What do you mean, you’ve never listened to Kylie Minogue’s Christmas album? What’s wrong with you? I have loved this song since it came out in 1994 when I was in my first term at university and it made me feel homesick for London boys and their stupid haircuts, but Kylie’s version is genuinely an improvement on something that was already close to perfect.
Oom, I could eat a whole bowl of this. The Gentlemen of St John’s are ex-choristers of the St John’s College, Cambridge choir and based on this I think they should sing at every Christmas concert ever.
You almost got the Three Tenors version of this 1970 classic from Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Jose Feliciano, which did big business the other side of the Atlantic despite never making much of an impression here (where, to be fair, we have a lower proportion of Spanish speakers). Anyway, be glad that I’ve gone for this 2017 ska version featuring (among others) Jools Holland, the boogie woogie bastard, and original artist Jose himself, which I have decreed different enough from the original to count as a cover version, because the version featuring Luciano and co. demonstrates two important truths: firstly that you should never under any circumstances dye your beard, and secondly that it doesn’t matter how good they are at singing, two people doing it in unison never sounds good.
Look out, this is a bit special. Did you know that Sir Cliffmas has just released his first festive album in nineteen years? I confess I once did, but had forgotten. And imagine if we’d all missed out on this excellent piece of Cliff Dancing™? The great man is eighty-two and still going as strong as ever, with a special coming up on the BBC this Christmas, which is very good of him considering how they treated him last time they had words.
OK, not all of them are better than the originals. But what this effort lacks in musical brilliance, it makes up for in oddity value. You may remember – I don’t – a reality TV show from about ten years ago which reunited UK (and, I think, B*witched, and incidentally I am a big fan of unexpected punctuation in band names, from Hear’Say to Therapy? to Panic! At The Disco) bands of the nineties and early aughts in an attempt to, I think, record a charity single. But maybe they all had to live in the same house while they did it? It’s hard to work out from the limited accounts that survive, which I have decided is probably for the best.
There is, though, indisputably a single, and this is it. You will want to watch at least up to and including the rap by Abs from 5ive, who by this time should perhaps have been renamed 4our (unless it’s Ritchie, I can’t remember which is which and have not the faintest intention of checking).
Today is the day all my school friends come for a Christmas party (these days with various hangers-on), and you join me as I’m tasting the mulled wine (needs more sugar) and checking the sausage rolls (five more minutes). So of course it has to be this song, which I associate with them more than anyone else. I usually use the 1992 TOTP appearance where Kirsty edits out the contentious word, but in this even more wholesome version by Jimmy Fallon (sounding so extraordinarily like Shane MacGowan that I had to check) and Saoirse Ronan (sounding exactly like Saoirse Ronan) they get around it by leaving out that line altogether, which now I think about it is an even better idea, because although it’s a good song, I’m also kind of fine with it ending a bit sooner than it usually does.
I don’t know if you can talk about different recordings of popular classics as ‘cover versions’, really, because they were written to be sung by multiple people and the earliest version is always one you’ve never heard by someone with a name like Freddy Dangle And His Jingle Jangles. But I have decided that in such cases it’s acceptable to offer a recording that isn’t the most famous. I don’t know why this isn’t the most famous version of this song, because it’s delightful and will, I cast-iron-promise-or-your-money-back guarantee, cheer you up and make your Saturday better.
CeeLo Green could sing almost anything and I’d like it, because he has the voice of an angel, but he had the Christmas Eve spot the year we had twenty four different versions of White Christmas (of which more to come), so this year I’m giving him a nice early slot. Do you know that both this and Last Christmas were once, before I knew better, among my least favourite Christmas songs? I don’t know what was wrong with me, but at least I grew out of it.
Good crikey, it’s December. How did that happen? I am pretty sure it’s only just been August. No matter, because this year’s musical advent calendar is smoking hot and READY TO GO. You needn’t panic about being Whamageddoned, partly because Whamagddon is a terrible idea, what with making you have to avoid the nearly-best Christmas song of all* for nearly all of Christmas, and partly because this year’s theme is the biggest Christmas songs of all time, performed by someone other than the original artist, and cover versions don’t count in the official rules of Whamageddon, as I understand them.
(‘Biggest’ in this case is a sort of squinting hybrid of UK chart sales, US chart sales and Very Famous Songs Which Somehow Aren’t On Either List.)
And if that makes your heart sink because cover versions are never as good as the original, don’t worry! These ones are. We begin with an artist who is related to me, and who coincidentally has just racked up an exceptionally good year on Spotify, and if you listen to this you will see why.
*Obviously Mistletoe and Wine is #1 and all other songs are #2 or lower.
1984 was the best year for music. This isn’t a Christmas song exactly, but it’s got a Christmas video, so it counts, and it’s also my (current) favourite of the various The Power Of Loves. Whatever you’re doing this Christmas and wherever you are doing it, be warm and safe and I hope Santa brings you everything you hoped for.