KEM has done a few New Year's Eve shows in his time. But he still has trouble with trouble with one requisite part of the festivities -- "Auld Lang Syne."
"Between me and you -- what does that song mean?" the Detroit R&B singer says with a laugh. "I've been trying. I need to research that, man, get into that song, figure out where it came from and what does it mean?
"I love it, but...Well, you've got to sing it, so you might as well know what it's about and why it's The Song, y'know?"
When KEM (real name Adekemi Owens) does sing it this week at the Fox Theatre, he'll be using it to usher out a satisfying 2012 and bring in what he hopes will be a big new year.
The past 12 months saw KEM continuing to support his gold-certified "Intimacy: Album III," which hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and launched his highest-charting single yet, "Why Would You Stay." During 2012 he also staged his third "Live @ Mack & Third" charity festival and released his first holiday album, "What Christmas Means."
Fans can count on hearing songs from the latter on New Year's Eve -- "People stay in the Christmas spirit all the way up to the 1st (of January), so I think it would be fitting," he says -- and KEM remains happy with the album, which he approached quite differently than the usual collection of seasonal songs.
"Initially I didn't want to do it because I didn't want to do the same old smash-up of Christmas songs," KEM, 43, explains. "Everyone rushes into the studio and does a Christmas record in a couple of weeks and, bam, there you go. And I didn't want that to be me." Instead KEM wrote five original songs that, he notes with justifiable pride, "are not far from where I live musically."
"It's not a jolly, tinsel-tinged Christmas record," he says. "I think if you were to take the word Christmas out of the songs they could still be on a KEM record. It's the same feel.
"I think the only challenge, if you'd call it that a challenge, is that behind all the great Christmas songs that are you there you want to make sure they're as good as possible. I wanted these songs to be classics. So that was the challenge, trying to write songs that will be part of people's holiday celebrations for years to come."
The gauntlet before KEM now is his next album, the follow-up to "Intimacy." He reports that "all the songs are written," with pre-production scheduled to start in January. "It's the next stage of my evolution as a recording artist and as a producer," he says. "There's going to be a few surprises on the record, so I'm looking forward to making it."
He expects a 2013 release but leaves open the possibility it might take a little longer. "We'll see how the stars align," KEM says, but he does promise that "it definitely won't be a five-year wait like it was between my second and third album. That much I'll guarantee."
A New Year's Eve Celebration of Love & Laughter with KEM and Mike Epps takes place at 9 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31, at the Fox Theatre 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $49-$150. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.
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