DAVID GREENE, HOST:
As always, we have a lot of news to cover today. But on this holiday, we thought it was worth devoting a good bit of time to some Christmas music.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS")
COMMITTED: (Singing) Have yourself a merry, little Christmas. Let your heart be light.
GREENE: You're hearing the a cappella group Committed. They won season two of NBC's singing competition "The Sing-Off." I'll let them introduce themselves.
GESTON PIERRE: My name is Geston Pierre. I sing the baseline (Singing).
THERRY THOMAS: I'm Therry. And I sing tenor (Singing).
ROBBIE PRESSLEY: OK. My name is Robbie. I sing tenor (Singing).
DJ BAPTISTE: I go by DJ. And I sing baritone (Singing).
MAURICE STAPLE: I am Maurice Staple. I sing tenor (Singing).
GREENE: OK. So that's Geston Pierre, Therry Thomas, Robbie Pressley, DJ Baptiste and Maurice Staple - the group Committed. They're out with a new album, "Home For Christmas." All the guys joined me from our New York bureau. The group started at Oakwood University, a historically black Christian college in Alabama. The current members have been together for about five years now. I ask one of the guys, Geston Pierre, how they handle making mainstream, secular music with their strong Christian roots.
PIERRE: Although we are Christians, we are also experience life like everybody else, so we like to sing about life. Life comprises of love. Life comprises of up and downs, difficulties. You need faith, hope and love. We sing about all types of things. And so we don't like to be boxed in necessarily. But we do love God, and we love each other, and we love music. That's why we're Committed with no pun intended. You know, we like to sing about life.
GREENE: But real-life experiences aren't often covered in gospel songs, group member Therry Thomas told me.
THOMAS: That may be why it's such a boxed-in genre, which is not bad. I think all genres are boxed in. But for us, we don't like to be under that umbrella of just gospel because it's maybe taboo to sing about God and then, at the same time, sing about your heart being broken or something like that, you know. And so we like to branch out and sing all types of things that everybody would like to hear.
GREENE: And so what do you call your style?
THOMAS: We are - I feel like we call ourselves inspirational because, you know, we like to inspire ourselves, each other and, you know, our audiences of course. And it's more so inspiring, you know, just having somebody to understand what you're going through. It's a connection that we have with the audience that I think that helps us a lot.
GREENE: And do we hear that style that you're talking about on the Christmas album?
THOMAS: Yes. Yes. In the Christmas album we have "I'll Be Home For Christmas," and we have some fun songs. We have "The Chipmunk Song." And a lot of people don't get to see our silly side. That's definitely one of the songs that we get to be ourselves.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE CHIPMUNK SONG")
COMMITTED: (Singing) Christmas, Christmas time is here. Time for toys and time for cheer. We've been good, but we can't last. Hurry, hurry Christmas. Hurry fast.
THOMAS: We are still fun. You know, we're still joyous. And we don't really get to show that side a lot. And so we wanted to just delve into that side of ourselves for this project.
GREENE: Was there a moment when you realized that you - I mean, a cappella just was the right way to go for you guys?
THOMAS: Probably not until "The Sing-off" honestly. I feel like we were just doing it just to do it in college. And then "The Sing-off," it helped us hone our talents and our focus. And it made us realize what we actually can do, you know, just by ourselves.
GREENE: You won season two of "The Sing-off" on NBC. Well, let's hear a little bit from the show. This is "Apologize."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "APOLOGIZE")
COMMITTED: (Singing) You tell me that you need me, then you go and cut me down. But wait. You tell me that you're sorry, didn't think I'd turned around and say - I said it's too late to apologize. It's too late.
GREENE: Those aren't young women screaming for you in the audience there, are they?
PIERRE: Most definitely.
BAPTISTE: Barely. Barely.
GREENE: Well, I mean, one of the judges on the show is Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men. What was it like singing in front of someone who I understand is one of your idols?
THOMAS: Yeah. For sure. He's definitely been an inspiration for us over the years. I mean, to be honest, I didn't really listen to a lot of R&B when I was younger, but the few songs I did hear were actually Boyz II Men songs. And to have him in the audience and to have his reactions be so over the top, like, he was just falling over the tables like what, like, these guys - like that was surreal.
PIERRE: And we sang with him. Oh, my goodness.
PRESSLEY: Yeah, we did sing with him.
GREENE: You sang with him? There's a sexiness to Boyz II Men songs. Does trying to mimic their style in some ways take you to a place where you don't want to go?
THOMAS: We're Christians, but I mean, I like to say that we're sexy as well.
BAPTISTE: Sexy and saved.
THOMAS: Sexy and saved.
GREENE: Sexy and saved. That might be the name of the next album?
THOMAS: I feel like, you know, we can - it's not a bad thing to be sexy as long as it's not something that you're trying to sell sex, you know, we're just trying to - we're just being ourselves more so.
BAPTISTE: It's not our fault if we're sexy.
THOMAS: It's all natural.
BAPTISTE: I mean, fiercely and wonderfully made.
GREENE: Well, I mean, being sexy and saved, I guess, you know, I mean, you're gospel singers at your core. You're men who came up through the church. Is there this pressure to keep the music clean and positive?
BAPTISTE: This is DJ. I don't really feel that there's any pressure to keep our music clean. You know, when we wake up every morning and we just think about music, it's what comes out of us, what comes out of our mind, what comes out of our heart. And it's not unclean music. We don't want to sing that kind of stuff. And we try not to listen to it. So I think it's easier to go and kind of stay true to who you are than to go the opposite and sing that stuff. So I think it's easier and the pressure's not very heavy.
GREENE: Do you see too much - I don't know - selling sex today in the industry?
BAPTISTE: Entirely too much.
THOMAS: I feel like it's more of that than there is actual singers, you know. Like, people just crawling around stage or, like - I mean, just putting out videos and just the song itself may be about sex, but there's not actually singing in it. It's just - I don't really know what it is. I mean, it does what it does, and they get their money.
PRESSLEY: It sells.
THOMAS: It sells, you know. But, I mean, I feel like real singing is a lost art.
GREENE: Well, we have this rare treat. You guys were willing to do some songs right there in our New York studios. So hit me with a little bit of "Do You Hear What I Hear?"
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?"
>>COMMITTED (Singing) Said the King to the people everywhere, listen to what I say, listen to what I say. Pray for peace people everywhere. Listen to what I say. Listen to what I say. Oh a child, a child sleeping in the night. He will bring us goodness and light. He will bring us goodness and light. Do you hear? Sing a song to spread a little love and joy on this Christmas holiday. Baby Jesus come and save the whole wide world, bring goodness and love. Do you hear it?
GREENE: That is amazing.
BAPTISTE: Thank you.
GREENE: I can't believe that there are no musical instruments there.
BAPTISTE: Only our voices.
GREENE: I mean, Christmas albums, there is something cliche about it. Some people say every single musician does a Christmas album. How do you make it different?
BAPTISTE: Think out of the box, and don't be scared to do it. Just kind of say, you know, let's go against the grain and just kind of do it, you know, arrangement wise and creativity wise.
STAPLE: This is Maurice. Committed, we just have this unique sound. You know, with our voices, and like DJ said, our creativity, it just makes it different.
GREENE: Well, let's end this interview in the right way and hear one more song from the new album "Home For Christmas." Can you guys do a little "Nativity Medley" for us there in the studio?
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NATIVITY MEDLEY")
COMMITTED: (Singing) One, two, three. Oh, night divine. Oh, night Christ was born oh, night. Holy night when Christ was born. Rejoice, rejoice. Our Savior's born.
GREENE: Guys, what a perfect way to mark the holiday talking to you. Thank you so, so much. And have a wonderful holiday.
COMMITTED: All right. Same to you. Merry Christmas.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS")
COMMITTED: (Singing) I'll be home for Christmas time.
GREENE: Committed - their holiday album is called "Home For Christmas."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS")
COMMITTED: I'll be home for Christmas time. You can count on me. Please bring snow and mistletoe.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.