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

  • 'American Gods' star Ian McShane says show perfect for our time

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Over the phone from the U.K., Ian McShane is apologetic about the time of our interview – it being 6 a.m. EDT. He knows all about time-zones and being up in the early morning in Toronto. He followed Premier League football with his joined-at-the-hip American Gods co-star and fellow Manchester United fan Ricky Whittle while filming the series there. Source
  • 'Not all banjoes and fiddles': Eclectic East Coast musicians find fame abroad, struggle at home

    Entertainment CBC News
    The traditional music industry is playing "catch up" when it comes to recognizing electronic music, according to some artists who have decided to create a new Maritime-wide music association to support urban artists. Long-time DJ and music producer Brian Pelrine is part of the group behind the project, which will launch June 3. Source
  • Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch renew 'Big Bang Theory' contracts

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch have reportedly finalized their contract deals to appear in seasons 11 and 12 of hit TV show The Big Bang Theory. The comedy series was renewed for two additional seasons last month, weeks after main castmembers Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, and Kunal Nayyar inked their new two-year contracts, and Bialik and Rauch have now joined them. Source
  • MasterChef Canada's Aaron Polsky is picking Trevor to win it all

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    MasterChef Canada’s Aaron Polsky was sent home this week after his vegetarian tagine failed to impress the judges. But that wasn’t the hardest loss he took while competing in the MasterChef Canada kitchen. Losing the Restaurant Takeover in Chef Michael Bonacini’s north Toronto landmark Auberge du Pommier earlier in the episode stung the worst. Source
  • 'Star Trek: Discovery' adds several Canadian actors

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO - Several Canadians have joined the cast of the Toronto-shot series "Star Trek: Discovery." Rekha Sharma of Vancouver will play Commander Landry, the security officer of the Starship Discovery. Toronto's Kenneth Mitchell has been cast as Kol, a commanding officer in the Klingon Empire. Source
  • Judges seal warrants related to arrest of 'Bachelor' star

    Entertainment CTV News
    IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Applications for warrants that allowed police to arrest "The Bachelor" star Chris Soules after a fatal crash and to obtain his blood and urine samples will be sealed indefinitely under rulings issued Friday. Source
  • 'Casting JonBenet' review: Reliving a tabloid sensation

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Yesterday’s media circus is today’s documentary. It has, recently, seemed like all the stories that once dominated our tabloids are now cramming our screens. O.J. Simpson, Anthony Weiner, Amanda Knox. It’s as though we’re haunted by the ghost of nightly-news past. Source
  • Fyre Festival postponed after reports of Hunger Games-like conditions emerge

    Entertainment CBC News
    The inaugural Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, a two-week music event promoted by celebrities including supermodels Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski, was postponed Friday after attendees reported dilapidated accommodations, and top-billed performers pulled out. The Coachella-like festival, set to run this weekend and next weekend on the Exuma Islands, was co-organized by rapper Ja Rule. Source
  • Cutting the cord: Five things to consider before ditching traditional TV

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Snip. Snip. Snip. That’s the sound of hundreds of thousands of Canadians cutting the cord, choosing to leave behind traditional television in favour of online streaming alternatives. Whether they’re fed up with sky-high cable bills or simply part of a generation that never really tuned in to begin with, more and more of us are turning our backs on old-timey TV. Source
  • What will a Hollywood writers’ strike mean?

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    LOS ANGELES — Hollywood is facing a cliffhanger after members of the Writers Guild of America voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike that could begin as soon as next week. Negotiations resumed Tuesday as the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers grapple over issues including compensation and health care. Source