Wiktoria – I Told Santa

“All I Want For Christmas Is You Sodding Right Off”

Tim: It had been FAR too long since we’ve featured new Christmas music, so here’s this, and it’s a bit odd: someone at Sony A&R had the feeling that there aren’t enough new Christmas songs, or some gubbins like that, and so they’ve put together an EP of five tracks from five unrelated artists. Cynics might argue that’s simply an excuse to plug all their upcoming talent at once; I’m just happy that it’s CHRISTMAS.

Tom: I mean, both those things can be true.

Tim: It’s safe to say that “All I Want For Christmas Is You Sodding Right Off”–

Tom: Ha!

Tim: –probably wouldn’t have sold quite as many records for Mariah, but other bands have done it entirely successfully (looking at you, Dragonette), and this pretty much works. Not as well as that Dragonette track, obviously, because that’s a work of art, but well enough.

Tom: Full marks to the producer for that step down from the chorus to the second verse: that steady descent turned what’s usually a dull bit of a track into something that fits really well. You’re right, there’s a lot to like here: the horn section, the big chorus, even the more-interesting-than-usual-for-pop rhythms that show up in the middle eight.

Tim: It’s got all the festive necessities, and while it may not be an all time great, this year we’ve got The Fizz for that, so this’ll do.

Tom: Mate. Well, at least we’ve got her offering from last year.

Pitbull feat. Rhea – Ocean To Ocean

Tom: I guess we should talk about this.

Tim: Oh, boy should we talk about this.

Tom: Here’s the thing: the internet has recently decided that it loves Toto’s Africa , to the extent that Weezer were essentially bullied into covering it. That cover is getting a surprising amount of US airplay.

Given that, I can absolutely see why Pitbull took this and ran with it. The internet has already decided it hates him; why not lean into it and enjoy the royalties?

Tom: CONTROVERSIAL OPINION: for the parts that involve anyone and anything other than Pitbull, this cover of Africa is better than Weezer’s cover of Africa. It does something different and interesting! There’s a proper drum fill! There are even, I think, some interesting harmony parts going on in the background of that chorus.

Tim: Do you know, I don’t disagree with a single word of that. You’re right, it’s really good.

Tom: This is pretty much what an Almighty Records cover of Africa would be like, and I think we can agree that’d be an amazing cover if it existed.

Tim: Hands down.

Tom: The problem is, of course, Pitbull, doing the exact self-aggrandising schtick he’s been doing for years.

Tim: Yes. He is, basically, Jason Derulo, Nicki Minaj and Wally Williams all rolled into one. There was potential – and he blew it. Dick.

Saturday Flashback: Nova Miller – My Perfect Christmas

“I’ve not had a song properly wind me up like this in a long while.“

Tim: We might not be featuring current Christmas tracks every day, but BOY are there a lot of goodies from the past. We’ve featured Nova a few times before – she’s off Sweden – but missed this when it came out a few years back. Which is a shame, because it holds up very well as a Christmas song and as a pop song.

Tom: It’s rare that I actually dislike a track so much I have to stop listening, Tim, but at the first chorus — specifically the line “that’s my perfect Christmas”, I had to. And then I realised this isn’t the first time I’ve done that: somehow I heard this on the radio while driving through the US recently. (Heaven knows why, they usually just play the same ten tracks on repeat.)

Tim: WOW, that is fantastic. And sure, the lyrics are a bit damp and melty in places, and I’m never all that keen on “all I want is peace” because I’m fairly sure in a high number of cases that’s somewhat bullshit, especially for a teenager, as she was.

Tom: Damp and melty? If I didn’t know this was a proper release, I’d assume the lyrics were either written by a four-year-old or written by an adult trying to parody the horrible overly-saccharine Christmas ballads. I’ve not had a song properly wind me up like this in a long while.

Tim: Oh, you are SO WELCOME. That “ring out the love, our hearts are uniting” is a fantastic line musically, no-one can dispute the inherent festivity–

Tom: YES I CAN

Tim: –FINE, but also the message at the end of the middle eight does come across as genuinely heartfelt and lovely.

Tom: I wouldn’t know, I didn’t get that far.

Tim: All in all, I really do like this track. Although, yeah, I slightly understand if you don’t.

Patrik Jean – Lean On Me (ARMAN Remix)

“This is ‘beefed up’? I actually yawned at one point.”

Tim: So, I know we started a bit late this year, and we missed out a day for Alan (GREAT gig, by the way), but I’m fairly sure this is the first year that I could genuinely put out a half decent Christmas song for every day right up until the 25th. However, that doesn’t mean I’m actually going to, because even I have my limits.

Tom: And I’m grateful for that.

Tim: Let’s have this instead, a (very) slightly beefed up version of a slightly uninteresting track from six months back.

Tom: This is “beefed up”? I actually yawned at one point. I mean, that’s partly because I’m jetlagged, but it’s not exactly an exciting track.

Tim: I say beefed up, we’ve got those big but also quiet drums near the start, a revamped middle eight and also basically everything that sets the second verse apart from the first. Which is a good thing – the original got a tad boring because there was little variation, and for once I actually don’t mind those vocals being fiddled with, because it all fits.

Tom: I mean, I’m glad that you actually found something to write about here, because I’m struggling. It’s this half-way house between ballad and dance that ends up doing neither well.

Tim: It feels weird that the dance music effects fit on a ballad like this, but I can’t deny that it actually does. It’s nice.

Lichtblick – In der Weihnachtsbäckerei

“Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse it had lip-smacking noises in the middle eight.”

Tim: Care to see what’s coming out of Germany this festive period?

Tom: What, again? I wasn’t impressed last time, and now you’re bringing the B-side?

Tom: It’s terrible! For different reasons!

Tim: The second track released by this lovely group, it’s a cover of a 1987 track by Rolf Zuckowski, the title of which translates as ‘In The Winter Bakery’, inspired by Rolf’s phone call to his wife where he found out his kids were baking biscuits for him when he arrived home after a gig. And isn’t that just the most heartwarming tale of all?

Tom: Or sickening.

Tim: Or sickening, whichever.

Tom: I mean, I realise it’s a schlager cover of a kids’ song, so maybe I should just shut my mouth, but I reckon this what schlager sounds like to people who don’t like schlager. Does that make sense? Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse it had lip-smacking noises in the middle eight.

Tim: Here’s a promise for you, Tom: how annoying you may find this, you’d find it at least 700% more annoying if the lyrics were in English, because MY GOD are they twee. However. It’s Christmas. FAMILY TIME. And so we should celebrate every part of it. Right?

Tom: We’re half way through “Can We Get Tom Feeling Festive”, Tim, and so far it’s not going well.

Lichtblick – Dear Mr Santa

“If you’re translating that right, it’s basically ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ with less consent.”

Tim: Care to see what’s coming out of Germany this festive period?

Tom: “Oh baby, oh baby, oh baby”. Maybe there’s no equivalent in German, and that’s a bit like English speakers saying “schadenfreude”.

Tim: “I don’t want a white Christmas, I don’t care for presents, all I want is for you to bring him back.” Taken literally that might lead to a slightly disturbing situation (“Ho ho ho!” “Santa! Have you brought me my presents?” “No, I’m afraid I’m here to kidnap you and give you to that girl you broke up with.”) but let’s face it, it’s almost a tradition for Christmas song lyrics to make no sense if you think about them for more than half a second, so never mind.

Tom: If you’re translating that right, it’s basically “All I Want For Christmas Is You” with less consent. But sure, let’s ignore the lyrics.

Tim: Instead, the music, which brought a smile to my face within a couple of seconds of pressing play. It is joyful and tinkly and infectious, and I was joyously singing along to the chorus the second time it came around (the English bits, anyway).

Tom: I’ll give it credit for precisely one thing: that unnecessary, cheesy electric guitar riff in the background. That did make me smile. Apart from that, I can’t say I’m impressed.

Tim: That six note descending bit that hits just before each verse is absolutely wonderful and makes me smile every time it comes around, and all in all I love it: it’s cheesy German pop, done festive. And as far as I’m concerned that’s a recipe for perfection.

Tom: Can I hum the chorus after one listen? Yes. Do I want to? No. No I don’t.

Eric Clapton – Jingle Bells

“What”

Tim: The current theme of Britain seems to be that no-one has a bloody clue what’s happening. As such, I present to you Eric Clapton’s tribute to Avicii.

Tom: What

Tim: Now I don’t mean any disrespect to Eric or anything, because the man’s a musical legend, but mate: this is garbage.

Tom: I appreciate the idea: do some good guitar riffs, get someone to put it in an Avicii style, make a tribute. Who knows? Maybe he did the mixing himself. Which, actually, would explain a lot. The execution isn’t exactly great.

Tim: It’s six minutes of the extra bits that get stuck outside dance remixes of tracks so the DJs can mix in and out of out of other songs, except the only proper bit in there lasts for precisely 25 seconds. I mean, what is the point of this? For the most part it’s not even slightly recognisable or remotely festive, and as a tribute to a great DJ it’s almost insulting. And…and…and just basically why. Mind you, right now why anything?

Alan Walker, K-391 and Sofia Carson feat. CORSAK – Different World

“Oh joy! Politics! Exactly what we need today!”

Tim: We’ll lay off Christmas for a bit, so I can bring you some NEWS: three years after Faded first came along, Alan’s finally getting on with releasing an album this Friday; it’s about half and half new music’s what we’ve already heard (and weirdly, it’s missing some of his better stuff), but here’s the title track. And hey, it’s got a political message!

Tom: Oh joy! Politics! Exactly what we need today!

Tim: The world’s gone to pot, we can rescue it if we hurry. I’d say that’s a big if, but hey, let’s go with the optimism because the alternative is just hoping that asteroid comes along fairly soon and, well, happiest time of the year and all that.

Tom: And “we’ve got time” isn’t a great message? “We’ve only just got enough time”, sure, but “we’ve got time” implies, screw it, throw another oil-soaked seagull on the barbie.

Er, anyway, let’s… let’s maybe just talk about the music.

Tim: More pop than dance this time, but that’s no big problem because it’s still a great track. There’s maybe less of your typical Alan sound, but apparently ten people (or, if you recall the gubbins about K-391, nine people and one innovative headset) were involved in putting this together, so it’s almost a wonder it holds together as well as it does.

Tom: This really is designed by committee, isn’t it? There’s no distinguishing feature to it: it feels a bit slow, a bit monotonous, a bit… dull. I actually thought it was over when it went into the middle eight, because I thought I’d been listening for a lot longer than two minutes.

When the best bit in your track is the middle eight, that’s not a good sign.

Tim: Strong (if tired and naive) lyrics, good melody throughout and production that is, to surprise, fully on point. I’m in.

Saturday Flashback: Lost Frequencies – Are You With Me (Christmas Mix)

“This seems like an exceptional example.”

Tim: You say cheap and easy Christmas cash cow.

Tom: I do, for basically everything we’re covering this week, but this seems like an exceptional example.

Tim: I say a simple way to make sure an October release stays around long enough to get on the work Christmas party playlist, and now I’ve had that thought I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often. Anyway, slow and tedious country song, turned into a pretty good dance tune, now all Christmassed up.

Tim: So, regarding the ‘cheap remix’ accusations that will inevitably be thrown at this.

Tom: I mean, “accusations” is putting it mildly, if anyone spent more than a fiver on this remix I’ll be surprised.

Tim: There’s evidence here that some thought has actually gone into it. You’ve obviously got your copy and paste jingle bells on every other beat, and your find and replace drum beats for church bells plus drum beat, but there’s more. Listen in the quiet instrumental bit, from about a minute in, and behind there you’ve got quiet tinkles following the actual melody, rather than the standard jingle bells, and that shows actual thought. Yes, you could put the regular ones on, no-one would complain, it would fine. But no – there’s time and thought gone into this, which I like a lot. It impresses me.

Tom: One week into Can We Get Tom Feeling Festive, and Tim, all I can say is that you’re easily impressed.

Tim: What can I say, I just love Christmas. I’ve got time.

Robin Bengtsson – Born To Love

“At least you were spared the heartbreak.”

Tim: Came out a few weeks ago, and while it’s not a Christmas track it does take place on a cold dark night in December, so I figured it could wait. And be warned: there’s emotion here, so you might want to keep the tissues nearby.

Tom: If a Christmas track actually raises any sort of deep emotion from my cold, cold heart, Tim — even sympathy or sadness — you can consider “Can We Get Tom Feeling Festive” a success. I don’t hold out much hope.

Tim: Now, it’s not often I get emotionally involved with a track – the last time I can remember it happening, in fact, was when Gary and Agnetha reminisced five years ago (and incidentally, the lyric video gave that the happy ending I was wanting, so that’s lovely). But this track, for some reason, really got to me, and I hadn’t even been drinking. Truth is, it’s a beautiful song – the melody is fantastic, his vocal really sells it, and then there’s the lyrics.

Tom: I’ll be honest, reader: given the setup and that we’re only three songs into the month, you can probably figure out where my response is going here.

Tim: Thing is, I don’t want this sad ending. I want him to change – or rather, I want him to realise that actually, she can change him. He’s not found anyone yet, but instead of giving up, the song’s target persists, and eventually he realises he was born to love. He was born to have a fantastic life, born to marry this fantastic person, born to have beautiful kids, and, sixty years down the line, born to be spending the cold dark nights in December in a lovely warm cottage, surrounded by a devoted family. So keep the first few verses – paint him as a tragic figure. But towards the end, fiddle with the lyrics, Robin. Give yourself some hope, some sign of a future, so that you’re not living in yesterday’s house at the end of the road. Because dammit, it’s Christmas. Can’t you try for some happiness?

Tom: I’m sure that was a heartwarming suggestion, Tim, but unfortunately half way through the track I fell asleep.

Tim: Well in that case at least you were spared the heartbreak.