We’ve made it to the 2nd Sunday of advent. Well done all of you for staying alive.
For those who don’t know, or have understandably blocked me on social media, for advent this year I’m doing a countdown on Twitter of 25 of my favourite Christmas songs and carols (#EdisXmasCountdown). On Sundays, I’ll post a list of the week’s songs with a little about why I like them and what they mean to me.
In traditional churches all over the world, a priest of some sort will light a candle on an advent wreath each Sunday to mark the passing of a week of advent, so in a similar vein, I too shall ignite the… musical flame of advent and… put a fire in the wreath of… your minds…
Ok, that metaphor doesn’t really work, but you get what I’m doing.
I’ve tried to get a mix of classics and modern songs as well as tried to find some interesting new covers of songs that you might know well, just to shake things up a little. Where possible I’ll put a Spotify and YouTube link to make it as easy as possible to join in. For the most recent list, checkout my Spotify playlist which I update everyday.
Here’s what the last 7 days of advent have looked like for me.
O Come All Ye Faithful
One of the best things about Christmas is the carols. I absolutely love carols. You might recall that I also love Beverleys too.
Written around 300 years ago, O Come All Ye Faithful is definitely one of the best. A rallying cry to come and worship the newborn saviour in Bethlehem, this song always gets me in the Christmas mood. It’s amazing to think that people have been singing this same song every year since before your great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was born.
Without a doubt, the best part of any carol is the last verse or two when they just go crazy with the instruments and the harmonies, and any semblance of chill is well and truly lost. Look out for verse 3 in this one. “Sing choirs of angels…” could not be more correct.
Baby It’s Cold Outside – Johnny Mercer & Margaret Whiting
Our song for day 6 is a beautiful Christmas duet. Written by Frank Loesser in 1944 for he and his wife to perform at dinner parties, he eventually sold the rights to MGM who recorded it for the film Neptune’s Daughter.
Having spent a lovely evening together, the song is a back-and-forth conversation between two lovers. The lady wants to stay, but feels she shouldn’t, while the gentleman tries to convince her to.
It has to be said that the man’s gentle yet relentless insistence that his lady friend stay with him does make me at least a little uncomfortable. The video for this cover from Zooey Deschanel’s band She & Him humorously flips the genders and highlights the creepiness. Additionally, upping the sinister element considerably, according to Wikipedia, on the original sheet music, the male vocalist is identified as the “wolf” and the female as the “mouse”.
All that said, even a basic look into the lyrics and the context reveals no sinister intentions. As noted in the Washington Post, it is clear that our lady does want to stay and all her protestations are about what people would think of her in an era when a lady spending the night at a gentleman’s house just wasn’t done. And as feminist blog Persephone Magazine points out, even the lady’s “What’s in this drink?” line was a common jokey phrase used in movies at the time to excuse one’s bad behaviour – the joke often being that there was nothing in the drink.
So perhaps things aren’t as bad as they seem. I’ll let you make up your own mind. Regardless, it’s a beautiful piece of music which my housemate and I have spent the past few weeks trying to learn so we can cutely sing it together by the fire.
We’ve still got a long way to go.
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love
All the songs in the countdown so far have been relatively cutesy – romantic ditties, Christmas carols, inappropriately seductive letters to Santa. Outside of the song realm however, the holiday season is rarely so saccharine. We’ve all had a family argument or two at Christmas, most likely over a game of Monopoly.
The vocalist in today’s song has obviously had a falling out with her other half. This song is her plea to her lover to return because Christmas isn’t the same when they’re apart.
Like most Christmas songs (including yesterday’s one) Michael Buble has covered this track. The poor thing just can’t help himself. This time however, I really enjoy his version. Well played, Michael.
Despite its relatively cheery tune, there’s a lot of raw emotion in this song. I’m imagining crying on the doorstop, dressing gown blowing in the wind, screaming after the car as it speeds off down the street. You know, really dramatic, anguished stuff.
Ding Dong Merrily On High (The Celebration’s Started) – Rend Collective
With this cheerful cover of a 500 year-old carol, Rend Collective bring us right into Christmas with their usual brand of acoustic folk. Shaking things up somewhat, they mix in samples from some other Christmas songs too.
For those who don’t know, Rend Collective are a Northern Irish Christian folk band. They are often compared to Mumford and Sons as their musical style is similar to Mumford’s was before they discovered leather jackets and electric guitars.
This song is from their aptly named Christmas album – Campfire Christmas Vol. 1 – which features tons of great yuletide covers to get you into a rustic folk-y acoustic Christmas spirit.
Shake Up Christmas – Train
With this song, the masterminds at Coca-Cola aimed to strengthen their stranglehold on the season of Christmas.
It’s a well known fact that the marketing team at Coke are geniuses. Who else could inspire such brand loyalty that leads to public protests after changing the formula?
But when it comes to Christmas, the Coca-Cola marketing machine is at its best.
Firstly, if rumours are to be believed, they rebranded Father Christmas himself, making his costume red and white to match their logo. Coke deny this, admitting that, though they weren’t the first to present the jolly red Santa, they definitely played a part in sealing him in the public consciousness with a campaign that started in the 1930s and spanned 3 decades.
Then they decided that their 21 year old Christmas Coke truck advert is “iconic”, meaning that they can replay the same ad year after year with no pressure to make a new one. Some people even go as far as to say that the release of the classic advert each year signals the official beginning of Christmas season. Meanwhile, poor John Lewis reportedly spends up to £7,000,000 cooking up new ways to make us cry each year.
Finally, Coca-Cola managed to impress their jingle upon this absolute Christmas tune – thus indirectly branding their corporate identity onto Christmas itself. Even more than they already have so far.
Well played, Coca-Cola. Well Played.
Regardless, this song is a lovely, cheerful pop-rock ode to Christmas and the happiness it can bring. Cliched? Yes. Twee? Yes. Enjoyable? Definitely.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got an unexplainably strong craving for a Coke.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Bing Crosby ft. The Andrews Sisters
For me, this is the official Christmas elf anthem. I know that sounds weird, but this song feels like it was written purely to inspire productivity – like the folk songs factory workers used to sing in the industrial revolution.
I’m seeing a workshop full of elves in a production line singing this a capella while they hammer wooden toy trains and paint toy soldiers in perfect unison.
In which case, the threat of their boss and, let’s face it, overlord watching them even while they sleep seems a little more menacing.
Anyway this vintage Christmas song is over 80 years old now and has been covered by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Justin Bieber. The first lyrics of the latter version being “Santa’s coming, girl!” because that’s what Justin Bieber was like in 2011. To be honest, that year wasn’t great for me either.
With Dr Seuss-esque lyrics about “rooty toot toots and rummy tum tums” this is a jolly romp of song and will surely get you in the mood for Christmas.
Or help your productivity in repetitive manual labour. Whichever comes first.
Mary Did You Know? – Pentatonix
When I was in primary school, I took part in a Christmas play called Captain Christmas. It was about a young captain who led a rag-tag bunch of petty criminals on some sort of adventure. I can’t remember much about it, but I do remember that there was a catchy song about girl power (it was the early noughties), a jungle scene which featured a song about monkeys, and it all ended up with the gang at a Christmas party with Tony Blair and John Prescott (it was the early noughties). I played an elephant who told a joke in a series of jungle-related one liners.
I nailed it.
The next year I had 7 lines in a play called The Bethlehem Bandits which was about a rag-tag bunch of petty criminals (I’m sensing a theme here) who try and rob some shepherds, 3 kings, and a pregnant couple with a donkey. As you can probably guess, the gang eventually end up in a stable to see the newly born baby. I think something was briefly mentioned about how this baby was somehow “special” but without going into too much detail. At the end, we all sang a song with a questionable dance routine. (It was the early noughties).
I’m not really sure why I have shared all that with you, to be honest. Maybe it’s pride over my acting prowess.
Anyway, today’s song has me thinking about the nativity.
We all know the story – pregnant Mary, angels, shepherds, wise men and/or kings, sub-standard inn accommodation. But if it’s all true (indulge me for a moment), what would that have actually felt like?
What would it have been like for Mary? Aside from giving birth in a stable (which in those days were basically just caves full of animal crap. And animals), what was it like delivering such a “special” baby? Giving birth to the son of God – i.e. God in human form.
Today’s song takes a look into that.
With this graceful cover, Youtube famous a capella group Pentatonix have breathed new life into this truly beautiful song of wonder and pondering?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby you kissed the face of God?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?
We can go into whether or not you think it all makes sense another time. Genuinely, comment or message me and I’ll tell you why I believe it. But if this is true. If this true, then surely this is the most amazing thing that’s ever happened.
God. On earth. As a human.
Why? How? For what?
And why do we celebrate it anyway?
These are the questions that Christmas should have us asking.
I’ll leave you to ponder a little and we’ll chat again soon.