Welcome to Day 11 of our pop culture advent calendar! Every day we’ve handed out a little treat in the shape of a mini-blog on something or someone we’ve admired in 2012. Here’s a little bit of an introduction to this whole advent calendar idea. Yesterday we celebrated Cristiano Ronaldo, the best second best player in the history of football. Today’s advent calendar gift from Pop Lifer to you is a little bit of a deviation from the others in that it will take us back in time to pick the greatest Christmas song ever.
Christmas songs have been part of pop’s DNA since even before it was fully born. Judy Garland made “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” famous in 1944, while Nat King Cole was singing about chestnuts roasting on an open fire in 1961. However, it was Phil Spector’s glorious “A Christmas Gift For You” album which gave the festive song permanent pop credibility.
The big seasonal stomper really seemed to hit its peak in the seventies, with Wizzard, Slade, Paul McCartney and John Lennon all writing odes to Christmas which also served as a guarantee they’d receive a December royalty bump all the way through to their retirement. In the 80s the tradition sometimes yielded joy (as in “Last Christmas” by Wham!, for whom we name this award, if only because of their brilliant and oft-forgotten exclamation mark) and sometimes sorrow (Band Aid’s “Do They Know Its Christmas?”, a song which may now – in the cosmic balance – have caused more suffering than it once relieved).
Recent years have seen the likes of Bruno Mars, Celine Dion and even Billy Idol try to revive the Christmas single, but there have been few new classics. However, now it’s time to turn to what is unarguably the greatest Christmas song of all time. Even the joys of Wham! have grown more tired over the years, but this song remains thrilling even amidst the dross of endless Christmas compilations played on loop in fun pubs. It is of course…
And before you insult us, no, we are not being ironic. We don’t do irony when it comes to pop music. Say what you like about La Carey and her (mostly baleful) influence on modern music, but with this song she struck pure pop gold.
A tune of almost delirious verve, paced as giddily as a sledge flying down a snow-covered hill and sparkling with gorgeous melodies, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” sounds so classic many people presume it must be an old standard that Carey unearthed and covered. Not so: she wrote it herself and released it in 1994, subsequently selling a whopping 4 million copies. We, for one, don’t begrudge her a cent. She must have liked the song herself, as it’s one of the few of her works she hasn’t tried to smother to death with a pillow of vocal excess.
You didn’t think we were going to go for that over-rated, over-cynical, over-played, over-hip Pogues song did you? Fuck right off.
Oh, and as a little festive bonus we’ll also give you the greatest Christmas number one ever (not quite the same thing since Christmas number ones have very rarely actually been about the season to be jolly.) We did consider Queen’s demented masterpiece “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the Spice Girls’ slinkily gorgeous “2 Become 1”, Human League’s am-dram classic “Don’t You Want Me” and The Beatles’ effortlessly breezy “I Feel Fine”, but there can really be only one winner. Here’s the Pet Shop Boys, bringing their glorious “Always On My Mind” to Top Of The Pops.
All WE want for Christmas is Chris Lowe’s hat.