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Gospel singer Mandisa was a finalist on American Idol in 2006. Since then, she has received three Grammy nominations and released four albums, including It's Christmas in 2008. This year, she's revamped that as It's Christmas (Christmas Angel Edition), a mix of original songs and modern interpretations of classic holiday tunes, including the singer's favorite, "The Little Drummer Boy."
" 'Little Drummer Boy' is often a very somber song. I think the meaning gets lost," Mandisa tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "The fact of the matter is that we all have gifts and talents, and God wants us to use those to really just worship him. And for this little boy ... he couldn't sing, he probably wasn't a great preacher, but he could play the mess out of some drums."
Mandisa says that for her, the holiday season has no official start date. It begins, she says, only when she feels fully in the Christmas spirit.
"Certain things just remind me of Christmas," she says. "I never feel like it's Christmas until I've seen A Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. I wanted to celebrate the things that make it Christmas for me."
Kojo talks with author Colson Whitehead about his new novel "The Underground Railroad" and its resonance at this particular moment in history.