Oh come, all ye songsters: This year's Christmas hits ranked and reviewed
Motown ballads, Latin chants and awkward family singalongs... Hugh Montgomery sifts through this year’s batch of Christmas songs
Sunday 24 November 2013
As is traditional, you’ve probably spent the past few weeks bemoaning the John Lewis ad and composing jeremiads about Tesco’s premature mince pie displays. But now, well, it’s time to put that scowl away, face the Christmas music and dance.
In a week's time, it will be December, which means Christmas parties, Christmas journeys and Christmas-sized hangovers, all potentially distressing experiences leavened by some decent Christmas tunes. And while we each have our own favourite standards, it's nice to add some newbies to the seasonal play-list. So what of this year's Yule songs? Here, we offer a rundown of crackers and turkeys.
'One More Sleep'/ 'Underneath The Tree'
Leona Lewis/ Kelly Clarkson
Mariah Carey's “All I Want for Christmas” is unquestionably the greatest Christmas song of all time, and its faux-Motown, sleigh bell-ing style has been aped by two pop divas this year. Lewis's effort is put at an instant disadvantage by that title, an immediate contender for the most migraine-inducing expression ever committed to song #justsayin #ohgodpleasedontusethatonetoo.
And her vocal earnestness is a bit of a killer: you just know she'd force you to watch The Snowman during the EastEnders Christmas special. Whereas Clarkson's has sass, jingle and a sax solo: a winner on all fronts.
'Oh Come All Ye Faithful'
Susan Boyle, Elvis Presley
After last year's #susanalbumparty, Boyle is back on angelic form with this traditional version of every bellowing rugger-bugger's favourite carol. But who's that man joining in with the over-enthusiastic vibrato of our dad at midnight mass? Why, it's only Mr Blue Suede shoes, descending from Heaven on a mission to help Syco increase their stranglehold on the Christmas market. (SPOILER ALERT: record execs might just have taken his vocals from an old recording of the same track to increase SuBo's market appeal.) The union is, how shall we say, unlikely, but 'tis the season for togetheness and all that (Though Geri, three words: Bing Crosby, NO).
'White Winter Hymnal'
We're a bit disappointed Wilde hasn't released a recreation of last year's viral hit, her post-office party, train rendition of “ Kids in America”. Still, with this Fleet Foxes cover, she has tapped into another Christmas ritual: organised family fun. Which is to say that she has roped in father Mickey, brother Ricky, and daughter Scarlett for a group singalong whose slightly awkward video sees them sitting in a living room singing while staring into the middle distance and giving each other strange side-glances. It's a Mike Leigh film in waiting, I tell you.
Now this is good: a teutonic synth-pop take on a sombre Latin chant from Andy Bell and Vince Clarke. Guaranteed to bring a little bit of the Berlin S&M club to your mince pies and mulled wine shindig; best get the hat game out the way first, in other words.
'O Come O Come Emmanuel '
You thought Christmas was a time for good feelings? Well, you're wrong, of course, it's a time for DOOM and DESPONDENCY and I ONLY GOT AN IPHONE 5 WHEN I WANTED AN IPHONE 5S. That, at least, is the mood evoked by the pained roar and churning guitars of the LA punk-rockers on this 21st century man-child reconfiguration of the notionally joyful 19th-century anthem.
'Little Drummer Boy'
For that time when the selection boxes are but empty shells, we have this apocalyptic offering from the Nebraskan indie favourite, a highlight of his 2002 A Christmas Album, re-released on 2 December. A duet with fellow singer-songwriter Maria Taylor, this slo-mo rendition finds them slurring “pa-ru-puh-pum-pums” amid a sea of distortion. The only Christmas track that sounds as if it were genuinely recorded in the bleak midwinter, while the singers were holding scarves over their faces.
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