Three days before Christmas 2016, Jeremih and Chance the Rapper dropped Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama—a mixtape that had all the hallmarks of Chance’s work the rest of the year. It had a spiritual, moral and socially active backbone as well as a clear sense of place. It was unquestionably an urban album, and “I’m Your Santa” moves to Chicago stepping’s trademark groove.
“Love’s Not Just for Christmas” isn’t only a good song. It opens doors to a host of good questions from the first upward sweep of strings. Just before they reach a crescendo, a buoyant piano pumps out chords over which a female R&B singer describes a domestic vignette from the holiday season. “The whole world smiles as there’s only love in the air,” she sings before the female vocal ensemble that back her step warmly into the bouncy chorus that concludes with the title sentiment.
The number of suicides don’t go up during the Christmas season. A CDC study shows that suicide attempts are actually at a yearly low in December, but the urban legend makes sense. Shorter, darker days added to Christmas’ ability to push people’s buttons can weigh heavily, particularly when balanced by gaiety of Christmas trappings.
[Updated] According to singer Judith Owen, Christmas has two sides—“Bloody awful and wonderful,” and both are represented in Christmas songs. When sung together, they’re shared expressions of community, but “they're all about yearning,” she said in 2012. “They're about missing home. They're about missing people. Songs like 'White Christmas' and 'The Christmas Song' are about yearning. 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' is one of the saddest songs I've heard in my entire life."
Don't sleep on Spotify's Holiday Singles, Black Santa's Mixtape, Kaskade's late night Christmas, Bloodshot's irreverent holiday favorites-to-be, and new Christmas releases from Lindsey Stirling, Tav Falco and Sultans of String.
Scott McCaughey’s songs for The Minus 5 rarely line up exactly. They don’t go down the same oddball surrealist path that Robyn Hitchcock treads, but they are similarly more concerned with mood and feel that strict narrative coherence.
[Update] Those who know Tav Falco know for either Panther Burns’ blind-man-with-a-flare-gun approach to rockabilly and American roots music, or they know him as the tango guy. The latter is a trickier stance to get a grip on because his edge, if he has one, isn’t obvious. Maybe his tongue is every so delicately in his cheek, but he might really be serious too.
The Christmas music business doesn’t wait for Halloween, much less Thanksgiving. Gwen Stefani, Cheap Trick, Hanson, and Lindsey Stirling have already released their Christmas albums, Stirling’s including a guest spot from Trombone Shorty. It seems premature, but history shows that the right release can do more business in the last three months of the year than many do with much larger windows.