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Each week on the FACT Singles Club, a selection of our writers work their way through the new music of the week gone by.

With the way individual tracks are now consumed, the idea of what constitutes a single has shifted dramatically in the last half a decade, and its for this reason that the songs reviewed across the next pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, SoundCloud uploads and more. This week we’ve got a holiday special, with Carly Rae Jepsen, Kylie Minogue, Fetty Wap and more.

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Carly Rae Jepsen – ‘Last Christmas’

Son Raw: Wait, are all of this week’s songs Christma– no no NO NO NOOOOOOOO! You’ll pay for this, FACT – you’ll pay dearly. Anyways, there’s a huge Mariah Carey influence here, which makes total sense given that Carly Rae was 10 years old at the peak of Mariah-mania. Which is fine, except that sax brings back painful memories of being put on hold by customer service when my cable went on the fritz. (5)

Claire Lobenfeld: I really wish Carly’s addition to the Christmas canon was an original, but alas. Ariana Grande, whose Christmas and Chill EP is, indeed, an opus to holiday hot times and sadly absent from this Singles Club, released a pretty lukewarm version of this last year that I assumed would be the “bad” one. Nope, Carly took the cake. (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: ‘Last Christmas’ is a romantic tragedy that we have defanged over the decades, the same way we refer to star-crossed lovers as Romeo and Juliet without pointing out that they both snuffed it. George Michael’s protagonist gets burnt by the lover who emotionally manipulated him, causing him to vow to find romance tried and true, even with little promise of that lover – any lover- returning his feelings. He even sings, “hold my heart and watch it burn” – as bleak a stroke of imagery as any line from ‘Jesus To A Child’. Carly Rae Jepsen is in some ways perfect for this low-key tragedy, as this year’s E*MO*TION album also carries a sense of the ephemeral and doomed inside its bubblegum core. Her smoky delivery highlights the oft-ignored emotional core of the song while staying out of a classic song’s way by not aping Michael’s delivery. (7)

April Clare Welsh: Jazzy! This is like an avant-pop retelling of The Mariah Story for the Cafe Oto scene. Pretty loose, which I totally wasn’t expecting, but I’m into it. Also, that saxophone is spot on. (8)

Tayyab Amin: Once again, my chances of being enthralled by Carly Rae Jepsen’s voice are thwarted by saxophone. She’s great and takes the lead well once the track explodes into life after the first chorus. It’s pretty and optimistic. I just wish they’d left the brass behind in exchange for a ridiculous strings overkill. (6)

6

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Kylie Minogue – ‘Only You’ (ft. James Corden)

April Clare Welsh: The idea of Kylie covering Yaz with added festive twinkles is, for me, the very essence of the phrase “all my Christmasses have come at once,” BUT then James Corden comes bounding in like a stupid lolloping dog and shits all over the picture. What is that American accent about and why does he also sound like Terry Wogan? (6)

Tayyab Amin: This is not just a Christmas song, it’s an M&S Christmas song. Bland, vanilla, and surely made for an advert to celebrate the same kind of unremarkable mediocrity. The moment that feigns poignancy in a morning zoo show or, at a push, soundtracking the final 30 seconds of a British TV show’s season finale. A straight-up margarine sandwich of a track. (2)

Son Raw: This one wins on the basis that it covers a Yazoo/Flying Pickets song used as the end theme of Fallen Angels, my favorite Wong Kar Wai film – by sheer accident this actually evoked genuine nostalgia and emotion in my hardened and cynical soul. They just had to layer the schmaltz on that arrangement though. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Look, James, it wasn’t bad when you scratched that itch and sang backup for the Cool But Creepy Dad version of Gary Barlow, but the world didn’t need this. I liked you in the car with The Biebs, though! (1)

Claire Lobenfeld: This just further confused me about what exactly is James Corden’s deal. And way too shmaltzy. Pass. (N/A)

3.8

Fetty Wap – ‘Merry Xmas’ (ft. Monty)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Before anybody makes a weird face about rappers making festive songs, let’s cast our minds back to 1979 and Kurtis Blow’s ‘Christmas Rappin’ (RIP Kool DJ AJ, on the real), which helped make hip-hop a major label concern. It isn’t that strange for Fetty to end his year alongside his fellow Remy Boy, extolling a Merry Christmas to one and all, his second verse ‘Trap Queen’-esque repetition of “baby” marking a festive end to a very successful year. And the high-rolling lifestyle doesn’t stop for the 25th: “You can even see your man tomorrow,” we’re told, effectively making this a Christmas anthem for all the sidepieces everywhere. Way better than that “TTYL” text, right? (6)

Claire Lobenfeld: Wow, Fetty toned down the Makonnen Sinatra affectations to really let Monty get his shine, huh? That’s a Christmas miracle! Otherwise, total snoozer. My alt recommendation, since it’s a giving time of year, is RuPaul x Big Freedia’s new one, ‘Jingle Dem Bells’. (3)

Tayyab Amin: So what if this is just a DLC festive reskin of other Fetty and Monty tunes? So what if the line, “We’re all in love with Christmas, it’s true,” is lazy and completely unconvincing? Fact is, I haven’t heard an Xmas song that bangs like this one for a while, and I’m really glad the holiday’s had the Fetty treatment. After the year he’s had, there’s no one else I’d rather hear this from. (8)

Son Raw: Fetty Wap is milking that “for my baby” lyric like he won’t be around next year, isn’t he? For a duo known for their unrestrained joy, this ode to the holidays is firing on half cylinders. They probably enjoyed making this about as much as I did listening to it, but at least they likely had drugs. (3)

April Clare Welsh: I love the horror synth intro but talk about festive cheer: Fetty Wap sounds wasted! It’s like he’s been necking sherry all day. There are so many lolz bits, like “take a trip to Tiffany / Late night you’ll be missing me,” (WTF, I thought people stopped shopping there in 1999) and it’s probably the most cobbled together Christmas song ever, but in a way it’s totally in tune with my current discombobulated, post-party mental state, so thanks. (7)

5.4

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Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – ‘8 Days of Hannukah’

Tayyab Amin: I can’t say with any confidence that I’ve heard a song about Hanukkah before, so it’s cool to see it given some spotlight amidst the all-entombing Christmas build-up. There’s not much beyond the novelty, but it’s delivered in such a well meaning way that I find it quite warming. (6)

Claire Lobenfeld: This is fun, but like, the part where Jones sings, “I like it more than Pesach” is so weird! I don’t know, Passover is kinda lit. You have to drink four glasses of wine and if you grew up like me, the Seder is short. This is a great thing to have over that trilogy of Adam Sandler mishegas, but still a little head-scratchy. (6)

April Clare Welsh: What’s not to like about a song that namechecks brisket? (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: It’s hard to get excited about Christmas music year on year, but with this I believe my new beat will be Hannukah jams. Bonus points would have been given for dropping in a Holiday Armadillo voice, but they rocked the holy hell out of ‘I Have A Little Dreidel’ AND had a Schoolhouse Rock-referencing video, so goddammit, give them all the points. I care about December Music again! (9)

Son Raw: Dap King horns? No tacky arrangements? It’s a mitzvah! I’m betting the tribe could win a few people over if we made Hannukah Soul a thing. Never mind that even we don’t get this excited over the holiday and most of us forget to light those candles at least once, I want to hear Jodeci sing about the Maccabees. Pass the brisket. (7)

7

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The Killers – ‘Dirty Sledding’ (ft. Ryan Pardey and Richard Dreyfuss)

April Clare Welsh: Rockabilly? Honky-tonk? Glam? Skanky looking animals? Does this song have any idea what it’s about? That guitar solo is quite uplifting but there’s basically not enough room in the Christmas canon for another Darkness. (5)

Son Raw: This one’s shit, but not because it’s a Christmas song, just ’cause it’s a Killers song. You ain’t no Freddy Mercury, bruv. (1)

Claire Lobenfeld: This is just nonsense. Once I think I start understanding the narrative, it veers somewhere else. And I like a good absurdist Xmas tune – ‘I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,’ anyone? – but this is too much. But, hey, if Brandon Flowers’ holiday wish is to truly unlock the swag between himself and Freddie Mercury, I think he did it. (3)

Tayyab Amin: If I was seven years old watching this on Saturday morning TV I’d probably sing it terribly for a week straight. I think this song’s a good litmus test to separate those who unabashedly embrace Christmas cheer from those who can’t think of anything worse. But then I never considered myself a part of the latter camp until I heard this song. (2)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The multi-tracked vocals reminded me of the Air Band in Scrubs playing ‘More Than A Feeling’, which is my gift to everyone reading this. (3)

2.8

Loose Tapestries – ‘Can’t Wait for Christmas’

Claire Lobenfeld: This is that band with Old Gregg, right? That’s why there’s a bit about covering yourself in goose fat? Otherwise, I don’t get it. Now, if someone could just get on making one good Chrismukkah song that isn’t sung to the tune of ‘Lack of Color’ by Death Cab, then I think we can start accepting new holiday songs next year. But this exercise has been way too weird. (2)

Tayyab Amin: It’s produced well, includes annoying voices, and channels that British zaniness for humour. From the combination of people making appearances to the track’s delivery, it stinks of ‘ROFL xD so random!!’, but I do think it’s fun to, er, explore how the Christmas experience can differ for people. In theory, anyway. (4)

Son Raw: This pin-pricks the pomp and ridiculousness of Christmas music so I can’t judge it TOO harshly, but they’re actually so good at capturing the style’s relentless cheer that it’s still making me want to rip my ears out. Let’s cut it down the middle, get drunk and listen to Wiley’s ‘Cheer Up, It’s Christmas’ – the only appropriate holiday soundtrack for our merry gang of haters. Happy holidays and see you in 2016, Singles Club! (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: At the start of this year, I joined in with #MWE, aka Music Writing Exercise, where as Twitter users reviewed albums they’d never heard before in a single tweet. It was a fun exercise, finally enabling me to become familiar with those Sonic Youth albums I had kicking about, but also challenged me to tussle with a band I’d always mocked: Kasabian. Aside from that clunky moment on ‘eez-eh’ about “being watched by Google”, I found myself enjoying a swing through 48:13. So for 2016, I’m going to say that I’m cool with Kasabian and by extension, cool with Loose Tapestries, which is just Sergio Pizzorno and Darkest Timeline Sergio Pizzorno faffing about. I never need to listen to this forced mix of groove, surrealism and Ironic Christmas Themes again, but good on these friends for making it, because their shared fun is obvious, if completely non-contagious. I will say this about every time Idris Elba raps badly on a song: it makes me sick, motherfucker, how far we done fell. (1)

April Clare Welsh: What the fuck is this? (4)

3.2

Final scores:

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – ‘8 Days of Hannukah’ (7)
Carly Rae Jepsen – ‘Last Christmas’ (6)
Fetty Wap – ‘Merry Xmas’ (ft. Monty) (5.4)
Kylie Minogue – ‘Only You’ (ft. James Corden) (3.8)
Loose Tapestries – ‘Can’t Wait for Christmas’ (3.2)
The Killers – ‘Dirty Sledding’ (ft. Ryan Pardey and Richard Dreyfuss) (2.8)

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