Since it’s the time of year when some radio stations play constant loops of Christmas music, other radio stations throw in a Christmas song in every now and again*, and I’ve made a full body plunge into the holiday season, I’ve been thinking pretty seriously about what I’ve been hearing everywhere I go. More specifically, I’ve been devoting a lot of brain power to a set of very vague ideas about how some songs (in both original and cover form) end up in heavy rotation and how a good Christmas song can be destroyed or, at least undermined, by a cover. A corollary thought has also been how that cover – bad or good – can become more popular than the actual song and eradicate the original from the airwaves, making the classic Christmas hit more rare than its sometimes bastardized version.
And while there are plenty of instances where this happens (see “Baby It’s Cold Outside”) today I’d like to talk about what’s happened to Wham’s! “Last Christmas.” Of course, before we go further, let’s give George Michael and Andrew Ridgley’s (He’s the other guy in Wham! He had less awesome hair and is significantly less prone to getting himself into trouble in public bathrooms) version a quick listen:
(Note: In addition to hitting the right notes in arguably one of the most passive-aggressive Christmas songs ever, that video is AWESOME. Though I think that symmetrically-coiffed woman is causing some unresolvable issues in Wham! It seems especially selfish to be the Yoko Ono of a two-man band. Especially at Christmas in the Alps.)
But, as with all classics, there was the need to reinvent something that didn’t need reinventing. So, why not give the song to a teenager to cover?
Because Taylor Swift is known for her pathos. Remarkably, though, by my informal personal tabulations, THIS is the current most popular version of this song.
But if Taylor Swift isn’t doing if for you, how about the vocal stylings of another teenager, one who knows pain because before she got her new nose, she played the villain in the High School Musical franchise?
Still not sold? How about another former Disney star who apparently had nothing else to do after she stopped playing Lizzie McGuire and decided to put out a Christmas album?
But I don’t hate all the covers. Sometimes my jury’s totally out, like it is in this instance:
What throws me most about this cover is the way Florence sings, “Tell me baby / Do you recognize me / It’s been a year / Well, it wouldn’t surprise me.” There’s real anger there. Yes, this song is actually a pretty harsh condemnation of another person’s behavior during the holidays, which is frequently misguidedly presented as a Christmasy. But still. Here is sounds like Florence hit the egg nog too hard, staggered up to a former boyfriend at a mutual friend’s Christmas party, and slurred the accusation right in one of those strange quiet moments that happens at parties, prompting people like me to have loud, overly eager conversations about cheese in a desperate need to restore normalcy.
In other ’80s Christmas song news, has anyone noticed that The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” has gone missing? This classic from 1981 gives you another of her kind:
* By the way, thank you, radio, for reminding me that this holiday gem existed (from another former Disney child star):
If you’re in the mood to mock me, let me give you this tidbit to go on: I really don’t mind this song. I’ve been looking for a reason to post it since I heard it in the car yesterday. I might know all the words. And once I might have sung it while jumping up and down on the bed in my dorm room during 2002’s holiday decorating extravaganza. All of this is purely speculation. Unless you can find my college roommate. Then, I’m screwed.
Update: Just hours after I wrote this yesterday, *Glee* also covered the song during “A Very Glee Christmas.” Which was fine; at least it was about Finn and Rachel’s mutual disappointment with the state of their relationship. But *Glee* made the same mistake everyone does and called “Last Christmas” a Christmas song, which it’s emphatically not. It’s a relatively harsh indictment of another person’s behavior during the previous holiday season. If anything, it’s a Festivus carol.