Tim: So, currently, All I Want For Christmas Is You is, 23 years on from its original release, currently equaling its number 2 high point in the UK Singles Chart. Streaming’s weird. It’s being kept off number one by Ed, who’s gaming the whole thing so cynically it’s almost funny.
Tom: And now I have to listen to the damn thing. I’ve managed to avoid it, on the grounds of it being Ed Sheeran. But, fine, here we go.
Tom: I think the most startling thing about that is just how much it sounds like a lot of other songs, without actually being any of them. Stand By Me. Unchained Melody. Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love To You”. A half dozen other inspirations and homages. Yes, well done, you’ve made a New Song from bits of old ones.
But you know what? Andrea Bocelli actually managed to save this for me. This sounds really rather nice. And I think that’s because there’s, well, less Ed.
Tim: Now let’s examine the ways he’s managed to keep this song up there. First, the many versions. On the album and first video, it’s a solo; a few weeks later he duetted with Beyoncé; and now he’s going for the all-important festive “look, it’s got that opera singer on it, you like him, don’t you nan?” market. Second, and as a by-product of that, we’ve a nice pop/classical mix – there’s a reason Il Divo always did well at Christmas.
Tom: “What do we buy Auntie Margaret?” “No idea, this’ll do.”
Tim: And thirdly: the technicalities. Your standard pop songs are all in 4/4 time; the Christmas pop hits, on the other hand, have an unusually high rate of 12/8 songs – it’s a nice mix of radio-friendly 4-time and the 3-time that’s frequent in traditional carols. Much as I’d love to criticise Ed for this, he’s not alone – The Pogues did it, John Lennon did it, even your favourite did it, all in a purely innocent attempt to get people festive.
Tom: Nothing wrong with that. This is what gets me: Ed Sheeran’s can sing, and clearly has a lot of song-writing talent, it’s just that the results — for some reason — absolutely drive me up the wall, no matter how blatant the pandering is.
Tim: And the worst thing about all this? It works. Judging by the midweeks, he’s going nowhere. (Unlike Mariah, who’s down to 5. Oh well.)