Peter Hollens – New Christmas

One Voice Productions LLC

Release Date: December 14th 2021

Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre

Peter HollensNew Christmas (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. December Song
  2. December Song (Acapella Version)
  3. Let the Light In
  4. Let the Light In (feat. Mat & Savanna Shaw) [Trio Version]
  5. More Than Hands Can Hold
  6. More Than Hands Can Hold [Mat & Savanna Shaw]
  7. More Than Hands Can Hold (feat. Mat & Savanna Shaw) [Trio Version]
  8. December Song (Karaoke)
  9. December Song (Karaoke Acapella Version)
  10. Let the Light In (Karaoke)
  11. More Than Hands Can Hold (Karaoke Instrumental Version)
  12. More Than Hands Can Hold (Karaoke Piano Version)

To be honest, I don’t think anyone has heard about Peter Hollens. No, that’s not a correct statement. I mean, surely there are a lot of his fans and followers on his twitter, facebook and youtube pages, but what I’m saying is that the general public, people collectively; don’t know who he is (aside from his diehard fans). Even for me, who is an occasional listener of Peter (and not really a diehard fan, but a fan nonetheless), if it wasn’t for a post on NRT, showcasing a powerful acapella duet with CCM singer-songwriter Jamie Grace (covering a Linkin Park song ‘Heavy’, in the wake of the lead singer’s suicide), I’d never would’ve stumbled upon such a talented and emotive artist. Though independent, and though mostly a cover artist, Peter’s passion, and enthusiasm to create art that is far beyond unique, is something of a mystery, even still. With much of his material only created through voice and vocal movements (Peter is an acapella artist), Peter’s uncanny knack at transforming an already familiar (or even unfamiliar) song and making it his own is nothing short of a talent that is indeed God-given.

Unveiling a variety of albums and singles throughout his storeyed and colourful youtube career (each song he’s unveiled which has since been released on various albums and single releases, has a corresponding music video!); Peter Hollens even unveiled to the public his own rendition of the Greatest Showman songs (of which we reviewed the album here), alongside a self-titled album Peter Hollens in 2014, and a compilation in 2019 titled Legendary Covers, Vol. 1 (both of which include a myriad of cover songs from famous melodies throughout the years), to name a few. Peter has also given to us a 2 disc acapella album titled Magical Legendary Covers– 28 tracks of Disney covers unveiled in May 2020 (of which we reviewed here), as well as a follow-up to Legendary Covers, Vol. 1, Legendary Covers, Vol. 2: Inspire; a collection of songs that are all considered to be, in some shape or form, inspirational, or even religious. Songs like ‘You Will Be Found’, ‘When You Believe’, ‘The Climb’, ‘Fix You’, ‘I’ll Stand By You’, ‘Hallelujah’, ‘How Great Thou Art’ and ‘Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’, alongside others, are all on Peter’s album that released late last year…and now as we fast-forward a year to December 2021, we see Peter unveil to us another musical offering. This time, it’s a 12-track album consisting of 3 songs- ‘December Song’ (the original version was released in Peter’s 2016 Christmas album), ‘Let The Light In’ (released as a Christmas single at the end of 2020), and ‘More than Hands Can Hold’ (a song released in November this year, also as a Christmas single). Also, on this 12-track album, are variations of these three songs- acapella versions, instrumental versions, karaoke’s, and duets as well. Let’s just say that by the end of listening through each of these 12 songs, we’d probably know all the lyrics of these three songs back to front. New Christmas is a must-have if you have been a fan of Peter’s music and renditions for a while, if you are a fan of acapella music, a fan of Christmas music, or even a fan of music artists primarily living on Youtube (because frankly, that is where all the undiscovered talent really is!).

If you’ve read up to here by now, you’d know that this track listing of songs given for this Christmas album release are some of the most heartfelt Christmas songs released over the last few years, even rivalling other originally written Christmas songs like ‘Somewhere In Your Silent Night’ by Casting Crowns and ‘We Need Christmas’ by Maddie and Tae. And while this album as a whole is not necessarily Christian in nature (Peter has recorded acapella hymns in the past, like ‘It is Well’ and ‘How Great Thou Art’), there still seems to be some kind of inspirational edge to the songs ‘December Song’, ‘More Than Hands Can Hold’ and ‘Let the Light In’. These songs are all uplifting, and especially during this second year of COVID-19, we need songs like these from Peter. And through all of this, I still stand by my reason to write my thoughts down about this album- because a song doesn’t have to be ‘Christian’ for it to be used by the Lord to show things about us and Himself- in fact, I don’t even think Peter is even of the Christian faith. I mean, I don’t know, so don’t quote me on this, Peter is in fact pretty much a private person when it comes to his personal faith. But in some ways, that doesn’t even matter- it only matters between himself and the Lord. Other than that, God can use anything that He wants, yes, even the unconventional and weird, even the songs ‘December Song’, ‘More Than Hands Can Hold’ and ‘Let the Light In’; to bring people to Himself if He wanted to.

‘December Song’, originally from A Hollens Family Christmas way back in 2016, is the heart and backbone of that 2016 album release; and is once again featured on this 2021 Christmas album release, also providing the backbone, thematically and lyrically, for this 12-track album as well. Featured here in its original string-prominent form, as well as an acapella version, a karaoke version, and an acapella karaoke version; ‘December Song’ reminds us of all the things that December should stand for, even if when the holiday season comes around, we don’t necessarily feel all the things that this holiday season should embody. Though not a ‘Christ-centred’ Christmas song, ‘December Song’ does remind us of the peace and hope that this season should bring with it, even if people place more emphasis on the holiday-component of the season, rather than the Biblically based Christmas reason for it. Nevertheless, ‘December Song’ is anthemic, heartfelt and inspirational, if only for us to remember the feeling that Christmas should evoke in our hearts and spirit; and seeing if the Christmas we’re experiencing now with our families is similar or different to the reasons why we believe Christmas ought to be celebrated in the first place. And if the feelings are incongruent with what we are experiencing…then why? Christmas is a time for compassion, connection, camaraderie and ‘Christmas cheer’, and if the December season for us isn’t about any of those things, then maybe, just maybe, God is trying to compel us to analyse the reasons why we celebrate. And if a song like ‘December Song’ encourages us to make that first step, then why not?

‘…I remember coming down the stairs Christmas morning in my family home, and how special that time was. I would give anything to go back and experience that one more time. We have so few special moments in our life like that, so connected with our family, and in that moment, you don’t know how special it is. On a larger scale, if I could write every song about world peace, I would. My aim was to write a song with meaning, that hopefully sticks in people’s minds and helps them to change the way they treat each other…given the context for “December Song,” my entire push for this album is to hopefully instil in people the idea that the “holiday season” doesn’t need to be just one time of year. We can take those themes and moments and use them to transform the way we see the world. To focus on love and community and passion and peace…I think we lose sight of this [living out Christmas all year long] because we are so driven by capitalism and the media and just getting through the day. We get a little bit of time off at the holidays, but we need to make that time for our family and friends all year. It takes us out of this mundane, almost zombie-like approach to life, and allows us to be much more thoughtful of the way we treat one another, and treat ourselves…’

The other two songs that round out this 12-track project are ‘Let the Light In’ and ‘More than Hands Can Hold’…and all their variations, of course. There are three renditions of ‘Let the Light In’ (original, karaoke, and a collaboration with fellow acapella artists Mat & Savannah Shaw), and five renditions of ‘More than Hands Can Hold’ (original, Mat & Savannah Shaw’s version, a collaboration between the both of them, a karaoke piano version and a karaoke instrumental version), but for the sake of this ‘review’, we ought to just ‘discuss’ the two original tracks, right? ‘Let the Light In’ speaks about this yearning and longing, this hope within us for Christmas to be about this one thing that we may have forgotten along the way during the year- love. Love for our fellow man, love for God our creator, love in spite of what people have done to us throughout the year…just love, and to love others because of how we have been loved in the first place. ‘Let the Light In’ encourages us to be the beacon of love and hope wherever we go, and that ‘…if I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love…’ ‘More Than Hands Can Hold’ is the last remaining song on this Christmas project, and with it, provides to listeners arguably the most meaningful songs amongst the three songs Peter’s unveiled in this 12-track album release. ‘More than Hands Can Hold’ is a reflective song, one where we look back on Christmases gone before, and really see if what we have received can be qualified and quantified in a way that we can say that certain Christmases gone by have enriched our spirits and have given us things, experiences, moments of joy and peace, and even enriched our lives in a spiritual sense, too. Because if Christmas and all it is for this season is one of busyness and stress, of loneliness and heartache, then maybe, just maybe, we’ve lost something along the way, from when we celebrated Christmas as a child and it meant something to us, to now when we may gloss over the month of December, because of work and other life happenings. ‘More Than Hands Can Hold’ encourages us all to reach out and make somebody else’s Christmas much more memorable, as we give gifts that can hopefully transform lives beyond physical means, and to change people’s lives as we reflect upon why we celebrate the holiday that we do.

‘…I’ve said this once and I will say this again- people don’t have to make ‘Christian’ music, or even ascribe to the faith itself for God to use whatever is created to bring you close to Himself. That is a fact. God can and will use whatever way He knows will grab your attention, and if it through this acapella album, or a popular mainstream album, or through a worship album, then we have to lay aside our own preconceived ideas of what we believe to be inspiring music, and let God move the way that He does. Peter’s new album, be it covers, is as emotive as it is poignant, heartfelt as it is challenging, and all the while impressive with the fact that there are minimal instruments employed to create these indeed masterpieces. Peter’s music is a must-listen if you are a fan of acapella, or dare I say it, if you’re a fan of music, period. Acapella is probably, alongside rap, one of the hardest musical genres people can go into, and Peter himself has undertaken it with much grace and poise. Well done Peter for such a project that is certain to garner new fans moving forward. Can’t wait to whatever comes next…’ This above quote was my ending paragraph for my review of Peter Hollens‘ Legendary Covers: Vol. 1, and also seems fitting as an ending for this review of New Christmas as well. Even though these songs are relatively new by Peter (‘December Song’ was released in 2016, while ‘Let the Light In’ and ‘More than Hands Can Hold’ were unveiled in 2020 and 2021 respectively), there seems to be some kind of nostalgia that these songs embody, even though they are new. They don’t sound like the Christmas songs from pop artists today, and maybe that’s a good thing. And even though these songs aren’t ‘Christian’, I still firmly believe them to be some of the most inspiring Christmas melodies (within the category of ‘originally written Christmas song’) I’ve heard in quite some time. Well done Peter for giving to us, major welcomed nostalgia, and songs that are certain to give us a lot of comfort and solace during this difficult and uncertain global time, both now and ahead. Kudos to Peter for these three songs are all their variations. Can’t wait for the next album, whatever it is, and whenever it comes next!

2 songs to listen to: December Song, More Than Hands Can Hold

Score: 4/5

RIYL: Home Free, Cimorelli, Jackie Evancho, Lucy Thomas, Pentatonix

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