Artists struggle to strike the right chord with new Christmas-themed pop songs

TORONTO -- The sounds of the holiday season are pretty much the same from year to year: "Feliz Navidad," "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and "White Christmas" on constant rotation in supermarkets, department stores and coffee shops.

See Full Article

New Christmas-themed pop songs do appear every year, and Thunder Bay, Ont.-native Paul Shaffer says it's no surprise why artists keep trying to record a new modern classic.

"Everybody wants one, of course, because it comes back year after year," says Shaffer, who notes it's not easy to write an enduring holiday song and admits he's failed several times.

"You're talking to somebody who has written about four or five of them, including a followup to 'It's Raining Men' with The Weather Girls, which was called 'Dear Santa (Bring Me a Man This Christmas)'," says Shaffer.

"It didn't click like 'It's Raining Men'."

Shaffer followed that up with another stab at holiday fare, a tongue-in-cheek tune called "Kung Fu Christmas."

"Because kung fu was so hot in R&B at the time," explains Shaffer, who regards "A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector" as the "holy grail" of holiday albums.

Shaffer was also part of the celebrity ensemble -- including comic Bill Murray and former Phantom Planet drummer Jason Schwartzman -- that recorded "Alone on Christmas Day" with French rock band Phoenix for the new Netflix special "A Very Murray Christmas."

Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" is perhaps the best and biggest example of a modern holidays hit -- none others have come close in the roughly 20 years since it was released.

For the most part, the old classics hold their ground while newer tunes come and go.

"It's scary (how) the vast majority of (new holidays) songs become disposable. They really do," says Wendy Duff, program director at Toronto's 98.1 CHFI, which has been playing Christmas music 24 hours a day since Nov. 15. Classics from Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby and Burl Ives remain "the core," despite a regular influx of fresh material.

"It doesn't mean they're not strong, but they just don't have the staying power."

She notes this year's new holiday-themed releases include albums from Jann Arden, Train, and LeAnn Rimes, as well as a fresh cover single from Seal.

Canuck pop star Carly Rae Jepsen also entered the fray this year with a cover of Wham!'s "Last Christmas," itself a relatively new classic that has become a holiday staple for many children of the '80s.

Jepsen says she was drawn to "a melancholy" aspect of the song.

"All of my favourite Christmas songs have an element to that, whether it's 'Blue Christmas' or 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,"' says Jepsen in a recent interview.

"'I'll be Home for Christmas' has a sort of sad longing and yearning, which is something that I think we all sometimes feel over the holidays. It's not as talked about -- it's usually, like, hot cocoa and family and Christmas. But there's sometimes a bit of heartbreak involved in that, too.

"I've definitely gone through a breakup right before Christmas, where I felt none of the jolly sort of 'Jingle Bells' (songs) were doing it for me. And I think it's nice to have a song like this, because I think more people relate than you realize."

Duff says modern songs seeking airplay should blend easily with the classics, since it's the old chestnuts that generally keep audiences listening.

"It's got to fit in -- we still play Andy Williams. It's such a unique time of year when a playlist can span 50 years," she says.

"On paper, it looks ridiculous.... But it seems to work."

And while there are complaints as soon as Christmas music begins being piped into public places, clearly many look forward to it.

Duff says her radio station's online streams jumped 82 per cent since CHFI switched to holiday mode.

And comedian Aziz Ansari, for one, loves it.

"I'm really into the commercialization of Christmas -- trees, lights, gifts, all that stuff -- (and) Christmas music," the "Master of None" star said earlier this year, just as the season ramped up.

"It's just fun. What other season has its own soundtrack?"



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman' heading to Netflix

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro’s long-awaited mob movie The Irishman is heading to the small screen thanks to a distribution deal with streaming service Netflix. The longtime collaborators, whose previous hits together include Raging Bull and Goodfellas, were first linked to the biopic about real-life union official-turned-mafia hitman Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran in 2008, but production plans with Paramount Pictures executives in 2011 stalled due to scheduling issues. Source
  • Oscars 2017: Andrew Garfield reflects on trading Spider-Man for 'Hacksaw Ridge'

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    LOS ANGELES – In Hollywood – if you’re lucky – when one door closes, another opens up. Just ask Oscar-nominee Andrew Garfield. The rising American-born, British star cut his teeth with dark dramas like David Fincher’s The Social Network (2010) and Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go (2010) before landing the coveted lead in the 2012 reboot of Spider-Man. Source
  • Director Kenneth Lonergan reacts to ‘Manchester by the Sea’ success

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Oscar-nominee Kenneth Lonergan reacts to the heartbreaking success of Manchester by the Sea Manchester by the Sea started life as a conversation between Matt Damon and John Krasinski. Damon took the project to award-winning playwright and filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan, who wrote a screenplay and eventually directed the movie himself. Source
  • Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams spotted singing karaoke in Calgary

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Maisie Williams, a.k.a. Arya Stark, has been spotted in Calgary and Banff over the last couple of days, apparently taking a break from shooting scenes with Alberta wolves for the seventh season of Game of Thrones. The 19-year-old actress reportedly sang karaoke at Ducky’s in Calgary and has visited various areas in Banff. Source
  • David Bowie, Emeli Sande among winners at 2017 Brit Awards

    Entertainment CBC News
    The Brit Award for album of the year has been awarded to David Bowie for Blackstar. It is the latest posthumous honor for Bowie, and the second Brit Award he won Wednesday. His son, film director Duncan Jones, accepted the award on his behalf, noting that his father died the same year Jones became a father. Source
  • David Bowie honours, George Michael tribute top 2017 Brit Awards

    Entertainment CBC News
    The Brit Award for album of the year has been awarded to David Bowie for Blackstar. It is the latest posthumous honor for Bowie, and the second Brit Award he won Wednesday. His son, film director Duncan Jones, accepted the award on his behalf, noting that his father died the same year Jones became a father. Source
  • Judge nixes Lisa Marie Presley's spousal support to husband

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Lisa Marie Presley will not have to pay spousal support to her estranged husband while they fight over her assets, but she will have to pay some of his attorney's fees, a judge ruled Wednesday. Source
  • Skepta, Beyonce and Bowie up for prizes at Brit Awards

    Entertainment CTV News
    LONDON -- Britain's music industry will salute chart-topping talent and departed icons at the Brit Awards, where nominees include Drake, Beyonce and David Bowie. Bowie, who died in January 2016, is nominated in the album of the year and male British artist categories at Wednesday's awards. Source
  • David Bowie honours, George Michael tribute top Brit Awards

    Entertainment CTV News
    LONDON -- The Brit Awards recognized big international stars including Drake and Beyonce and a cross-section of home-grown talent Wednesday -- but the ceremony was overshadowed by the much-missed David Bowie and George Michael. Bowie, who died in January 2016 at age 69, was crowned British male artist of the year and won British album of the year for "Blackstar," released days before his death. Source
  • Video shows Harrison Ford's mistaken flyover at airport

    Entertainment CBC News
    Newly released video shows a plane piloted by Harrison Ford suddenly and mistakenly flying low over an airliner with 110 people aboard at a Southern California airport. The 45 seconds of soundless video show the Star Wars and Indiana Jones star's potentially serious mishap last week at John Wayne Airport in Orange County. Source