Sunday, 15 November 2009

Christmas Just Ain't Christmas: Diva Incarnate Festive Playlist

November is getting all too busy for Diva Incarnate, so before I close the blog for 2009 in December (with posts still to arrive throughout this month), here are some face-changing Christmas songs listed in no particular order, of which are not all predictable shopping complex noise - my own perspective on Christmas can veer from the wintry chill of a Ladytron ballad, to the positively arctic gale in which Siouxsie's vocal flickers into on Heaven & Alchemy, to the pledging romance of a Whitney track, and finally to the ridiculously cute Fast Food Rockers' I Love Christmas, which almost makes one sneaze aspartame.

Alizée - A quoi rêve une jeune fille
Poised and sultry bedroom sighing, Elizee sings this as if hypnotised by her pining hearts desire, and the chiming bells seem to allude to missing an opportunity or time's exposure of one's mistakes.

Cristina - Things Fall Apart
Siouxsie Sioux praises this as being the perfect soundtrack for cleaning up the wreckage of a festive party - where are all your friends when it's time to clean up? The emotionally broken lyrics are almost deliciously depressive: 'I grabbed a cab back to my flat, And wept a bit, And fed the cat.' If Grace Jones was a white English girl who attended Harvard with a tactic of wry and crushing lyrics juxtopsed with jaunty melodies, this would be it.

Siouxsie & The Banshees - The Last Beat of My Heart
Like a funeral of Christmas, Siouxsie's mournful vocal is sung softly in calm recovery conveying a sultry and morbid arua of dull panic: 'how in the world can I wish for this?' she breathes, as the song laments, 'a bridge of sighs'. That epic lyric alone is an eclipse of apprehensive dissilusion.

Siouxsie & The Banshees - Starcrossed Lovers
I don't know how I can quite argue this rusty Tinderbox outtake is festive, but it's Siouxsie's most darkly romantic song and tastes a different flavour than much of what else the band ever recorded, bathed in sardonic lust and 'murderous delight'. With its evocative glamour, it is in my Banshees top 10 without a doubt.

Siouxsie - Heaven & Alchemy
Simply the best song she has written since Kiss Them For Me, Siouxsie's throaty perfume mists itself into a wainters gail. Like an emotional snow globe,her lyric is of exhaustion and deals with themes that Christmas often makes one reflect upon: namely death, suicide, sadness and fear of aging. The distortion at play as she knocks back 'I'm in love with the idea of you' in rush reality' is a lot less cryptic than usual, the sadness and pain much more revealing. Her crystalline voice almost chokes on the stoic longing, which is tenderly erotic as it is tragic. This after-hours jazz elixar ought to have been the album Mantaray's lead single.

The Childliners - The Gift of Christmas (Motiv8 Mix)
Rapant adrenaline is spiked with Dannii's delicious vocals, of which duties are shared with a bunch of forgotten 90s acts including Michelle Gayle.

Cyndi Lauper - Christmas Conga
Lauper slam dunks her festive 1998 Sony swansong with the type of gyrating anthem pal Gloria Estefan ought to have strived for on her own Xmas album - released as a kiss-off to her label, Cyndi delivers her fuck-you moment by chirping in sarcastically 'oh by the way, have a nice life!'

Hole - Northern Star
Midnight stargazing strummer, exposed and vulnerable, it works perfectly as a festive song as well for it fills the air with atmosphere you can almost taste. Courtney made this her band's centre peice for their '99 festival shows.

The Killers & Toni Holliday - A Great Big Sled
Gilstening, gleaming, clean-cut Killers melody and optimistically chugging bass - enter Ms. Holiday's divine pursuit with her light and fragile discrimination. Her plaintive 'can't do that' lays proceedings to rest, and makes me wish it were a brand new chorus.

Ladytron - All The Way
Drafty, thin yet thistle-like vocals, like a sheen of lamenating ice, freeze the tears into a coldly emotive and delicate tone. Best moment: the almost off-guard icicle-tears emotion of Helen Marnie sighing'you come here' sucks you in with almost suffering kindness.

Roxette - Reveal (Kleerup, Attic & Original edits)
Kleerup's star-tinkling production glistens with dampening synths falling lighter than snowflakes, which take advantage of Marie's gorgeously regal vocals which sound softer than ever. The attic edit teeters into illumination, with a clock-striking urgency.

Belinda Carlisle - (We Want) The Same Thing
Belinda's scary verses and gushing chorus collide to capture the seasonal drama of two racists fighting for the last copy of Fight For This love.

Dana International - Love Story of Chas
Dana's doo-wopping surprise is a firm Christmas current where even her phlegm-spitting pronounciations seem goodnatured and touching, with beaming production that is enchanting and dreamily uptempo. The wimpering finale is a messy end, which I love as if watching the image of a polaroid before it curdles when set alight.

Cyndi Lauper/Blue Angel - Maybe He'll Know
Originally a Blue Angle track, the Cyndi solo 1989 'Special Mix' is a bombastic festive cork-popper of a pop song - no other singer can sound so wanton, silly and endearingly daft and make it an actual artform. Pure perfection, sample lyric: don't even bother, just immerse yourself in Cyndi's eagerly uninhibited and unbalanced wailing, which makes it a wonder she never toppled over recording it.

Ace of Base - Always Have, Always Will
Foot-tapping 60s kitsch pop that's almost as good as the Spice Girls' Stop. Song's key moment: the whooping galore that trips you up for the title lyric from the chorus.

Lutricia McNeal - The Greatest Love You'll Never Know

Sugababes - Look At Me
The 1.0 line-up's snowflake vocals on this define Christmas 2003 for me - I won't say why explicitly, but I have that typical 'from the outside looking in' syndromme and I used to hear this at a moment of a day within a particular period when I actually felt inside the window. Ugh, who needs to know this. The title lyric is poignant without being too literal, holding on to the past is gently put to ease.

Sugababes - Ace Reject
Stunning second-guessing ballad about coming to terms with your looks and whatever else you might worry about.

Rachel Stevens - Nothing Good About This Goodbye
A mid-tempo Alexis Strum track given the electro treatment for personality incarnate Rachel Stevens, who ironically does a better job at it - a genuine missed opportunity.

Bertine Zetlitz - Snow On A Hot Day
Up their with Cyndi Lauper's Christmas Conga for inverting the usual ingredients of a festive anthem.

Bertine Zetlitz - Bubble Bursts
Bertine's best songs have a sort of stale depressive glamour to them - this one oozes out of fresh wounds, sung like a decieving lullaby.

Bertine Zetlitz - Death In Her Room
Sensual and sardonic, Bertine's never sounded warmer despite the fear held prisoner in the title.

Prince - Gold
Melody just floods out of this one like Michelle McManus getting into the bath. Festively crisp and utterly anthemic.

Prince - Sometimes It Snows In April

Prince - Another Lonely Christmas

Tori Amos - Winter's Carol
The standout from her new festive CD.

Kleerup - Longing For Lullabies
Distilling melancholy and innocense, Neneh Cherry's sisters vocals are an acquired taste but her whimpering style is the perfect match for the wistful brittle disco ballad.

Sophie B. Hawkins - Damn ... I Wish I Was Your Lover
Criminally underrated 3-hit-wonder.

Natalie Imbriglia - Beauty On The Fire

Sheila E - The Belle of St. Mark
This shimmying Christmas nugget is a true gem with more spark than the fireworks between Louis Walsh and an unsigned boyband begging him for a chance to show him what they have got to give.

Eternal - I Am Blessed
This one got the Pope's seal of approval, which Esther couldn't stop texting Louise. Esther really had a knack for this kind of sentimental trash, it's a wonder they stopped singing them.

Eternal - Someday
Disney smaltz-fest I have never been able to resist - Esther sings her lungs off yet never loses her mega-bitch class we all love her for.

Mica Paris - One
Lung-splattering rendition of the U2 song, but actually amazing.

My Love Is Your Love - Whitney
Although Whitters does have a Christmas album, including her huff-and-puff original called One Wish, this lighters-in-the-air love anthem fits the million dollar bill with greater ease, and is probably the final classic from the singer before it all when to shit.

All I Want For Christmas - Mariah

Nina Hagen - Ave Maria
Nina gets this just right, splattering her guts is exactly what Christmas is crying out for - her operatic ghost-like wailing is just divine and begins with softer melancholy few would give her credit for.

Stay - East 17
The terminal pathos quakes with sheer beauty - like teenage dilfs showing tenderness, the effect is devastating.

Fast Food Rockers - I Love Christmas

Gloria Estefan - Everlasting Love
Sidestep her Xmas disc, this is where the party's at.

Saint Eitenne - I Was Born On Christmas Day
Glittery production and Cracknell's candyfloss vocals.

Dolly Parton - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Irrepressibly charming.

Celine Dion - Titanic Is Over
Celine's flaky vocals can't really carry a Christmas tune, but she gets her original teeth tuck into John Lennon's classic, and it is the standout from her These Are The Special Times album from 1998.

Diana Ross - Winter Wonderland
Taken from her - no exaggeration - stunning 1994 stopgap album A Very Special Season. I can't quite choose out just one cut, so check out my track-by-track review from two years ago here (scary - doesn't time fly when no one reads your blog?).

En Vogue - Jingle Bells (Euro & Rock Mixes)
Ruthless eurobeats tart this one into a definate favourite of mine, and the original serves as the unnoficial follow-up to Free Your Mind I kid you not.

Cyndi Lauper - Home On Christmas Day
Cyndi feels 'a little queer', her gorgeous delivery is subtle-but-catching and the folksy melody is a true classic even if she sounds as if she's puffing on a fag in between takes. Cyn serves a feative feat on her Merry Christmas ... Have A Nice Life album, which draws from 2 songs from her 1993 and 1997 albums respectively and seasons them with brand new cuts of which 5 are originals.

Cyndi Lauper Vs The Hives - A Christmas Duel
Cyndi assumes the role of 'cougar of Christmas past' on this call and response update of the Shane McGowan variety with skinny Swedes The Hives.

Madonna - Oh Father
The wilting orchestra, which then ripples into a cold shiver, makes this one of Madge's finest even before she has even wailed a note. And when she does it's her most effective vocal to date and lyrics that are almost too much to bare. Oh Father collects dust and only gets better through the years.

Kylie Mingoue - Please Stay
Kylie's sprightly flamenco flutter might not be an obvious choice, but it was a festive release (and UK #10), with Kylie's cleanly sung chorus gathering steam and thawing one back to body temperature. Snug and adorably comforting - like having too much botox, it just evaporates all worry.

Dannii Mingoue - I'll Be Home For Christmas
Dannii smashes this one out the park with her languid vocals compensating for her lack of having a clue.

Girls Aloud - Not Tonight Santa
The single that never was. I seriously don't understand why it was not released. It should be regarded as much a classic as Mariah's All I Want For Christmas. I can repeat these sentences over and over again - they would have had a selling point year after year, but nevermind. A fan favourite in the truest sense.

Girls Aloud - Count The Days
A lighter strummer in contrast to the bombastic Christmas tree shake of Tonight.

Solid HarmoniE - Give Love On Christmas Day
I had no idea this was a cover until I heard the SWV version, so for me this remains the original - I love the harmonies of which sound like street walkers huddling around a passed out santa trying to keep warm whilst searching for a wallet.

SWV - Christmas Just Ain't Christmas
A rare and underrated gem of an original festive track, taken for their stop-gap album and yet is seriously dreamy.

Eurythmics - Winter Wonderland
Annie is obviously getting a kick out of this arrangement, which is on par with the classic vintage sound of the duo, with her vocals conveying the menace of imposing icicles hanging withviolent intent.

Annie Lennox - No More I Love You's
Annie's theatrical masterpeice is her very own Teardrops (a la the Massive Attack track), it's soundscape pensively nourishing a broken heart back to life. Nearly a UK #1, it's a superstitious and heartwarming love tale of unhinged beauty.

Kate Bush - December Will Be Magic Again
Like tip-toeing to discover the arrival of presents before you should, Kate's restraint squaking flows into a lush cutlery of coin-dropping arrangements.

Kate Bush - Moments of Pleasure
Lush and heartwarming - every musical flourish seems to paint a picture of Christmas in New York, albeit a greiving one.

Darlene Love - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
My favourite festive song - a tornado of galeforce Christmas pathos, Love's derranged vocal and Cher amonst the backing singers (and told to stand a step back from the others to give them a chance at being heard). To hear Cher's deadpan 60s drawl is a delight and yet it never detracts from Darlene's gigantic-yet-never-overcooked performance.

Waitresses - Christmas Wrapping
Like undoing the top button of your jeans, this is the definative couldn't give a fuck and let it all hang out I-hate-Christmas Christmas anthem - the best Yuletide rap track ev er.

Coming Soon:

Danniiographii (Parts 2, 3, 4 & 5)
Lady Gaga Vs Beyonce
Sugababes 4.0
Depeche Mode
Best of 2009

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