It’s exactly a week till Christmas! How are we all feeling? Excited? Exuberant? Expectant? Extra special? Exhausted your list of words that begin with “ex”?
The question is: how are you going to spend your last week of advent? For many, the next 7 days are going to be stressful. For a start, schools have closed for the holidays so poor, poor, unlucky parents have to deal with kids who are coiled up like springs with anticipation.
Then there’s the last minute Christmas shopping, enforced time with distant relatives, and of course the pressure of making it look you’re relaxing and enjoying yourself, regardless of how you actually feel.
Despite all this, advent can be a time of anticipation and reflection. Simultaneously looking forward and backward. For the church, advent is a time of looking forward to the return of Christ to establish His kingdom on earth (bear with me) as well as looking back at the good things God has already done for us.
For folks of a less Christian persuasion, this last week before Christmas can be a time to think about what we’re thankful for and what we’re looking forward to in the new year.
Hey, you know what helps with reflection? Music!
Lucily for you, I happen to have 7 of my favourite Christmas songs listed below for your listening pleasure. Wow, what a coincidence!
Here’s what the last 7 days have sounded like for me.
Santa Tell Me – Ariana Grande
For day 12, we have another track from everyone’s favourite ponytail-loving soprano. In today’s song Ms Grande prays to Santa (who takes on the role of deity around Christmas time), begging him to let her know if her crush is a keeper or if he’ll disappear by the new year, leaving her heartbroken.
I can’t imagine that Father Christmas is thrilled about being expected to deal with boy problems when his jurisdiction is clearly toys and/or Christmas merriment. And if Marks and Spencer’s advert is anything to go by, his own wife is keeping secrets from him so he might not be the best person to ask for relationship advice
Regardless, this 2014 pop/R&B track is a fun, catchy little number and its low budget video is right on the cute/sexy line – a tightrope on which 2016 Ariana can now somersault with her eyes closed and her arms tied behind her back.
Lonely This Christmas – KT Tunstall
Taking things down a notch, KT Tunstall’s stripped back cover of this Mud classic reminds us that Christmas can be a lonely time for a lot of people. Whether due a break up like in this song, bereavement, or various other reasons, Christmas isn’t always a time of coming together for everyone.
Eschewing the retro band, KT opts for a lower key sound than the original with just a guitar and her gentle voice. Beautiful.
It’s quite a sad one today, but that’s ok. Sad isn’t always bad.
Hey that rhymes!
See, things are looking up already.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Nat King Cole
Apparently this is one of the oldest carols still in use, having been around at least as long ago as the 16th century. So yeah, pretty old.
This cover is from Nat King Cole’s 1961 Christmas album which I would have described as pretty old until I wrote the above paragraph. So let’s just say it’s been around for a while.
It has a slight creepy edge to it – the pointed vocals, the short, sharp violin strokes, and the booming bass choir all build a sense of mounting tension. It’s basically the musical equivalent of a child’s patience the closer we get to Christmas day
For those interested, there’s some vaguely intriguing stuff about how the words and their meaning have slightly changed over the years. Linguists, check that out here.
For those of you who have lives, just enjoy some lovely music from one of the greats.
The Christmas Goose – Kate Rusby
My housemate introduced me to this song. Round of applause for Adam, ladies and gentlemen.
While having the feel of something that fishwives would sing a hundred years ago, this song only came out last year. In it, Kate tells the story of a merry traveller in Manchester who meets a beautiful chambermaid in a pub and gets a bit of a surprise when he returns the next year. I’ll say no more than that.
While I would find its repetitive nature annoying in another song, the steady tune allows Kate to paint a picture in your head and tell you a little story.
All together now!
“All around the green wood, so early in the morn…”
8 Days of Christmas – Destiny’s Child
As I admitted on Twitter, a large part of this song’s inclusion is simply that it just feels wrong to compile a list of music that doesn’t somehow feature Beyonce. I could make a list of the best male accordion players named Ian, born between 1911 and 1913, and still somehow find a way to include Beyonce.
Also, I don’t want to be killed in my sleep by the Beyhive and/or Illuminati which, the more I learn, the more I’m convinced are one and the same.
Released in 2001, this song enumerates 8 things that the trio’s respective/collective boyfriend(s) bought and did for them in the run up to Christmas. Clearly money was a little tight as he couldn’t quite stretch to 12 items like in the other song, but it’s the thought that counts.
Choice items on the list include a diamond belly ring and a gift certificate to buy CDs which serve as a little reminder that this song came out 15 years ago.
I Want an Alien for Christmas – Fountains of Wayne
Most famous for fancying Stacey’s mother, the boys (read: men) of Fountains of Wayne have now moved on to bigger things, this time setting their sights on an extra-terrestrial. Always wanting things they can’t have.
Once again, singing from the perspective of a child/teen, this early noughties rock track is basically a list of reasons why they should have an alien and how they promise to look after it if they get one.
You have to praise the guys for their ability to get into the mind of a kid because I’m pretty sure I used most of these excuses when asking my parents for things as a child.
With a back catalogue of songs about unobtainable desires, I’m guessing that their next output will be a cover of Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths.
O Holy Night – Katie Melua
Featuring backing vocals from Gori Women’s Choir, this understated cover of the old hymn is featured on Melua’s latest album In Winter.
I love this gentle, stripped back version but if you’re looking for one with more vocal punch, Leona Lewis kills it here. Mind you, Katie holds her own, managing to maintain a note at the end for like 10 seconds seemingly without even taking a breath beforehand.
Originally written as a poem, O Holy Night talks about that fateful night in Bethlehem. That said, it’s admittedly hard to fully appreciate the impact of the lyrics when they are being sung softly sung over a gentle guitar.
Told from the perspective of the shepherds and the wise men, this song tells of their wonder, joy and downright amazement at meeting Jesus. They literally met God.
What would you do if you came face to face with God? The shepherd lads couldn’t believe it. Being a shepherd in those days meant you were pretty low down on the pecking order. Yet they were chosen to witness the birth of the saviour. Mind-blowing.
I’d crap myself if Prince William and Kate had invited me to meet their babies when they were born. I’d probably crap myself if I was invited to be a part of one of the several and ubiquitous Kardashian pregnancies
And what about the wise men? They came a long, long, long, long, long, way. Clearly they were doing all right for money judging by their cavalier attitude to handing gold to a baby, but still their journey would have cost a lot of money and even more time. These guys sacrificed a lot to visit a baby.
But what if he wasn’t just a baby?
Perhaps a little far-fetched, but what if this baby was God’s son? God in a body.
What if this whole Jesus thing is more than just a story we tell at Christmas?
Have a great week!