Spectral Nights Christmas Countdown 2020: Attendant choose Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Underneath the Tree’

It’s been such a strange year and in the spirit of togetherness and community, we’re going to be counting down to Christmas by sharing a selection of our – and our friends’ – favourite festive songs. Today, Andy Walker from Attendant talks through his thoughts on contemporary Christmas music.

‘Let’s get this out of the way – the Home Alone score by John Williams is the soundtrack to Christmas. If it’s not playing in the background while you’re opening your presents or eating your bodyweight in roast potatoes, you’re doing it all wrong.

Picking a pop song is harder though. For some reason it seems accepted wisdom among radio stations that Christmas playlists must consist only of songs written before 1994. Consequently, the same songs get trotted out every year, to the point where stalwarts like The Pogues and Slade start to grate. Where are the modern classics?

The lack of contemporary Christmas hits is weird, because there are thousands of artists still writing Christmas songs. It’s easy to see why. Every year, Santa delivers half a million dollars in royalty cheques to Mariah Carey, just for that one song she recorded quarter of a century ago. What musician wouldn’t want a slice of that? Maybe the problem is that so many of these new songs feel inauthentic, like they were written out of commercial opportunism rather than genuine enthusiasm. They feel like parodies of the classics.

The few songs that do feel authentic are mostly of the ‘Sad Christmas’ genre. Don’t get me wrong, I love songs about misery, but they can kind of bum you out at a time of year when you’re meant to be forgetting about all the negative stuff. 

For me, the best Christmas song must tick three boxes: upbeat; authentic; and from the post-Mariah era. There’s one that stands out – and it’s probably not a particularly cool choice – but Kelly Clarkson’s Underneath the Tree (2013) is an absolute Christmas banger. It has heaps of energy, a great vocal performance, and it’s mega catchy – plus it gets an extra ten points for the sax solo. All the vital ingredients are there, but it feels like an affectionate tribute to the classics, rather than a cynical rip-off. Above all it’s a feelgood track – and let’s face it, we all need some of that after the year we’ve had.’

Attendant recently released the single ‘Bootlicker’ – a timely anti-authoritant protest song that takes aim at political tribalism – and especially those whose loyalty to a leader overrides any principles they may have once had… It comes ahead of their debut EP release in early 2021.

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