Mostly Pop Christmas Special

Mr Moth fires the first shot in our Christmas assault with this festive edition of Europe’s Best Popular Music Review Column, looking at contenders for Christmas Number One.


Carly Rae Jepsen
Last Christmas

This feels like a good fit for CRJ; the hesitation, the boldness, the sort-of-heartfelt-but-not-much delivery required, it’s all there. All the moves are right, down to the sax (very now, very then) and twinkling synths. And you know, it does work. What’s notable though is how it does its own thing (in a slightly bland way) AND YET the song comes blasting right through any tweaks and shimmys.

Suddenly I have an unexpected situation on my hands – I’m having to give kudos to George Michael’s ability as a songwriter. Yup, despite the interminable years of undistinguished lounge-funk, there’s evidence right here that he can put together a song that shines. I say all this, I still don’t like Last Christmas, but I do at least now grudgingly respect it. THANKS, JEPPO.

Kylie Minogue and James Corden
Only You

This is another one where the song is stronger than the arrangement. Both Kylie and James Corden are a bit of a puzzle to me. Kylie has cruised through pop superstardom on the thinnest of ability (she must be a solid brick of cast-iron determination) and James Corden has somehow sustained an entire career on a very ordinary sort of charm.

Still, here they are singing Yazoo and yeah, it’s such a great song that I really honestly don’t hate this. It’s played admirably straight, nobody embarrasses themselves (Corden isn’t a great singer, but he can hit the notes fine) and it all passes in a relatively sweet sort of way. It also, of course, has a track record as a Christmas Number One, with the Flying Pickets’ cover taking it there in 1983. It does feel oddly Christmassy, even without a smothering of sleigh bells.

The Darkness
I Am Santa

The Darkness, put simply, had their shot at Christmas Number One and fell short. I think their song in that race – Don’t Let the Bells End – has a better chance of being thought of as a Christmas Song than the actual winner, but still. Here they are, trying again because… Well either they really covet that talismanic Christmas Number One OR they’ve found that turning up on Christmas compilations is REALLY lucrative.

I think it’s the latter. This isn’t even half-arsed. It’s maybe quarter-arsed at best. Meandering and formless, it’s a far cry from the band’s catchy pop-metal heyday. Although I appreciate the “70s Top of the Pops” pastiche video (and the fact that this is the only song here that isn’t a cover), by the time the song finally reaches the “I am Santa” section any charity engendered by seasonal cheer has long evaporated, leaving the audience stony-faced and unamused by a band capering bloodlessly for cash where once they strove good-naturedly for immortality.

Blake ft Shirley Bassey
The Christmas Song

Yeah it’s a classic but when was the last time one of the standards was Christmas Number One? Hmm? Like, never. Not in my lifetime. Anyway, this is an odd idea of a good time – a poundshop G4 with Shirley Bassey honking away like an offended seal. It takes the intimacy of The Christmas Song and replaces it with grandstanding. Chestnuts roasting on a gigantic public bonfire.

John Williams
Star Wars Theme

Oh do be brief, Facebook pricks being Facebook pricks.

Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral
Carol of the Bells

Woah, woah, why is this not number one already? For the whole of December? Screw all your pop business (PLEASE DON’T FIRE ME, ED, I LOVE POP), this is how Christmas should sound. Isn’t it? It is, don’t argue with me. Yeah yeah Home Alone, but close your eyes and imagine listening to this in the dark as the snow is falling. Magic, isn’t it? Haunting, gliding magic, the sort you should feel at Christmas. The sort of music that transports you across snow-covered rooftops and into deep pine forests. Old magic.

You Don’t Own Me

Another cover, but this one isn’t Christmassy in the slightest. And yet somehow it works, I don’t know. This is used on the House of Fraser Christmas advert, that I managed to miss in my Christmas advert roundup last month, and is rather good. It’s in with a shot of being the Christmas Number One – because it’s on the telly, like – which is just smashing because it really shows the depth of the possibilities. We all know it’ll most likely be whatever toss is spurted out of the X-Factor finals, but the field is genuinely open even with Cowell’s behemoth panting and redfaced by the finish line.

Shakin’ Stevens
Echoes of Merry Christmas Everyone

Blimey, this is quite a thing. I mean… it’s not really, it’s just an old dude doing a version of his most enduring song (in your FACE, This Ol’ House!) for charity, but if you’re of a certain age there’s a real depth of sadness to this. Shakey’s voice has a more strained, nasal sound to it, a real old man’s voice. There’s a life lived in these tones, and the direct comparison being so freely and readily available gives us a chance to hear it. Put simply, this is the Johnny Cash doing Hurt of Christmas songs.

Even the sleeve art is sort of melancholy, looking like a broken-down eggtimer in the snow. Time is running out, for whom? Shakey? The homeless folk being helped by the Salvation Army (it’s a Salvation Army benefit deal, so watch out for brass)? ALL OF US?

It’s the last one, of course. Shakey has seen the end, and it is nigh. Merry Christmas, everyone.

About Thom Willis

Thom is the curator of #microwrites - - and writes his own stories for He lives in London because, given the choice, who wouldn't?

13 thoughts on “Mostly Pop Christmas Special

  1. Oh my god the Shakey one! I’m going to have to give a fiver to the SA man outside Marks today. I think if I try to walk past he will know I watched the Shakey video during breakfast on my phone and my kid asked me if someone had died, and will give me a look. I like that Carly Rae has Ryan Adamsed you to the brilliance of George. (Oh I hate Last Christmas, though. Doesn’t it have no chorus and no middle eight and never change?)

    1. I think I have to disagree – Last Christmas has a positively FAMOUS chorus, and I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure it has a middle eight.

      Shakey is a gut-punch, isn’t he?

      1. Eh it’s all the same chords all the way through! Everything is merely a variation on the chorus. The sadness of Shakey, the difference in Shakey’s voice, those pictures. Where the old lady sits down next to the homeless person I lost it.

  2. So basically there’s ONE (1) contender which is an original song? This is getting ridiculous. Say what you want about the X Factor, at least they’ll actually be singing sometng we haven’t heard before. REGGIE AND BOLLIE FTW GHANA STYLE 🤗🤗🤗

    1. Or they’ll be singing Forever Young by Bob Dylan. Which, apparently, they will.

      There were other original songs (The Courteneers for example) that I omitted for space reasons. But yeah, it’s mostly covers and standards.

  3. Sign of a good journalist is one that has done a bit of research. The fact that you keep referring to Shakey rather than Shaky says it all!

    1. Thank you for implying that I might be even within the sphere of good journalism, very kind. I didn’t need to do research as I simply used the memory of being a Shakey fan as a child and writing his name on rough books at school etc.

      I am afraid I am baffled as to why you find it necessary to trudge around blogs being offended by acceptable misspellings in otherwise positive reviews, but thanks for reading anyway. Simply have a wonderful Christmas time, as Shaking Stephens might sing.

    2. The thing is, Shaky Fan, here at MostlyFilm we’ve been given more of the letter ‘e’ than we know what to do with this year, and if we don’t use them up by Dec 31st then we get charged for every one that went unpublished.

      So this seemed a pretty easy way to slip a few through the net. But you caught us, and we’re rightfully shamefaced. In our Review of the TV Year, we were planning on saying ‘Parkey’s a useless bastard’ instead of the traditional ‘Parky’s a useless bastard’, but as we’ve been rumbled, we’re going to have to be a bit more creative.

      Anywaye. Thanks for pointing it out.


      1. Of course, Shakespeare had no set way to spell his name and if it’s good enough for the original Shakey, it’s good enough for The Cornish Buddy Holly, as Shakie is known.

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