I need you to start preparing for the real tear-jerkers now. What could be more Christmassy than sad country music? Nothing, that’s what. Here’s Loretta Lynn with the first in a series of songs to break your heart. Don’t worry, it gets better by Christmas Eve.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a little bit of Bing, would it? There’s only one sad line, but it’s a zinger.
As you know, I only rant here when it’s important. So you’ll understand how strongly I feel about this desecration of a song that every single one of us loves, whether we were initiated by Cohen, Buckley or Burke or someone else. It’s not that she sounds as though she has treacle in the back of her throat (although she does), it’s that she has enough disrespect for the song to sing:
But you don’t really care for music, dooooooo yooooooo
Rather than the actual lyric which is:
But you don’t really care for music, dooo yaaaaaaa
And then she sings “Hallelujah” in its normal pronunciation (rather than “halleluuuuuuujuuuuu”), so that the whole rhyme and the rhythm disappears, along with any sort of rawness or sadness or human emotion. I don’t and always won’t try to sound like an expert but good heavens, if you can’t sing it like you mean it, don’t sing it.
Even Elvis doesn’t really think this is a sad song, as you can see in this live recording from his 1968 Comeback Special. My favourite thing about this video is the fact that the fans are all about eight inches from the King, and the stage looks like one somebody has jerryrigged for a school concert. That’s two favourite things, isn’t it? You see, I have a mince pie and a cup of tea so I’m incapable of bringing you the requisite amount of sadness. Don’t worry: as you know, there’s plenty to come.
The Charles Brown original, rather than the Bon Jovi cover, though there is something to be said in favour of both. But this has a gentler and sweeter feel about it, and ends with a bell going DING rather than a screechy guitar solo, and so for that alone it is the winner. It’s another one that is wistful rather than sad but don’t worry, by the end of this week you’ll be a sobbing mess, I promise.
From the opening line (Tom Waits at his gruffest, singing “Charlie, I’m pregnant”), this is an unlikely song, whose narrative gets more improbably distressing as it goes on. Our hooker has suffered almost every kind of misfortune you can think of, and some you probably can’t. It’s one of only two songs I can currently think of (the other is Carter USM’s England) where a male vocalist sings evocatively, articulately and heartbreakingly about being a female sex worker, and for that alone we should salute it.
David Essex in his Kevin Rowland era here, looking both alarmingly cheesy and adorably beautiful all at once. My favourite David Essex fact is that when they made a jukebox musical featuring his back catalogue, it starred David Essex. This is a man who goes his own way, as indeed does the lover who leaves him in the lyrics of this song. Isn’t there something threatening, incidentally, about the line “I hope that love and strength are with you for the length of your time on earth”? As though if it has anything to do with David, that time might be limited? Just me, perhaps. Happy Saturday!
This is another one that’s much too happy to be a genuinely sad song. It has more or less the same sentiments as Last Christmas, but it’s much jollier, and I can’t imagine being able to sing it without smiling. There’s also an awesome key change around 01:40 and a triumphant bit of Penny Lane-esque trumpet which reaches its peak on around two minutes, so look out for those.
This is the happiest sad Christmas song I know, because it features memorably in Bernard and the Genie, which is just about my favourite Christmas film of all time. In fact, if you haven’t seen it you must watch it right now!
Honestly, you can’t get the staff. All I needed was one of you to remind me, amid the bustle of a busy December Tuesday, that you were owed a song. However, today you get two, so it all works out in the end, though you may not agree by the time you’ve listened to them both.
Up first, my favourite Christmas number one of all, not counting Always On My Mind which I’m not because it’s not Christmassy, even though it did feature on 2010’s glad all over advent calendar. This also isn’t Christmassy until the bells right at the end, which they admitted later to having added in a bid to nab the number one spot. Canny boys, those East Seventeens. However, the video is the Christmassiest thing since Boney M in furs.
And in case that’s left you feeling unnecessarily cheery, here’s another MASSIVE DOWNER that’s more in keeping with this year’s theme of separation, family breakdown and drunken violence. You’re welcome!