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Elijah Connor gives classic Christmas songs a contemporary spin on his new release

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In an era when much of R&B is more influenced by Michael Jackson than Marvin Gaye, the idea of an urban performer tends to lean more toward song-and-dance men than romantic crooners. But Detroit product Elijah Connor has committed himself to reminding the world that there’s still a lot of classic soul in contemporary R&B.

“When you look back at the groups when I was growing up, [like] Jodeci and Boyz II Men, what I appreciated about them were the harmonies,” he tells rolling out. “The live style [of singing.]”

With the release of the buzzed-about “Love Again” in 2012 and the red-hot “Sorry, I,” the Midwest singer has announced that he doesn’t intend to stick to the script in terms of what people may expect from current urban vocalists.

“I would say is what separates me from my contemporaries is there really is no gimmick,” says Connor. “Growing up in the church, you were taught to sing just standing there with a mic — without the dancing and all of that. If someone just gives you a mic and says ‘Sing,’ can you deliver? Some people don’t sound the same as they do on the record. With me, I deliver. What you hear on the record is what you’re going to get live.”

Connor has modeled (appearing in ads for American Eagle and Saks), as well as participating in Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker,” but his love of music has always been first and foremost. With his musical career in full swing, he’s learned some hard lessons about being an artist in a cutthroat industry.

“If you can’t deal with criticism, this industry is not for you,” he says plainly. “Everybody is not going to like what you do. When I came in, I was the type that [reacted] with ‘They said this!?’ [But] you can’t wear your emotions on your shoulder. You have to get to the point where you understand everything’s not for everybody. But don’t beat up the people who love you to attack the one or two who said something negative about you. Why punish all the ones who love you?

“I also learned that everyone in the front row is not a fan. Just because they’re sitting there doesn’t mean they’re a big fan of yours. They may be there to criticize. Get a good team and study your craft.”

Now, Connor has just released a new project for the holiday season. On This Christmas, Connor looks to combine the joyousness of the season with smooth, romantic R&B.

“I [revisited] some classic Christmas songs as well as some R&B tunes. I really made it more contemporary,” says the singer. “I’m not only talking about love but also talking about holidays. Some people when they do holiday albums they only do Christmas songs. I did a song called ‘Don’t You Want A Man,’ which is a record that kind of put me in the spotlight. It’s basically a song talking about during the holiday season what [a woman] would want to do with her man. Most Christmas projects are just for the season, but this project, there are songs that you can play throughout the whole year.”