Halftime Leisure

This Christmas season, ring in the holidays with Laufey

Published December 3, 2023

Courtesy of Laufey/AWAL

Come every holiday season, stars throw their hats into the ring, trying to replace Mariah Carey as Christmas music royalty—or at the very least, cementing their songs in the Christmas classic rotation. Yet, they rarely succeed, with Ms. Mariah almost always reigning supreme. But with three new releases, it seems that Laufey might just be on her way to being crowned the jazzy new “Queen of Christmas.”

Christmas came early this year with the release of A Very Laufey Holiday! on Nov. 3. The single comprises three tunes, with one song being a brand new release while the other two are rereleases from 2022 and 2021, respectively. This year’s entry, “Christmas Dreaming,” is a cover of the 1957 Frank Sinatra record of the same name and opens with a sweeping blend of strings—a hallmark of every Laufey creation given her background as a cellist and natural propensity for orchestral arrangements. Knowing her finesse for incorporating classical music samples or crafting melodies inspired by classical composers, any Laufey track without a gorgeous string accompaniment would only feel incomplete. Littered throughout the song are soft piano notes, delicately complementing the strings when they crescendo between verses as if to sing the main vocal reprise themselves. 

Although the instrumentals get their time in the spotlight, Laufey’s characteristically suave vocals are undeniably the star of this track. Almost every line of the song is delivered by vocal harmonies excellently layered in post-production to create a listening experience that holds incredible depth. One might describe it as the auditory equivalent of eating a decadent, rich chocolate cake, the chords scratching that itch in your brain with every bite. For a tune with such captivating charm, there’s no doubt that we’re definitely “doing [our] Christmas dreaming a little early this year.”

Laufey clearly has a knack for producing covers that manage to incorporate her unmistakable, sophisticated personal flair while authentically replicating a sound reminiscent of the original, paying homage to and retaining the magic of the song. On 2022’s “A Christmas Waltz,” another Sinatra classic, she brings in an adorable children’s choir halfway through to sing alongside her for the last few lines, playing into the caroling spirit of the holidays. While the mixing of the kids’ voices isn’t nearly as pristine on the production end as most of Laufey’s discography, there’s still a certain cozy, homey feel that’s pleasantly welcome. And if the rampant praise for “Love to Keep Me Warm” (with dodie) since the collaboration’s initial release in 2021 is any indication, Laufey’s unparalleled expertise in reimagining classics undoubtedly sets her apart from and above the rest of the holiday music competition.

Only one week after A Very Laufey Holiday!’s release, we were gifted with Christmas With You, a joint release by Laufey and Norah Jones. Just looking at their musical journeys, it was clear this single was destined to be a dreamy set of soon-to-be classics: both artists are traditionally trained jazz musicians who have applied elements of that genre to the world of pop. The first of the single’s two parts is a piano-driven cover of the timeless “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” that hits all the familiar holiday feels. The second part and undeniable star of the record, “Better Than Snow,” is an original track that the two co-wrote and produced. The dainty piano accompaniment creates a peaceful and charming backing track that places their voices front and center, ensuring there are no distractions to prevent us from appreciating how Norah Jones’ raspier tone wonderfully complements Laufey’s smoother vocals. The lyrics are heartwarming in their simplicity, not needing cryptic analogies shrouded in metaphor or elaborate word choice to plainly declare that “Christmas with you is / Better than snow.” The message isn’t anything new in the realm of festive tunes, but it’s one that always strikes a chord or tugs at the heartstrings nonetheless. After all, listeners around the world can universally assent that during the holiday seasons, there’s nothing one could ask for that is more cherished than precious time with loved ones.

It appears that in Laufey’s world of musical surprises, good things come in threes—as part of Spotify’s “Spotify Singles: Holiday Collection,” she recorded a cover of the beloved classic “Winter Wonderland” which was released on Nov. 14. The cover’s constant contrast of soft, light piano chords with bright, energetic interruptions from the horn and strings creates a delightfully lively conversation between the instruments. With vocals as silky as ever, she raises the key of the melody for the second verse, a needed twist to disrupt the repetitiveness of a song that, although pleasant, has become overplayed during the holiday season. The instruments get their own solos in between verses, providing a refreshing break just before Laufey closes out the track with an exhilarating final belt that speaks to her raw skill as a jazz vocalist.

As enjoyable as pop-infused winter tunes can be, there’s something unequivocally jazzy about the holiday season—a certain sense of nostalgia and sentimentality that the traditional genre of Christmas music conjures. Perhaps that irreplaceable element is what makes Laufey’s holiday releases feel like they belong right there with the oldest classics. She’s mastered the art of flawlessly blending jazz influences into every pop track, challenging the traditional borders that separate modern and classical composition and consequently cementing herself as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. And given her three-releases-in-two-weeks record, who knows? She might even have more holiday tunes up her sleeve. Come what may, it’s definitely already feeling like a very lovely, Laufey, holiday season.

Eileen Chen
Eileen is the Halftime Leisure Editor and a sophomore in the College studying political economy. She likes dirty chai lattes, pretty flowers, and making playlists for every minor inconvenience.

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