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Mariah Carey v Wham! – who ought to lastly get their festive No 1?


Story of the track

All I Need for Christmas Is You

Mariah Carey’s 1994 hit sounds as if it was blessed with the twinkling stardust that appears to be falling in its opening notes: after adorning her dwelling with Christmas decorations within the peak of summer season, it was written in simply quarter-hour. That’s maybe a little bit of myth-making – co-writer Walter Afanasieff has stated the core melody and chords took an hour, they usually really carried on tinkering with it for a few weeks earlier than recording it – however very similar to Father Christmas himself, it’s one thing you need to imagine in.

Afanasieff was riffing with a one-handed boogie-woogie piano line, and Mariah began singing excessive. He was initially horrified, pondering her rising and falling melody appeared like scales you’d give a vocalist to observe with, however their imaginative and prescient cohered: a Sixties-style track made for the slick Nineties. It wasn’t eligible as a single within the US on launch, however after numerous rule modifications and the arrival of streaming, it lastly reached No 1 final yr, making it the slowest journey to the highest ever. Can it repeat the trick this yr within the UK? Ben Beaumont-Thomas

Final Christmas

Certain, Shakespeare wrote King Lear in quarantine, however George Michael wrote Final Christmas within the time it took Andrew Ridgeley to observe an episode of Match of the Day. It’s an expedient masterpiece, albeit one which George performed each painstaking notice of as soon as he acquired to Advision Studios, to the irritation of engineer Chris Porter. It was the other to the bloated, bouffant-heavy recording session for Band Help – George’s personal estimable bouffant among the many hairsprayed throng – and his meticulousness was no match for Bob Geldof’s gauche charity celeb beast, which claimed the 1984 Christmas No 1 spot.

In contrast to Do They Know It’s Christmas, nonetheless, Final Christmas’s status is unimpeachable: not only a festive basic, however a excessive watermark of mid-80s British synthpop songcraft, earlier than slick expertise killed sincerity a bit. George died on Christmas Day 2016, which prompted a concerted effort to get Final Christmas to No 1 the next yr – a battle it misplaced to Ed Sheeran. Now’s the possibility to proper its remaining festive indignity. Laura Snapes

Narrative power

All I Need for Christmas Is You

Mariah rejects the entire trappings of Christmas – stockings, toys – in favour of a single current: you. It does sound a bit like a death-or-glory tactic taken by a hapless girlfriend who’s forgotten to purchase her associate something. Furthermore, as one Chris Scott famous in a tweet that went viral: “Mariah Carey starting with ‘I don’t need quite a bit for Christmas’ after which revealing she needs ‘you’ is such a great burn.” Such humbuggery is just not within the spirit of the season, although: Mariah is definitely an anti-consumerist ascetic (admittedly one typically wearing shimmering gold), reminding us that the true which means of Christmas is the individuals round us. BBT

Final Christmas

George didn’t get the memo about Christmas being a season of goodwill to all males, a time for forgiveness and so forth. Final Christmas begins wounded, as he wallows within the reminiscence of his sweetheart betraying him the earlier yr, and solely hardens from there. Quickly we’re in “a crowded room, pals with drained eyes / I’m hiding from you and your soul of ice”. Soul of ice! Whereas his bitterness is tinged with hope, his promise of generosity to a brand new lover is tainted by his enduring infatuation for final yr’s mannequin, who he admits he’d nonetheless snog given half an opportunity. It’s a wealthy textual content, albeit one interpreted too actually by director Paul Feig and author Emma Thompson within the charmingly garbage 2019 romcom, Final Christmas, which includes precise coronary heart donation. However don’t maintain that in opposition to it. LS

Karaoke energy

All I Need for Christmas Is You

George’s story of woe possibly has the sting within the narrative stakes, however let’s take this struggle to the karaoke sales space, with a bucket of alcopops at six for £10 as a result of they’re close to their sell-by date, and let battle really begin. The introduction is made for earnest showboating, the outstanding backing vocals imply your friends can get entangled, and the 150bpm tempo ensures power ranges keep excessive. And when everybody goes for the highest notice on the finish en masse, there’s such highly effective kinship in all being so discordantly common collectively. BBT

Mariah Carey performing in 2016. {Photograph}: Gregory Tempo/REX/Shutterstock

Final Christmas

George’s vocal vary is much more accessible than Mariah’s – at the least to the typical Christmas celebration belter – and the harm within the verses supplies ample alternative for theatrical pouting. That stated, Final Christmas is the kind of track that appears like an excellent karaoke alternative, however one you nearly instantly remorse: the refrain repeats so many occasions, you’re caught in karaoke purgatory, your pals’ appreciation of your efforts changing into much less convincing by the second. Scarred from as soon as choosing Don’t You Need Me at karaoke, its emotional showdown sounding punier with each seemingly never-ending go round, I’m handing this one to Mariah. LS

Festive promise

All I Need for Christmas Is You

Final Christmas makes use of its sleigh bells sparingly, merely as an affordable signifier – however as soon as the beat kicks in, Mariah has hers enjoying during, as if by a toddler who has nailed the one job they’ve been given. There’s one thing so profoundly Christmassy about the complete endeavour, although: the string fanfare is like Santa cracking his whip, with the next melody careening like his magical sleigh throughout the hillsides. BBT

Final Christmas

There are three defining eras of Christmas single: Spector, glam and synthpop. Mariah merely revamps the previous. George just about invented the latter (through the Roland Juno-60), and his scrunched strings grew to become synonymous with a season of understanding artifice and glued-on glitter. He’s not simply unique, however astute: he understands how the rictus-faced pleasure of Christmas magnifies loneliness, and dials his harm as much as 11. It’s bitter but hopeful: there may be at all times subsequent yr. LS

The artwork for Last Christmas.

Renewed 2020 resonance

All I Need for Christmas Is You

For anybody having to self-isolate, the poignancy of the title could also be too bitter to abdomen, however for these of us dashing out and in of the government-mandated window of time to spend with their households, All I Need for Christmas Is You’ll be powerfully uplifting. After a yr of incessantly being saved aside, few minds can be on presents – all we now need is whichever “you” we’ve not been in a position to see, and the facelessness of the individual Carey is eager for signifies that it could stand for anybody. That common, countrywide sentiment is why it deserves to be No 1 on this yr of all years. BBT

Final Christmas

George’s dying on Christmas Day in 2016 made a festive staple right into a memorial to one among Britain’s biggest ever pop stars. His passing additionally prompted the revelation that all through his profession he had been a staunch and quiet supporter of the NHS, most cancers and Aids charities, homeless shelters, Childline and particular person causes that moved him – a legacy of generosity and feeling for fellow man that has resonated within the power of mutual assist this yr, and one which the federal government may heed. Plus, this Christmas is perhaps a lonely write-off for a lot of shielders, making the promise of time with somebody particular subsequent yr particularly potent. LS

• Who do you need to see declare the No 1 spot first? Argue your case within the feedback under.



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