In an incredibly surprising move last year, three of the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive lineman, center Jason Kelce, left tackle Jordan Mailata and right tackle Lane Johnson released a Christmas album entitled “A Philly Special Christmas,” and even more surprisingly, it was fantastic.
What could have been a simple novelty is elevated by the surprising vocal talent of the trio, paired with an obvious love for the songs they were singing and the city of Philadelphia. The unprecedented success of the album left some big shoes to fill for the follow-up, “A Philly Special Christmas Special.”
Now, with something to prove, the Philly Specials come out swinging. “A Philly Special Christmas Special” is on a whole other level compared to its predecessor, with deeper cuts, better vocals and packed with more emotion than its upbeat predecessor.
While Yuletide classics like “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “All I Want For Christmas Is You” are present, lesser-known songs like “Pretty Paper” and “Fairytale of New York,” presented here as “Fairytale of Philadelphia,” also appear and are some of the highlights of the album.
The vocal agility of Mailata was a stunner in the first album, and he reaches new heights, no pun intended, in this second outing. Mailata takes on the lead vocals of “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” a song known for just how difficult it is to sing between its high notes and vocal riffs, and makes it just sound easy.
Fun fact: the six foot seven inch, 366 pound Mailata had never played a snap of football in his life before getting drafted into the National Football League and is now considered one of the best offensive lineman in the league. So he is built like a tank, freakishly talented at everything that comes his way and to top it all off, he is a pretty, pretty man. Some people are just God’s favorite.
Perhaps the most interesting track on the album is “Santa’s Night,” the lone original song, written by Kelce. It takes the point of view of Saint Nick himself (not Nick Foles, the Christmas one) and is seemingly more representative of Kelce’s own thoughts on the state of his career in football.
On the whole, the album is more somber and emotional than you would expect from a couple of football players. Tracks like “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” which also features defensive tackle Jordan Davis, or the aforementioned “Pretty Paper,” are quite sad, and the final song “Auld Lang Syne” being a bittersweet closer, at least when compared to the somewhat cocky finale “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” from the first album.
But that is not to say there is no fun to be had here- tracks like “Dominick the Donkey” and “The Dreidel Song,” which features the Eagles’ general manager Howie Roseman, are uptempo, energetic and at times, downright silly. The latter track is particularly amusing as it is a quasi-Western take on the Hanukkah classic, certainly not what people would expect from the iconic song.
The special guests on “A Philly Special Christmas Special” are not limited to people within the Eagles’ organization, as appearances from the legendary Patti LaBelle, Taylor Swift’s boyfriend Travis Kelce and singer/songwriter Amos Lee round out the album, each bringing a unique flavor to their appearances and keeping the album from sounding too homogenous.
“A Philly Special Christmas Special” is not just great for an album recorded by football players, it is great, period, end of sentence. Kelce, Mailata and Johnson strike the perfect balance of not taking themselves too seriously, but taking the project incredibly seriously, doing everything they can to elevate each and every track and make this album a Yuletide staple, all the way from North Philly to South Jersey. Go Birds!