Christmas Classics – Where Are They Now?

Every year I crack out The Best Christmas Album In The World…Ever! and listen to the Christmas Classics. We all know these: they are the songs you sing along to at the office party; that you dance to in that cheesy club in December; and that follow you around as you do your Christmas shopping. You may love them, you may hate them. But for me, along with the brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce, they are a key ingredient of Christmas. Hearing sleigh bells and ho ho hoing reignite the sense of wonder and excitement Christmas gave me as a child, as I rocked around the Christmas tree.

This CD was released in 1996 but only contains one track post-1988 – I Believe by Robson and Jerome, a song written in 1953 to give people hope during the Korean war, whose only connection to Christmas is it was number one during Advent 1995. The two re-releases of the compilation disc, from 2000 and 2006, do contain some more recent songs, yet these are covers of old Christmas songs by new artists, such as Robbie Williams, and the most recent Cliff Richard song.

Where have all the Christmas Classics gone?

A glance at the charts shows there hasn’t been a Christmas song at Christmas number one for twenty years (excluding remade versions of Do They Know It’s Christmas?). Instead reads a long list of manufactured pop bands, children’s TV characters and talent show winners. Nowadays the only way to get to Christmas number one is to win X Factor or hope your song is chosen as the year’s facebook campaign against it. Even Coldplay, arguably the biggest band in the world at the moment, can only reach number 17.

Has Simon Cowell stolen Christmas, the busiest shopping period of the year, as his money-making goldmine forever? I find it quite disgusting that a time that should be about peace and goodwill is chosen for it’s ability to maximise profit.

Do people even write Christmas songs any more? Well, I’m not sure. Yes, there are plenty of Christmas songs being written, particularly sad, folky American songs and amateur novelty songs (some of them are even quite good), but the bigger artists do not. There are some exceptions – The Killers and The Darkness spring to mind – but it is not a common occurrence.

Maybe they, or their record companies, are worried about the effect the inevitable low chart position (from releasing into a monopolised marketplace) will have on their reputation? Perhaps, like with the Eurovision song contest, they are scared of losing their artistic credibility – Noddy Holder came on the pitch during half time at a football match I was at last December to promote a charity, yet he was made to sing out ‘It’s Chriiiiii-stmas’. It could be that we live in a more athiest society now and Christmas doesn’t mean so much to so many people. Who knows?

Christmas number one used to have some honesty, some purity. Primary school choirs could even sing about their grandma. It used to be the most coveted time to top the charts and the greatest artists of the time, like the Kinks and Elton John, would write festive tunes. I am saddened that Christmas Classics seem to be a thing of the past and fear that we will no longer hear, whilst Driving Home For Christmas, that Holidays Are Coming or that Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.

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7 Responses to Christmas Classics – Where Are They Now?

  1. Fran says:

    Woah Dave, woah! You make some good points until the giant squid of anger takes over for the last two paragraphs! Using words like honesty and purity to describe artists cashing in on an annual drive of consumerism is taking it a bit far; their songs may enrich the festive season, but the decision to write and release them is a commercial one.

    It’s also pushing it to imply that a less religious society would effect Christmas singles, I think. Christmas singles are very rarely about the religious aspects of Christmas that are arguably in decline (you didn’t mention the original point of Christmas once in this article). They are almost always about the cultural and commercial aspects, like santa, gift giving, and as you said yourself “brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce”. These aspects are certainly not in decline. Also, by going onto the pitch in December, Noddy Holder was utilising his association with Christmas, so can’t really complain if people want him to do his signiture line.

    I enjoyed learning more about Christmas number ones!

    • Dave says:

      Yeah, you’re right. I do have a rose-tinted view of the history of Christmas tunes – probably because I wasn’t there. I think my use of honesty and purity is comparitive. The songs were written with a less commercial emphasis and more of an artistic one, whereas today it seems to just be about the sales figures. I think this is is a pattern reflected in other areas of Christmas too, not just in Christmas music.

      Christmas songs are often about the other aspects of Christmas, like the family and the presents, but I like that and I relate to that more. I think there may be some link between a less religious society and fewer Christmas songs. I don’t think it’s the main reason though.

  2. Fran says:

    I just watched the video for this year’s X-Factor Christmas number 1. What a piece of rubbish! There’s nothing special about his voice, and he looks dead behind the eyes. The dead behind the eyes thing I could forgive if he was actually an artist, but seeing as he is doing nothing more than presenting other people’s songs, he really ought to have a little charisma!

    I have more sympathy for your rant after watching that crap!

    • Dave says:

      I don’s mind so much that X Factor exists, or even that they take over the charts for a few weeks. What annoys me is that they take Christmas. If another artist made an original Christmas song, it wouldn’t get anywhere near as much media coverage as the X factor winner and suffer as a result. The advertising costs must be massive at that time of year and the air time is filled with Christmas Classics, the aforementioned X Factor single and facebook campaign songs. It must be by far the most difficult time to release a single, yet alone a risky novelty song.

      I find it ironic how you think the X Factor winner has no charisma.

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