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

Christmas is just around the corner. Traditionally the music industry has had engaged in a strange symbiotic partnership with this religious festival, contributing to the very concept of modern-times festivity with perennial sellers from Slade, Wham, Cliff Richard and other totems of yuletide celebration.

In recent years, though, we’ve endured what seems to be a permanent drought of quality Christmas singles. By our calculations it’s been over 20 years since we last added a track to our holiday playlist (thank you, Mariah). Regardless, every year a new batch of hopefuls attempt to elbow their way into permanence by kitting out their cast-offs with sleigh bells, good cheer and crass innuendo.

This week, we check out seasonal offerings from Popcaan, Major Lazer, The Melvins, Dej Loaf, The Killers and the youngest spawn of the Beckhams.


Major Lazer feat. Protoje – ‘Christmas Tree’

Haley Potiker: This is a song about weed disguised as a song about Christmas. Last month my boyfriend’s parents asked him whether or not I’m allergic to Christmas trees. I guess they assumed Jewish people would be allergic to them. We’re allergic to most things. But I personally love Christmas trees. I prefer them to alcohol. (6)

Chris Kelly: A pipe stuffer for stoners, Major Lazer and Protoje celebrate the other kind of Christmas trees. The reference is a bit on-the-reindeer-nose, but with its lilting reggae and EDM-blasted chorus, it’s a welcome addition to your Christmas playlist… right next to Cheech and Chong’s ‘Santa and his Old Lady’. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Diplo can now be proud that his and Protoje’s 2009-vintage rough draft of heavy drop zydeco elevator reggae can ascend to the artistic heights of Hail Mary Jane’s 8 Cannabis Christmas Carols. He may be happy with that – who knows, it’s Diplo after all and Diplo is stressful. (4)

Tayyab Amin: Is there a word for when you want to reload the track after a drop due to it being terrible and you just wish they could give it another go and maybe it’d be different next time? As soon as they tried to do something memorable and brought in the bloated synths and processed vocals I knew they were not ready to let 2016 go. I think this might be the couch snoozing part of the Christmas experience y’all talk about. (3)

Son Raw: Badmon Rave is actually a subgenre now – look it up. It’s basically brostep backwards, starting in Jamaica before adding EDM influences, but lest you expect some interesting new wrinkle in the formula, it’s just producers reverse-engineering Diplo’s continued mining of Jamaican music. So an entire subgenre of this, minus the Christmas. Aren’t you looking forward to 2017? (5)

4.8


Cruz Beckham – ‘If Everyday Was Christmas’

Haley Potiker: Is this Posh Spice and David Beckham’s kid?! Why are you doing this to us?????? The only thing I thought about while watching this video was how hard it’s going to be for Cruz’s au pair to get all that glitter washed off of him. (1)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I realised while searching for this on Spotify that Christmas Beckham is a perfect name and that it is now Cruz’s name. Anyway, this is an incredibly puzzling song to release, but we are far more forgiving of musical sins at this time of year than any other time, so we will give Christmas Beckham the benefit of the doubt and hope he got this out of his system, and that the songwriters proved a highfalutin structural experiment about stitching together sonic festive clichés (apart from that utterly confusing bass drop). Good job, Christmas Beckham! (2)

Tayyab Amin: I can’t really turn around and trash a Christmas single from an 11-year-old where all proceeds are going to charity. But. Let’s just say they knew exactly what they were doing when they were moving his voice behind the percussion and the bass in the mix. I know we’d like to think the kid could curl any school assembly performance into the top-right but let’s be real, no fandom is starting here. (2)

Son Raw: Turns out enough Auto-Tune and effects can give any kid an uncanny valley version of young Michael Jackson’s timbre, but there isn’t a supercomputer on Earth powerful enough to make a brat this rich sound funky. (1)

Chris Kelly: Someone call Krampus, or at least recreate that Dark Knight Rises scene where upper class Gothamites are ripped from their homes and thrown on the ice for their crimes against humanity. (0)

1.2


Popcaan – ‘Christmas Gift’

Haley Potiker: Is this the most romantic Christmas song ever made? It’s definitely hotter than any Hanukkah song I’ve heard. (9)

Son Raw: “Your pussy ah my Christmas gift”. I wouldn’t include this one in the family party playlist come the 25th, and as a non-Christian, I had no idea Christmas sex was a thing, but this one wins on the basis that in 2016, mommy doesn’t kiss Santa Claus, she bruks it down on him. (8)

Tayyab Amin: “Jingle bell inna your belly.” – Popcaan. “A peak in births in late September shows that more babies are conceived in the weeks leading up to and days after Christmas than at any other time of the year.” – Office for National Statistics. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Maybe we’re prudish for being shocked when Christmas songs involve talk of sex – probably something to do with that whole immaculate conception business – but holy cow, I could not stop myself from giggling in public at Popcaan defining nether regions as a Christmas gift. It’s ‘Dick in a Box’ but built for wining, and if you ever wished upon a star for such a thing, well… good tidings to you, weird person. (6)

Chris Kelly: Leave it to Popcaan to hang the mistletoe from his belt buckle with this holiday raunch fest. Never change, Poppy. (8)

7.6


Dej Loaf feat. Kodak Black – ‘All I Want For Christmas’

Chris Kelly: Christmas comes early as two of rap’s youngest empaths team up for a song about the true meaning of the holiday: being thankful for each other. Dej serves up pathos like hot chocolate, asking Santa for the ones she’s lost and recalling bittersweet childhood memories, while Kodak sounds wiser than his years: “Life ain’t tied with a bow but it’s still a gift.” (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: On first listen, this was the surprise of this week: a well-placed, melodic paean to family, made more poignant by the artists’ celebration of one another, captured in this video of Kodak Black singing Dej Loaf’s ‘Desire’ (presumably) after being released from prison. Then you read that Kodak, he of the multi-tracked lisp, could be going back to prison for a particularly queasy charge of sexual battery, and all that kinship turns into something messier and nastier. So focus on the straight-ahead performance by Dej, a performer who’s been part of very good moments without ever accessing greatness but comes upon it here with a song-closing soul rap for the ages. (8)

Son Raw: Disappointingly sappy. I was really hoping for some sort of Xmas murder rap from Kodak but instead this is old folks sentimentality with a couple of 808 hats. Then there’s Dej Loaf’s Motown monologue about being denied the right Jordans, which probably would have been better suited for a therapy session than the recording booth. (3)

Tayyab Amin: “Santa, I wish you could bring back some of my people.” :'( (5)

Haley Potiker: If all Christmas music sounded like this I’d sign up to Jews for Jesus. (10)

6.8


The Killers – ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’

Haley Potiker: Looks like I’m not joining Jews for Jesus. (1)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: This is at a Baz Luhrman-esque level of Great American Idea narration, where Brandon Flowers runs through a bunch of lovingly felt yet derivative images of Americana before bringing in his 83-year-old former teacher to sing a cappella, like something from Bisch Bosch. This is a real curiosity, but I’m going to point in the direction of this Forbes report claiming that The Killers’ annual Christmas songs have raised a million dollars for charitable causes over a decade. That’s pretty hard graft, and it’s fascinating that their artistic endeavours went towards more than mastering peculiar Western musical modes. This Christmas, be more like The Killers. (6)

Chris Kelly: Recorded to benefit the charity (RED), Brandon Flowers out-Bonos Bono by duetting his Christmas story with his fourth grade teacher. As welcome under my tree as a vegan fruitcake. (3)

Tayyab Amin: Look, I’m trying to get into this extended intro but this guy is just not an interesting storyteller and the whole accidental audiobook experience is not working out for me. I already feel like I’m stuck in class on a sunny day and then my guy starts a shaky duet with his elementary school teacher that’ll capsize sooner than a non-Auto-Tuned Lil Yachty. (4)

Son Raw: This is like taking a bus back home for Christmas and getting stuck next to some rando who won’t shut up about his life story. Midway through the ride he finishes his fifth of vodka and starts singing oldies. What I’m saying is, I can’t believe I got through this one without the presence of puke. (0)

2.8


The Melvins – ‘Carol of the Bells’

Son Raw: “From the Amazon Music Original Playlist ‘Indie For The Holidays’.” I mean, what can I even write that’s more horrifying than the Soundcloud description? See you next year, if Trump doesn’t blow up the planet. (-1)

Tayyab Amin: Firstly, I just want to establish that we’re listening to a festive Melvins tune from an Amazon Music SoundCloud page in a playlist with a strapline that brings Netflix to mind. Of course this gathering of the entire family in all their derangement is in the true spirit of Christmas, and to be honest the result isn’t half-bad. The momentous chants and hefty bass plus the gravely, harmonised additional vocals and smirking riffs put more of a spooky Halloween spin on the festivities, but fuck it – get you a holiday season that can do both. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: You always run the risk of going full Jack Skellington when riffing on festive staples, and Buzzo’s troupe doesn’t quite avoid that here. This’ll fulfil your soul better than a hymn, however, so bear in mind. (6)

Haley Potiker: Okay, I was already skeptical of Christmas music to begin with, and now I’m listening to a screamo cover of a song that I only really knew existed from a Burger King parody on Y2K Internet. (1)

Chris Kelly: Inoffensive but unnecessary, much like the rest of this Indie for the Holidays compilation. If you need me, I’ll be listening to the John Williams version from the Home Alone soundtrack. (4)

3.2


Final scores:

Popcaan – ‘Christmas Gift’ (7.6)
Dej Loaf feat. Kodak Black – ‘All I Want For Christmas’ (6.8)
Major Lazer feat. Protoje – ‘Christmas Tree’ (4.8)
The Melvins – ‘Carol of the Bells’ (3.2)
The Killers – ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ (2.8)
Cruz Beckham – ‘If Everyday Was Christmas’ (1.2)

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