Chloe Hearts Christmas
2023 / Sony Masterworks
Review by Kathy Parsons
Chloe Hearts Christmas is the first full-length holiday album from pop-classical piano virtuoso Chloe Flower, following her 2022 four-song EP, "Christmas With Chloe Flower." Two of the sixteen tracks on this album first appeared on the EP - "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" and "A Liberace Christmas" which is orchestrated this time. It is no secret that I really appreciate artists who follow their own muses and defy being categorized into one genre, and Chloe Flower certainly does that! In fact, she calls her style "popsical," a very "cool" reference to "pop meets classical." Chloe Hearts Christmas includes a fascinating selection of traditional Christmas carols, standards, pop hits and soundtrack music, most of which are fully orchestrated and four that feature Questlove.
Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Chloe Flowers started playing the piano at the age of two and studied at Manhattan School of Music and The Royal Academy of Music in London before meeting her mentor, the twelve-time Grammy Award-winning R&B singer/songwriter and producer, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds. Chloe released her self-titled debut album in 2021 and is an official Steinway Artist. A champion of music education, she is the youngest board member of the Liberace Foundation.
Chloe Hearts Christmas begins with a traditional orchestration of Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride," but when Chloe comes in with her piano, an element of joyful magic is added. The dreamy "Once Upon a December" comes from the 1997 Disney movie Anastasia and is arranged for piano and orchestra - gorgeous! "Christmas Tree" was originally recorded by South Korean singer V of BTS for the soundtrack of the South Korean TV series, "Our Beloved Summer." I wasn't familiar with this beautiful song, but love the simplicity of the melody as well as the heartfelt emotion Chloe puts into it, backed by strings. "Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairy" is something to behold and you really need to check out the video that goes with it! Probably my favorite piece from The Nutcracker, this is definitely the first time I've heard it backed with hip-hop beats - and it works! Ariana Grande's "Santa Tell Me" overflows with longing, again with piano and strings. The Elvis Presley classic, "Blue Christmas," is given something of a country-pop treatment, this time with back-up singers as well as piano and orchestra. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" holds up well under a wide variety of musical styles, and this one is lively with fairly traditional variations. Joni Mitchell's "River" begins as a piano solo before the orchestra enters, creating a big production number. Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds co-produced "Carol of the Bells," a genre-defying arrangement with singers, a strong percussion and bass section, strings and of course, the piano - another must-hear! "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" is the theme from the 1983 film and was composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto. It is the only piano solo on the album, and is much more heartfelt than flashy - a gorgeous arrangement that touches deeply. "A Liberace Christmas" captures the late pianist's "all over the piano" playing style and is a medley of several Christmas standards. The album comes to joyful close with a lively orchestrated version of "Jingle Bell Rock."
Wow! I have to say I'm intrigued by Chloe Flowers and look forward to listening to more of her music. Chloe Hearts Christmas is available as a CD, download and to stream on Amazon, to download and stream on Apple Music/iTunes as well as many streaming platforms. Be sure to check out Chloe's YouTube videos, too! Musical magic!
December 11, 2023