We’re well into December now and Christmas is very much on its way. I have already bought two secret Santa gifts and am looking forward to my work Christmas party i.e. my only opportunity to wear a suit until wedding season rolls around next year.
I love this time of year – the cold winds, the over-excited children, the dangerous hazard of icy roads. Ok, those definitely aren’t the best things that the season has to offer, but maybe below I can suggest seven of Christmas’ finest products.
If you didn’t know (literally, where have you been?), for advent, I am compiling a list of some of my favourite Christmas songs. I’ll be counting down to the big day with 25 of the best Yuletide tunes – old and new, Christian and secular.
Check out all the action on Twitter and follow the playlist on Spotify which I will update daily. And if you just can’t get enough, listen to last year’s playlist and read some of last year’s blogs too.
Ok then, let’s get started. Here’s what the last week has sounded like for me.
Can You See – 5th Harmony
Taking a break from the almost aggressively sexual output that we have come to expect from them, here 5th Harmony sing a beautiful R&B ballad about a Christmas star that leads the way spiritually. (In case that was too subtle for you, this particular star is called Jesus).
This song was written for the soundtrack of The Star – a children’s film about that night in Bethlehem, told from the perspective of the nativity’s unsung hero: the donkey. Yeah sure, the wise men brought some expensive gifts, but try walking for 80 miles with a pregnant woman on your back.
It’s nice to see a modern Christmas song that talks a little about the meaning of Christmas, rather than just presents and snow and festive feelings, not that presents, snow and festive feelings don’t have their place.
Anyway, this song got me in a Christmassy mood when it was released in October, so I’m sure it’ll do the same now it’s actually December.
All Alone On Christmas – Darlene Love
It really wouldn’t be Christmas without Darlene Love having a musical meltdown of some kind. Last year we had her crying on the doorstep pleading with her man to come home. This year it appears that said gentleman did not return and now she’s facing a lonely yuletide.
Jokes aside, this emotional song reminds us that this time of year can be very lonely for some people. Here is a woman who is so lonely that she is writing a letter to Santa Claus asking him to stay with her a while when delivering her presents. It’s safe to say she’s had more than a few brandys at this point.
I love the vulnerability in this song and her previous hit Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) though it’s worth mentioning that, aside from the honesty, both tracks also share an undeniably similar tune.
2000 Miles – Tom Chaplin
For day 6, we have an updated cover of The Pretenders’ hit 2000 Milles. Not to be confused with The Proclaimers’ 500 Miles, or Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles, this song has become a Christmas classic since its release in 1983. Who knew geographically themed music was so popular?
In today’s cover, former Keane frontman Tom Chaplin breathes new life into the ditty as part of his new album Twelve Tales Of Christmas.
Sadly, this beautiful song isn’t about separated lovers as the lyrics suggest, but was actually written as a tribute to the Pretenders’ original guitar player who died of a drug overdose the year before tit was written.
Nevertheless, this gentle melody has brought a sombre joy to Christmases over the past few decades and, no doubt, this cover and the original version will continue to do so for many more.
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas – Noah Cyrus
The lights are up, nutmeg is in the air, and shoppers are becoming increasingly stressed and irritable: It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas. Today, Noah Cyrus brings us into the one week mark with a surprisingly beautiful cover of this quintessentially festive song.
Best known (let’s face it) for being Miley Cyrus’s little sister, Noah’s burgeoning music career has so far delivered a slew of competent, edgy and surprisingly mature pop singles for a 17-year old. Today’s track however, goes in a more traditional direction.
Being a middle child, I am aware of how annoying it is to constantly be compared to one’s siblings but I can’t resist sharing this video of Miley’s Christmas 2008 performance when she was just a year younger than Noah is now.
2008 truly was a simpler time.
California Winter – Bonnie McKee
Having written for the likes of Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Taio Cruz (Dynamite was a massive tune, don’t even try and deny it), Bonnie Mckee is responsible for some of your favourite pop songs. Her own musical career however, has been a little more bumpy after releasing an unsuccessful album and parting ways with two record labels.
Unperturbed, she decided to go it alone as an independent artist and has produced some incredibly slick pop and fantastic music videos over the last couple of years that are, in my opinion, woefully underrated.
Today’s song is a retro-styled romp as Bonnie sings of how her lover makes her feel warm inside, like a California winter. So far, so cliché, but the cute lyrics and creative single-shot video make this catchy song stand out that bit more.
For more exciting festive goodness from Ms. McKee, check out her California Winter Extravaganza Christmas special here.
Ave Maria – Frank Sinatra
Full disclosure: this isn’t technically a Christmas song. The melody was written by Schubert almost 200 years ago as part of his Opus 52. Over time, the tune has been borrowed to go with the Catholic prayer to the mother of Jesus – Hail Mary, or in latin, Ave Maria.
So, not really a Christmas song per se, but Mary kind of had a big role to play in the whole nativity story, so I’ll allow it. And despite not understanding any words in Latin other than ave and Maria, I love Sinatra’s strong, yet gentle voice on this tender ode to Jesus’ mama.
Humbug – Owl City
Owl City. Now there’s a name we haven’t heard for a while. After his huge single Fireflies and some follow up hits like Good Time with Carly Rae Jepsen, Owl city (real name, Adam Young) has quietly plugged away, continuing to make music in his trademark electro-synth autotuned style.
I stumbled upon this track a few weeks ago and, despite its under-produced album art, it resonated with me. Taking aim at the over-commercialisation of Christmas, Adam sings about the stress of finding the ‘perfect’ Christmas gift for his significant other. Eventually, he decides to give her the only thing of real value – his love. This is either a beautiful romantic gesture or a massive cop out. I’ll let his girlfriend decide.
Oddly, both the melody and message of this song remind me of James Corden’s The Greatest Gift song from Sainsbury’s cute claymation advert last year. Unlike Owl City however, the supermarket were very careful not to suggest that people don’t buy presents, merely that they should do so whilst also enjoying time with family. They are a chain of shops after all.
So that’s it for another week, friends. I’ll see you next week, same time, same place.