Why hasn't there been a classic Christmas song in the last 25 years?
Where have all the Christmas songs gone?
Ever since the days of the earliest Christmas carols, Christmas music has been dishing out trippiness that makes Jefferson Airplane look like Daniel O'Donnell.
Take 'The Twelve Days Of Christmas', for example, which is clearly about a man who has ended up with a surplus of birds and doesn't know how to get rid of them. Or there's 'We Wish You A Merry Christmas', a song that ends with a horde of people refusing to leave a premises until they're given "figgy pudding" by some unnamed victim.
Good King Wenceslas? Who even is that guy?
As time moved on, modern bands continued the time-honoured tradition of writing Christmas tunes that become real weird once you think about them for like... five seconds.
There's 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday' by Wizzard, whose lead singer looked like if Albus Dumbledore was raised on a hippy commune. There's the one that features a man named Noddy Holder screaming "IIITTT'S CHRIIISTMAAAS."
There's Cliff Richard singing about Jesus. Boney M also singing about Jesus, but in a reggaeton Eurodisco kind of way. A song about Santa Claus literally making out with the singer's mother. And of course, 'Santa Baby', one of the horniest songs of all time that is entirely about having sex with Father Christmas in exchange for presents. Also, 'Mull of Kintyre'.
Sadly, the classics have fairly melted on the ground over the last 25 years. The last two I can think of are Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' and East 17's 'Stay Another Day', which is actually about suicide.
Fun fact! 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' has never been a number one in Ireland or the UK because it was beaten by the East 17 lads. Have that, Mariah.
Obviously, in that time, there have been popular re-imaginations of the classics, thanks to the team of scientists who thaw out Michael Bublé with hairdryers on 30 November each year. But no real bangers that would make Baby Jesus vibe in his manger.
'Mistletoe' by Bieber? Not enough character. 'Don't Let The Bells End' by The Darkness? Too much of a joke.
Christmas songs used to have purpose. Ambition. Whatever you think about him, John Lennon tried to stop literally all wars with his song. No, it didn't work - of course it didn't work - but what matters is that he tried.
Bob Geldof, Midge Ure and Bono brought us Band Aid and 'Do They Know It's Christmas', a well-intentioned song utterly littered with condescending inaccuracies about the continent of Africa (No snow? No rivers?) that features the very regrettable line (sang by Bono) "Thank God it's them instead of you." But they still raised $150 million in famine relief (with inflation, that would be $372 million today), so, you know, it was still quite an achievement.
There's 'Driving Home For Christmas', the lyrics of which kind of make it sound like Chris Rea is speeding home to kill his estranged family while they board up the windows and doors.
Then there's '2,000 Miles', 'Lonely This Christmas', 'Blue Christmas' and a whole other host of Christmas songs that remind us to be very, very sad.
We might not know that these things are what we need, but maybe they are. Maybe, rather than charity re-hashes of old songs, or audience-tested X Factor winning songs, what we need is something that we can't predict.
Perhaps, these days, in an effort to give us what they know we'll want, we're missing out on all the things that we don't want.
I think it says it all that one of the most famous recent Christmas songs is 'Mad World', a song which not only has nothing to do with Christmas whatsoever, but is actually just an existential crisis set to piano.
No music exec sat down and thought, oh yeah, bring back that Tears for Fears song about wishing you were dead, give it to a singer who looks and sounds exactly like the guy from REM but not the guy from REM and we'll make millions. It just kind of happened.
Just normal Christmas stuff.
Nobody could have predicted that these tunes would span the years and become embedded so irreplaceably in our culture, but here we are. For better or worse.
In recent years, radio DJs and casual pundits have turned their back on several songs for myriad different reasons. Homophobic slurs ('Fairytale of New York'), the suggestion that a man is trying to drug a woman into having sex with him ('Baby It's Cold Outside'), pretty much the kind of thing Cliff Richard would never approve of. All these songs encapsulate the deep, dark, eldritch strangeness that is the Christmas song and how complicated it is to create one.
What we need now is an artist to take a chance. To sit down and write a weird song that's kind of about Christmas but kind of about something else, like having sex with one of Santa's elves, or reversing climate change, or laying out some kind of strategy for why it should be winter all the time like Tilda Swinton in Narnia.
Ideally, it should be a duet with some entirely unrelated artist a la David Bowie and Bing Crosby, and then they need to make a video using technology that was invented no later than 1993. At the end, the camera would pan out and it would reveal they were trapped inside a snow-globe the whole time. That's how it's done.
That is the only solution to our recent drought. But even if that doesn't work, hey, at least it's only five more years until they make Band Aid 40.