NASHVILLE, Tennessee, Nov 29, (AP): ‘Tis the season for bright, cheery holiday music playing ad nauseam on the radio, in shopping malls and television commercials. But if you’re not feeling the Christmas spirit, there’s still a song for you.
Take Elvis’ mournful “Blue Christmas”, released in 1957, which has become a holiday staple. Or consider Stevie Wonder’s “Someday At Christmas”, a Vietnam War-era song about wishing for a world where all men could live in equality and peace.
But a few contemporary artists are also tapping into less-than-jolly emotions to write new songs for Christmas.
Contemporary Christian pop singer Amy Grant is synonymous with Christmas. She’s put out several Christmas albums over the course of her career, including a couple that went platinum, and regularly hosts holiday tours and performances. But she said some fans told her that their holidays aren’t always so joyous.
“I’ve recorded a lot of Christmas music, but I thought, what I haven’t done is to consider somebody that spends their holidays alone”, Grant said, during an interview in Nashville, Tennessee. “I want to make a record for an audience of one. I want to tell one person ‘Merry Christmas’ and I want to be willing to sit there in the sadness too”.
Her new holiday record, “Tennessee Christmas”, which has reached No. 3 on Billboard’s Holiday Album chart, includes several non-traditional yuletide tunes: “Melancholy Christmas”, “Another Merry Christmas”, and “December”. The lyrics speak to people who have no one to talk to, who have lost loved ones or who have struggled to make it through the year.
Grant said fans have taken to her Facebook page to talk about their feelings of grief, isolation and loneliness. And they have been reaching out to each other for support.
“My goal with this record is I am making it safe to say, ‘I am alone’,” Grant said. But not everyone is a fan of her somber approach to holiday music. LifeWay Christian Resources, the national retail arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, decided not to stock the record. Jennifer Cooke, Grant’s manager, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post about LifeWay’s decision and said songs like “Melancholy Christmas” were bringing people together despite the fact that the song never mentions Jesus.
Soul singer Andra Day re-introduced “Someday At Christmas” to a new generation of fans last year when she sang it with Wonder during a holiday TV commercial. That song is included on her new holiday EP, “Merry Christmas from Andra Day”.
“I love that it has all the spirit of Christmas in the song, but at the same time the message in the song is beautiful, and it’s relevant and it’s selfless, taking an opportunity to celebrate Christmas but to also say, ‘Hey, there are things we need to address’”, she said.
Country singer Kacey Musgraves is new to the holiday music tradition, releasing her first collection of Christmas songs this year called “A Very Kacey Christmas”. Known for her acerbic wit in lyrics, Musgraves covered the funny side of Christmas with “A Willie Nice Christmas”, with Willie Nelson, as well as holiday classics like “Feliz Navidad” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.
Celebrated composer Hans Zimmer is hitting the road again with his career-spanning concert tour, which he describes as a little bit cinematic and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. “People came thinking it’s going to be sort of a bit stodgy … It’s going to be the pretentious composer sitting at his big, black, grand piano”, the Oscar winner said of his tour, “Hans Zimmer Revealed”, which kicked off in Europe earlier this year.
“It’s a very, very different way of presenting music”, Zimmer said in a recent interview at his recording studio in Santa Monica. “I come from rock ‘n’ roll so I had to sort of go back to my humble beginnings”. So Zimmer enlisted Pink Floyd’s lighting designer Marc Brickman to set the mood for the energetic show. He looked to his favorite concert-going experiences, ranging from David Bowie at London’s Earls Court in the 1970s to taking his 10-year-old son to his first concert — by The Rolling Stones.
“You’re supposed to aim for something that people will remember for the rest of their lives and all the good shows I saw did exactly that”, he said. Zimmer also leaned on friends Pharrell Williams and The Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr to help him overcome stage fright.
“Those two were pretty much the main offenders going, ‘You can’t hide behind that. You got to go out there. You have to go and do it.’ And so they sort of set the tone and they were sort of my mentors and teachers in this”, he said of Williams and Brickman, whom he worked with on “The Amazing Spider Man 2” score.
Audiences can expect classic renditions and a few fresh reboots of some of Zimmer’s most popular film scores, including “Gladiator”, “The Lion King”, “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “The Dark Knight Trilogy”.
“When you play ‘Lion King’, you suddenly realize that that was part of so many people’s growing-up music. A lot of it has been the soundtrack to their lives. Some of it we’re fairly radical about”, Zimmer said. “There’s an energy that comes even with some of the pieces I didn’t realize. I didn’t realize that ‘Pirates’ is basically an all-out rock ‘n’ roll onslaught”.
After his successful run across Europe, Zimmer announced his first US performances. He’ll stop in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas in April before visiting Australia and New Zealand and finishing with 21 more European shows.
“There’s an energy you can get from American audiences that you can’t quite get anywhere else”, Zimmer said. “Most of this music came because this town gave me a chance. And so we sort of all feel we want to go and actually do this as a thank you to LA. That’s why it has to be about this town”.