Christmas music is wonderful.
Granted it may wear thin when you’re in retail and listening to the same tracks day after tinsel-saturated day, but for a great many of us, music adds some extra whimsically charming, emotionally uplifting specialness to a season already brimming with a magical sense of hope and possibility.
Whether you are decorating your tree, wrapping presents or spending precious time with family and friends, Christmas music adds a whole delicious extra lustre to the most wonderful time of the year, made all the more special this year by the fact that ABBA have released their very first Christmas song which captures the sweet and simple feeling of the season damn near perfectly.
Listening to these songs, and so many others, reminds us how blessed we are to have people around us who care for us, how glorious it is to lose yourself in the majesty and wonder of Christmas and to leave reality, with all its Grinchs and pandemic troubles, far behind wrapped in the warm, festive huge that only the music of the season can bring.
“Little Things” by ABBA
ABBA have never done a Christmas song … until now. Both Agnetha and Frida, to a fragilely gorgeous track that harkens back in sound and lyrical intent to “Like An Angel Passing Through My Room” (and perhaps a musical allusion to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”), glory in the simple joys of children on Christmas morning as they unpack “stockings full of nice little things”.There is contentment and a quiet melancholy in equal measure, two states of being that often themselves share emotional space at Christmas. Adding in a children’s choir from Stockholm is a master touch that infuses the song with so much Christmasness it will make you feel all warm and cosy and loved. Is it a bit cheesy and cutesy? Sure, but who can begrudge that at Christmas which has all the feelings, something ABBA capture perfectly in this sweet moving and emotionally substantial track.
“Christmas Sweater” by Michael Bublé
They are either loved or loathed, celebrated for their exuberant sense of fun or pilloried mercilessly, but there’s no denying that sweaters are very much of the colourful fabric of the season ( at least in the snowy Northern Hemisphere). Honouring that, Canadian crooner Michael Bublé has thrown a new song. “The Christmas Sweater”, into the mix for the tenth deluxe-edition birthday celebration of his 2011 much-loved festive album, suitably titled Christmas, bolstering the his reputation as the contemporary king of Christmas music and TV specials and confirming the opinion of many, including CNN, that he is “as synonymous with Christmas as Santa Claus”. Granted they add the caveat of “soon” but let’s be honest, he’s well and truly there already, admitting to CNN that “It’s no secret it’s my favorite time of year.” While “The Christmas Sweater” may not have quite the impact as “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” and other tracks from the album, it’s lot of retro rockin’ fun that will put a smile on your face and remind why it’s so much fun to be celebrating Christmas with those you love.
“Christmas Coupon” by Meghan Trainor
She has not have as many Christmas runs on the board as Michael Bublé but American singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor is celebrating anyway, releasing new song “Christmas Coupon” to mark the release of the deluxe edition of her 2020 album A Very Trainor Christmas which, in this blog’s review of the album, is described as an album of “joyful celebration and thoughtful contemplation” with a sound that is “luminously retro and wholly original all at once”. The entire album is a lot of fun and that bright and breezy ’50s vibe is very much continued on the new single which reassures her baby that “her loving is free” and that “this Christmas is on me”. If you’re looking for an exuberant song, or really an entire album, that will put you firmly in the Christmas spirit, this is the track you want.
“Sleigh Ride” by Gary Barlow
The English singer who shot to fame with Take That, and who has the great fortune to duet with ABBA singer Agnetha Fältskog on “I Should’ve Followed You Home” has the perfect voice for doing justice to a much-loved Christmas classic. It’s apparent on every song on his newly-released album, The Dream of Christmas but most obviously on the riotously uplifting buoyancy of “Sleigh Ride”, a song already brimming with joyful, contented bonhomie which is given even more of a happily escapist aura by Barlow’s warm, rich tone. Sporting a big band traditional arrangement which would have been out of place when the song was written by Leroy Anderson between 1946 and 1948, “Sleigh Ride” is a highlight on Barlow’s very welcome contribution to the musical Christmas canon, a song guaranteed to lift your spirit at the end of long and exacting pandemic year.
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by Manchester Orchestra
It may not be top of the Christmas pops these days but “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by Manchester Orchestra, who hail from Atlanta where they formed in 2004, is one of those Christmas songs that draw me right back to my youth. For reasons I can’t quite explain, except that for all their lyrical hopefulness, the songs also possess a musical minor key melancholy that appeals to me, I am huge fan of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “We Three Kings of Orient Are” and so, it’s cheering in the extreme to have the group, who have just release a Christmas LP, Christmas Songs Vol. 1, which was released last year on Bandcamp where it did very nicely thank you going to #1 on the platform’s Best Sellers list, cover the track. Their version draws from emotively dusky vocals and a stripped back but nevertheless musically full sound that celebrates a song rich with what many regard as the true meaning of Christmas.
To finish, who can sat to some manic Christmas fun from the Muppets who prove you can be festively delicate and full-on hilariously raucous in the same song …