Stars of Bethlehem
Abba, Billy Idol, Elton John & Ed Sheeran, Hiss Golden Messenger, Ingrid Michaelson, Leslie Odom Jnr, Lola Young, Los Lobos, Manchester Orchestra, Norah Jones, Pistol Annies, Rob Thomas, Tim O'Connell, Various - It's A Cool Cool Christmas
Christmas Is Coming (The Goose Is Getting Fat - Big Mistake)
You can always tell when Christmas is just around the corner, because the first Easter Eggs start to appear in the shops. OK, that's an exaggeration,. but given that the bags of chocolate flavoured money have been in the shops since late Summer, not that great an exaggeration.
This time last year the first Pop In The Real World Christmas playlist appeared on Spotify. You can access it here - https://www.popintherealworld.co.uk/post/christmas-crackers-and-party-poppers
It was deliberately broad, covering songs that celebrated every aspect of Christmas from party mania, through old favourites and traditional carols to a selection of the best new Christmas songs. And there are many good new Christmas songs.
I've changed the blog in a couple of minor ways, mainly to remove some embarrassing typos. I've also added a few songs and commented on them. These are songs that were available at the time, but foolishly overlooked. I've not flagged these so that in years to come I can claim they were there all the time.
It's probably best to list to it on Shuffle - otherwise you'll have 4 different versions of 'Last Christmas' played consecutively!
The playlist is not yet available on YouTube, but I hope to remedy this before Christmas.
In The Bleak Midwinter
Little Things : ABBA
Oh dear! I've not heard the full album from which this song comes, but I hope it's a lot better than this. It's a nicely arranged and well produced slice of chamber pop but it is so saccharinely sentimental as to be barely listenable. It's the aural equivalent of melting down After 8s and drinking them by the pint.
Don't take a chance on this.
Llego Navidad : Los Lobos
The problem with this Christmas record is that if you choose to sing in Spanish it will need to sound Christmassy for an English audience. This doesn't. Disappointingly it sounds like an album recorded by your favourite wedding reception band. Sample lyrics from 'It's Christmas Time In Texas' are
"It's Christmas, it's Christmas, it's Christmas time in Texas
It's Christmas, it's Christmas, it's Christmas time everywhere."
That's good to know.
That said, 'Feliz Navidad' is an end of the party stomper that goes a small way towards redeeming the album. I've added it to the playlist.
Something About Christmas Time : Rob Thomas
Rob Thomas is the lead singer with Matchbox 20, a band that have . He's looking sad in the snow on the cover of his Christmas album. Perhaps that's because he's also a tad underdressed for the weather.
These songs ooze sentimental cliches and over cooked sincerity. You'd question if they would make the cut for release at any other time of year.
Perhaps his sad expression is due to the realisation that, as his cover of 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' shows, there is a good Christmas album within him.
Silent Nights : Tim O'Connell
I'm afraid that what you see on the cover (see left) is exactly what you get on the record. It's the equivlaent of drinking fizz poured on New Year's Eve when you wake up on January 2nd.
It's possible that this album is an elaborate joke. The playing is certainly good enough, but the vocals and the lyrics left me scratching my head in bewilderment.
(The reviews above were written by guest review Ebenezer Scrooge, aided and abetted by The Grinch and do not, necessarily reflect the views of Pop In The Real World.)
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Happy Holidays : Billy Idol
It's a long way from 'White Wedding' to 'White Christmas' but Billy Idol makes a surprisingly good stab at it. He's copied Robbie Williams' career change and ditched his punk persona for that of crooner and children's entertainer.
He even sings unaccompanied on Auld Lang Syne. It works and I've added it to the playlist. Other highlights are his versions of 'Frosty The Snowman' and 'Run Rudolph Run'. It's a good fun album - I'm smiling happily as I type this.
Songs For The Season : Ingrid Michaelson
If Christmas songs that remind you of classic 40s and 50s films shown mid afternoon on Christmas Eve are what you like, you'll love this. These are standards, with some originals, that are full of big band Hollywood pizazz and a full orchestra.
She works with a good band of collaborators but it sounds just a little calculated and formulaic in places. It comes very good on the closing track 'Merry Christmas, Happy New Year' which captures the excitement of Christmas in a very Maria Carey and Kylie kind of way. It's on the playlist.
Together In Electric Dreams : Lola Young
It's the John Lewis advert song. Leaving aside a slightly queasy sense of manufactured and blatant consumerism, it's become a Christmas tradition that underpins the memories of any one year's Christmas.
It's hard to escape this, but if you haven't heard it, it's a reworking of the Giorgio Moroder / Phil Oakey song from 1983 in the style of The Snowman. It, too, is now on the playlist.
Other retailers are available to take your money this Christmas.
Christmas Songs Vol 1 : Manchester Orchestra
This is a moody and atmospheric take on traditional Christmas songs. You won't catch them dressing up as Santa's elves, but you may find this to be the ideal accompaniment to sitting in your chair, exhausted by all the preparations, and about to take the first sip of your favourite tipple.
The treatment works particularly well on 'Silent Night' and 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas'.
Hell Of A Holiday : Pistol Annies
The Country and Western community tend to go big on Christmas. This is one of the better collections and there are some decent new Christmas songs included.
It doesn't sound particularly Christmassy but that means it won't jar horribly if you suddenly hear it again in February.
It's A Cool Cool Christmas : Various
One of the staples of Christmas is the record label Christmas album. This one, from Rough Trade, isn't bad.
As you'd expect, they haven't taken it too seriously but there are enough good songs to make it worth an hour of your time. It includes the gorgeous version of 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel' by Belle and Sebastian which made it on to the playlist last year.
Joy To The World
These are the albums that are worth listening to all the way through and on repeat. Songs from each of these albums are included in this year's Christmas playlist.
Elton John & Ed Sheeran
With apologies to Abba and John Lewis, in the battle of the big hitters to claim the Christmas No 1 spot Elton and Ed deserve to be victorious. That's because they understand best what makes a good Christmas song.
There's the right mix of sentimentality, cheese and commitment. There's a great video. And, most of all, they look as if they are enjoying themselves, so we can too.
O Come All Ye Faithful : Hiss Golden Messenger
If you've ever wondered what a Van Morrison Christmas album might sound like, this is probably as close as you are going to get.
It's bar room jazz and a little downbeat, but the ideal record for those who don't really get the traditional Christmas feeling.
'O Come All Ye Faithful; performed by a full band is a nice surprise, and 'Happy Hannukah' is a determined attempt to keep the party going.
I Dream Of Christmas : Norah Jones
That sultry jazz sound is ideal for Christmas, and Norah Jones' languid class shines through every note of this collection.
It's a nice mix of covers and originals. 'It's Only Christmas Once A Year' is probably the most contemporary Christmas song you'll hear, reflecting back on last year's lockdown festivities, and she completely reinvents 'Run Rudolph Run'
This is one to be savoured and enjoyed.
The Christmas Album : Leslie Odom Jnr
Leslie Odom Jnr played the part of Burr in 'Hamilton'. This is a smooth, sincere and top quality collection, my favourite of the season.
He seems to have thought carefully about which songs to cover (although there are originals here too) and how to make them stand out.
Adding an African Youth Choir to 'Little Drummer Boy' is a masterstroke and his treatment of 'Mele Kalikimaka' turns it into a proper Christmas song for the first time in my hearing.
When all the crackers are pulled, the effects of over consuming (all sorts) have abated and relationships have been cemented or repaired, I hope that you were able to enjoy most if not all this playlist.
Wishing all who read this a very Merry Christmas and an excellent 2022.