Looking for something new to drown out the family rows on Christmas Day? Here’s our pick of the new festive releases from this year…
Robbie Williams – The Christmas Present
Somehow 2019 became the year it’s OK to like Robbie Williams, with the likes of DIY giving his BST Hyde Park show rave reviews, and the phrase “national treasure” getting bantered about the place. So what better way to keep the masses on board then by releasing a double collection of new and old Christmas songs.
Of course, Robbie’s no stranger to covering classics – his 2001 album, Swing When You’re Winning, saw him take on Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and the like, bringing your nan into the fan base, and giving him and Nicole Kidman the Christmas #1 with Something Stupid. Here he takes on The Christmas Song and Let It Snow!… with ease, but it’s the big band take on Slade‘s Merry Christmas Everybody (with Jamie Cullum) that’s one of the brassier highlights.
Rod Stewart and Bryan Adams also show up, as well as Tyson Fury (?!) who duets on an original track called Bad Sharon, which is just the sort of cheeky, festive bomp you’d expect, while Rudolph has more of a traditional take, and Soul Transmission (originally a demo released as the B-side to 2001’s Different) is a euphoric, synthy number that could be the Pet Shop Boys‘ next Christmas number one.
Magne F – White Xmas Lies
For his third solo album, a-ha‘s Magne Furuholmen has released his first Christmas collection – but don’t expect Slade or Sinatra covers on this one. White Xmas Lies is, as Mags puts it, “an antidote to the schmaltzy music which is spewed out every year… I am ashamed to be part of a Christmas which these days seems to be mostly about buying mire and more shit that no one really needs or wants… A tacky, superficial celebration in stark contrast to the original Christmas message of hope, charity and compassion”.
It’s unlikely The Queen’s Christmas speech will be too similar, but despite his distain for Christmas as it is today there’s still warmth and festivity inside Magne, as shown on The Light We Lost and A Punch-Up On Boxing Day – fuelled by the melancholy of his a-ha songwriting, and delivered with the sparce lo-fi of his other solo LPs. There are covers though, including previously released a-ha demo Differences, and AC/DC’s Hell Bells.
Politics are covered on lead single This Is Now America, which is certainly no new USA Holiday classic, but does see Magne just as honest about the state of the world as he is about Christmastime.
Björn Again – Christmas Is Björn Again
While we keep our breaths held for those two (or more) new ABBA songs, renowned parody Björn Again – who opened Glastonbury this year to rapturous applause – release their first recordings for almost as many years as it took Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Frida to get back in the studio. The difference is these songs are not ABBA songs, although if you didn’t know the originals you could be forgiven for thinking they’re long lost demos.
The Kelly Clarkson modern Christmas anthem Underneath The Tree sounds like even more of a classic pop number with a Waterloo-esque energy and those iconic (replicated) harmonies, while The Killers‘ Human channels The Winner Takes It All, Mamma Mia and Super Trouper, and is every bit as fabulous as you’d expect.
Mariah Carey – Merry Christmas (Deluxe Anniversary Edition)
To celebrate it’s 25th anniversary, Mariah Carey‘s first festive collection, Merry Christmas, is re-released and expanded to include live versions, remixes and other Christmas cuts. The Phil Spector influenced All I Want For Christmas Is You needs no introduction – and is often, rightfully credited as being the sole reason for Christmas’ continued popularity, while Miss You Most (At Christmas Time) has more in common with Mariah’s non-festive, early 90s work.
The main album is mainly made up of takes on carols with gospel backing, including O Holy Night, and a donk-heavy Joy To The World that’s right up House Gospel Choir’s street. On the bonus disc, there are treats from 2010’s Merry Christmas II You, including the soulful John Legend duet When Christmas Comes and lead single/banger Oh Santa, as well as the Disney-esque theme to 2017 film, The Star.