal album, competing with records from Barbra Streisand, Elvis Costello, Michael Bublé and Andrea Bocelli.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” Legend said. “I never bank on things like that happening. With Christmas albums, sometimes they’re treated more like novelty albums or not kind of considered in the main body of people’s career and their work, but I put a lot of love into that Christmas album and worked with some of the best musicians in the world.”
Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Raphael Saadiq produced the album, which features guest appearances from Grammy favourites Stevie Wonder and Esperanza Spalding.
“We just had so much fun making it and I’m very happy it got the recognition it got,” he said.
Legend is set to perform at Sunday’s Grammys alongside DJ Khaled, Meek Mill and others in a special tribute to late rapper Nipsey Hussle. Legend’s collaboration with Hussle and Khaled, the song “Higher,” is nominated for best rap/sung performance.
Legend knows how impactful a Grammy performance could have on a song: When he sang “All of Me” at the 2014 show, it helped the song reach new heights. It eventually topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became one of the year’s biggest hits.
“(‘All of Me’) had been slowly working its way up the urban AC charts and hadn’t crossed over to any other chart really, and when we performed at the Grammys, it just took over,” he said.
The piano-playing superstar is experiencing similar success with his new single, “Conversations in the Dark,” which quickly topped the iTunes chart last week.
“This is the first song I’ve ever put out that went to No. 1 on iTunes on the first week of release, so it’s kind of cool for me at this stage in my career have a song do that,” he said. “It’s cool to see a song getting embraced so quickly… The song, I think, voices the way people feel about the people they love, and that’s kind of what I do best — write songs that help give a voice to those kinds of feelings.”
“Conversations in the Dark” also got a boost since Legend performed the track on last week’s episode of NBC’s “This Is Us.”
“It was great for the song. Obviously, people watch ‘This Is Us’ to get their heart strings pulled a little bit and so I think the song was perfect for that moment. When they reached out to me, I didn’t even know what song I was going to do, but when we finished ‘Conversations in the Dark’ I was like, ‘Oh, that’s got to be the one,’” said Legend, who is a coach on NBC’s “The Voice.”
“It’s funny because the label is little behind. We were just putting it out to have it ready for ‘This Is Us,’ but now we’ve seen how incredible the response has been, so now we’re like, ‘Oh, let’s go to radio and let’s do all the things you normally do to promote a single,’” he said. “Up until we released it, I don’t think the label knew how big of an impact it would have.”
Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press