Where are the new festive classics?

Discussion in 'Music' started by Mel O'Drama, Dec 23, 2017.

  1. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Perhaps you were buying groceries at the supermarket or flicking through radio channels on the way to work when you first heard it this year - the folksy opening bars of Fairytale of New York, Shakin' Stevens's sleigh bells or the warbling of Mariah Carey.

    Whether it fills you with joy or makes you change channels, hearing that first festive song marks the beginning of Christmas for many.

    But our desire to stick with the traditional means almost all attempts to write a modern festive hit fall flat.

    Looking at the most played Christmas songs of the past five years, the old standards dominate.

    Just one song from the past two decades, Leona Lewis's 2013 effort One More Sleep, makes it in to the top 20, according to data from PRS for Music, which licenses music and pays out royalties.

    Mariah Carey and East 17, who released their festive tunes back in 1994, come in at number two and number seven respectively.

    Other than that, songs from the 1970s and 1980s - and even earlier - still dominate the airwaves.

    Paul Clements, executive director of membership, international and licensing at PRS for Music, says: "As the way we celebrate the festive season continues to change and evolve, we can expect more contemporary Christmas songs to reflect that.

    "But sometimes, when a season of nostalgia powers the airwaves, you just can't beat a good classic."

    Peter Leathem, chief executive of PPL, which licenses the recorded music played in public, says: "Radio seeks to play what its listeners want played, with the most popular being the old classics.

    "[They] have longer to rack up airplay familiarity, whereas newer Christmas songs really have to fight for their place on the airwaves."

    Our favourite Christmas songs tend to be those that remind us of our childhoods, meaning few become instant classics.

    James Masterton, from Chart Watch UK, says: "You consider something like the Mariah Carey song - it was a huge hit back in 1994, but I don't remember it being particularly notable as a cultural touch-point for another 10 years after that.

    "It was only in the middle of the last decade that people began to wake up to the fact that, actually, this is a classic.

    "Maybe that Leona Lewis song will gain a second wind and become one of the nation's favourites, as the people who've bought it as teenagers grow up and become nostalgic for their bit of their childhood."

    But perhaps there's more to it than that. Dr Richard Osborne, senior lecturer in popular music at Middlesex University, points out that the way we consume music has fundamentally changed.

    Pop's audience has become more fragmented, with no one family music show to provide a focal point.

    "When I ask my students what is the number one song in the charts at the moment, they just don't know. In the 1970s and 1980s - and to some extent in the 1990s - people knew what was in the charts and everybody listened to [BBC] Radio 1," he says.

    "A song wasn't just a hit with young people - everyone heard it and songs were more a part of popular life."

    In countries such as the US, Christmas albums are big news, a tradition stretching back to Elvis and the Beach Boys.

    This market is more receptive to newcomers, with original Christmas music from major contemporary artists Sia and Gwen Stefani making a dent on the charts this year.

    Earlier this month, Stefani told the BBC that she had felt the weight of expectation when writing her festive album, You Make It Feel Like Christmas.

    "It's hard, and you think about it, too, because you're competing with those songs. You're competing with people from the 40s and the 50s. It's pretty major.

    "I would say that, to me, You Make It Feel Like Christmas has that instant, fun, sing-along, up-tempo feeling to it. But I don't know."

    In the UK the focus has always been on hit Christmas singles, with streaming service Spotify placing further emphasis on the standalone hit.

    At the time of writing, there are 17 Christmas songs in the UK top 40 chart. Some of them - such as Ariana Grande's Santa tell me - are less well known. But the selection correlates almost exactly with the songs on Spotify's Christmas Is Coming playlist.

    In the digital era, it could be that bagging a spot on an influential playlist is the secret to producing a future Christmas classic.

    But as lecturer Richard Osborne points out, it's harder than it looks.

    "You need a song that appeals widely but isn't too cheesy- it's a fine line."

    One songwriter who understands that tricky blend is Dan Hawkins, guitarist with The Darkness, and co-author of the band's 2003 hit Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End).

    It got to number two in the charts and has sold more than half a million copies.

    He brings up the elephant in the room - the X Factor. Between 2005 and 2014, seven of the 10 UK Christmas number ones were released by winners of the reality show

    "I'm sure Simon Cowell is quite a nice guy, but he has ruined Christmas for a lot of people, by taking the race for number one out of the equation," he says.

    Like Wizzard, Mud and Slade before them, The Darkness found that operating in the playful glam rock genre was a helpful route to writing a hit Christmas song.

    But the guitarist also attributes the single's surprise success to strong songwriting.

    "Some bands add the word 'Christmas' to a half-decent song that didn't make it on to their album and add some sleigh bells, but to write a good Christmas song you need to go at it and write it from scratch.

    "The truth is a lot of people are scared of putting their best songwriting in to a Christmas song, because it's a risk, and people don't like taking risks."

    So does this mean the Christmas single is doomed? Probably not.

    Dr Osborne points out that classic Christmas songs seem to appear in cycles.

    Slade, Mud and Wizzard released three of the most popular UK Christmas songs within a year of each other in the early 1970s.

    The mid-1980s were also a bumper time for Christmas classics. Wham!, Band Aid, Chris Rea, The Pretenders, Shakin' Stevens and The Pogues all released festive songs within a four-year window that are still some of our most played 30 years later.

    Finally, the early 1990s were dominated by pop classics from Mariah Carey and East 17.

    "It goes through phases, and we are just going through a particularly long pause of not having one.

    "But it would make sense [for it to start up again] in this age where the music market is focused on individual tracks, and everybody's trying to write that one big hit."

    So if all you want for Christmas is to write a pop smash hit, this could be your year.




    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-42344257
     
  2. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    "But it would make sense [for it to start up again] in this age where the music market is focused on individual tracks, and everybody's trying to write that one big hit."

    I feel that most of the current pop songs, the ones that end up in the charts, are produced, rather than written.
    Idols, X Factor, The Voice...it has changed so much.
    We have a very talented new generation of singers, but they're all so very concerned how their voices sound and it kind of takes the fun out of it.

    I've just listened to most of 2017 nominations, lots of great songs, but the voices are so perfect, so flawless - and yet there aren't many natural, characteristic voices.
    You know, singers who can grab a mic and just sing that song, instead of performing a life-and-death audition.
    I admire these young singers and their grim determination to perform that vocal spectacle, and there's so much competition.
    But to me, as a listener, it's also not a walk in the park - it's not relaxed in the way I would listen to, say, a Stevie Wonder or Ellen Foley song. They don't always sound perfect, but it's their voice, their talent and it doesn't need all that emphasis. When I listen to their songs I hear the songs.

    Maybe they forgot how to do it, except for those who are both singer and songwriter. But maybe those artists are afraid that their Christmas cracker becomes their signature song?
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2017
  3. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Superstar

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    This should be a Christmas Classic. It should have been released as a single and it should have been attached to an ad campaign in the UK.
    It's just too beautiful to be a random bonus track on a non-Christmas album. When that choir comes in and those hums. It's just wonderful.
     
  4. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    But the only thing that makes it "Christmas" are the words Santa Claus. It's about her baby, , her desire, her problem.
    Christmas should be for everyone (hey, that's a nice title!).
     
  5. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Superstar

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    No... It just works as a Christmas song. The choir, those sad hums, the bells. It's great, maybe more so a UK Christmas song though. I mean it's like East 17's Stay Another Day. That is also a perfect sad Christmas song and you could say it isn't really about Christmas.
    Christmas is a time where we hope we get what want. Or when people are giving you gifts, all these things to please you. When sometimes you just want something/someone that nobody can ever give to you.
     
  6. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Superstar

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    Other Christmas classics that aren't really about Christmas but yet make it onto playlists and Christmas albums would be Steps Heartbeat and S Club 7's Never Had A Dream Come True. Songs that just have that wintery Christmasy feeling about them even if they aren't or weren't specifically written with Christmas in mind.
     
  7. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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  8. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Superstar

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    It's a very Christmasy song. I don't get how you aren't hearing that?
     
  9. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Because I think it's sort of Christmassy, but not an out-and-out Christmas hit.
    Christmas songs should be about snow and Christmas trees, not about me-me-me.
     
  10. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Superstar

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    But isn't Mariah's big Christmas hit really all about what she wants?
    Isn't Eartha Kitt's Santa Baby just her rhyming off all her wants?

    That's part of Christmas. What do I really want?
     
  11. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Oh well she always did that.
     
  12. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Superstar

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    Anyways the song I posted is about being alone at Christmas and not wanting to be. Which is a relatable thing for most people. And it's clearly written as a Christmas song. Not just a song that had the word Santa Claus slapped on it and some bells tacked on. There's the whole winter theme, the letter to Santa, the candle burning bright, the snow falling, the promise to be good if only Santa will bring her baby home to her.

    The only thing that could make it more Christmassy is if the baby Jesus sang it to you personally in a manger on December 25th. :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2017
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  13. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    I'll admit, the last 30 seconds are interesting. But the solo is not so awesome (is it Faye?)
     
  14. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Superstar

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    I've cut people out of my life for much, much less Willie.
     
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  15. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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  16. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Warrior

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    Another timeless classic that seems to slip under the radar is "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer", it has been on a few times this Christmas.

    Swami
     
  17. Ome

    Ome Admin

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    According to Wiki the song never charted, unlike all the ones mentions in the article above. Maybe that's why it slips under the radar. I don't recall ever hearing this song apart from when you've mentioned it on here. (Not that, that has anything to do with it)
     

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