Christmas songs. They’re always a little bit shit, then you get ones that are slightly less shit, and then there’s that mercifully small category of ‘listenable’ songs that get stuck on repeat every November until our festive excess gets the best of us and we’re sick on ourselves.
Some just aren’t good, some are so bad they’re sort of good and some of them really haven’t aged well (I’m looking at you ‘It’s Cold Outside’); whatever the reason for my holiday ire the Christmas song is a tradition that isn’t likely to go away any time soon, but what makes them so compelling in a train crashy-y sort of way?
As novelty songs go, there are a few ways to approach festive songwriting; you could try and write a half-baked pop song and stick some sleigh bells in the background (Jona Lewie),, go the anti-Christmas route (Blink 182), or just stick as many cock jokes into it as possible and hope for the best (The Darkness).
Everyone knows the tunes are a cynical cash-grab designed to line pockets off the back of nostalgia and festive cheer; look no further than the predictably banal Sheeran/Elton John collaboration. Okay sure we all know it’s not going to push artistic boundaries, that’s not the point, but come on how did Reggie go from ‘Step Into Christmas’ to this?
Whatever approach you choose your chance of a hit is massively increased if it’s featured on the soundtrack of a 90s family movie. If it’s too late for that, then why not try winning a national television competition and record a bad cover and release the ensuing audible sewage onto streaming platforms a week before the big day.
I don’t think there’s been a particular decline in quality within the ‘genre’ over the years, they’ve always been quite bad, but at least when Sinatra recorded a Christmas album it was built on a foundation of traditional jazz songwriting and the meaningless holiday-themed platitudes don’t ring as hollow as they do in modern versions.
Sheeran’s latest lyrics read as if an AI googled a bunch of Christmas themed cliches, mashed them all together in song form, slapped a bow on it, and said “that’ll do”, but hey I guess that’s what they all do anyway so I can’t be too angry about the whole thing.
Happy Holidays from Faultline Social.