I was once a little…um, okay, terribly obsessed with iTunes. I got my first iPod in 2004 and became immediately entranced by Apple’s seeming infinite lists of music for sale. Over the years, I spent way too much time on iTunes and spent way too much money on music, some of which was great, and some of which was not. In 2011, for the sake of my sanity and my bank account, I went cold turkey. I suspended my iTunes activities and completely stopped visiting site. With the iTunes Diaries, I take a look back, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly in music that I just had to have in the moment.
“Last Christmas” by Wham! is one of those songs. Even if you think you don’t know it or think you have never heard it, you have. Most recently, I heard a new version of it on a TV commercial. The singer is female, but I’ve no idea of her name or the group, and I don’t really care to look it up. Because “Last Christmas” should never be remade or re-sung by anyone because…
…it is that bad.
I bet you thought I might say because “it is that good,” but I can’t be an optimist in all things. And that’s particularly true with Christmas music, of which I am particularly particular about. I’ve tolerated “Last Christmas” since I first heard it in the 80s, and I spent the 99 cents to get it onto my iPod, but it is not a good song. In its original form, its barely anything at all – some whispering and synthesizers. In fact, if I’m not listening closely to the Christmas playlist on which it lives, I’m bound to miss it because, well…it’s missable.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t get some joy from it. I mean, the 80s side of me can’t help but like Wham! just a little. I actually came around to them after the fact, after George Michael became a solo artist with radio über-hits like “Faith,” “Father Figure,” and “I Want Your Sex.” I knew the likes of “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Careless Wisper,” but did Wham!’s history dig any deeper than that? I wasn’t that curious at the time; as I was more than happy to listen to their album Make it Big (1984) at my friend’s house. It contained those well-worn songs I knew. Later on in life I heard Wham!’s first major record, Fantastic (1983). It was…okay. Very Brit-pop. Too poppy.
“Last Christmas” appeared on Wham!’s next album, Music from the Edge of Heaven (1985), which I’m sure was not as forgettable as I remember , but that’s the only song from it I can recall. And over the years it became one of those modern Christmas songs that all the adult contemporary radio stations love to blast come the day after Thanksgiving. But if it’s barely a song to begin with, it’s hardly a Christmas song at all. I mean, outside of the word “Christmas” in the lyrics, the song has zip to do with the season. Now look, there’s a decent tradition of downer Christmas songs, those that lament being alone or sad on or around Christmas. “Blue Christmas,” “The Christmas Blues,” and “I Walk Alone (Through Every Christmas)” come to mind, but “Last Christmas” isn’t in the same league with them. It’s about a guy who got dumped around Christmas. End of story.
And yet, there it is, on my iPod, among the ranks of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (a downer song in its own right) and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I can’t say that I accept it fully alongside all the other “true” holiday songs, but I try every year to do just that. Because somewhere in this world, is a place where “The Christmas Song” resides in harmony with “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.” It’s a place I’m still searching for. And believing in “Last Christmas,” no matter how difficult on the ears it is, will help me find it.