For many, Kacey Musgraves and Mabel included, it’s not the most wonderful time of the year. Whether missing late loved ones, being stuck in Tier 4, or just not being on board with the whole vibe, it’s easy to feel like the Scroogiest of Scrooges when everyone else is into it. But this year Christmas – like many people’s yearly normality – is not so cheery.
It’s been a traumatic start to a new decade, so yes we’ll be glad to see the end of 2020, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily feel like celebrating. So if you’re a VIP of the Grinch Gang or just picking up a temporary membership, we’ve curated a playlist to make you feel a little less alone in your feels, because, well, it’s Christmas after all.
“Sorry I’m not so merry / but I feel like this yearly,” Mabel sings on this anti-Christmas bop. Like many of us, this year isn’t an anomaly in a happy winter season, it’s a tough time that leaves you feeling like a big ole Grinch. And, as queen Mabel shows, that’s ok. A song to boogie to if you want with its muted jingle bells and chimes, or just have a sob, this is the ultimate sad xmas banger.
In a sultry collaboration with our special edition cover star, The Weeknd, Sabrina Claudio gives us a nice bit of xmas R&B. For the pair’s first collab, ‘Christmas Blues’ (the title track of Sabrina’s latest project) is a crooning tale of longing for someone, an emotion a whole lot of us will be feeling this year. On top of that, it’s a great song in itself, a satisfying merging of the two’s ethereal sounds that is well worth a play.
If anyone’s good at hitting you right in your feels, it’s Kacey Musgraves. Just a hint of that Nashville-lilt and we’ll be bawling. This track from last year’s Prime Video holiday special, The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show, is a delicate ode to those unhappy in the happiest season. We’re looking at you Abby.
One of the only covers on this playlist is one you might not know is one. tmrw’s 2020 fave, Phoebe Bridgers, takes on the 2008 track by McCarthy Trenching, ‘Christmas Song’. “The first time I heard this song it hit me like a ton of bricks” Phoebe explained “It’s not that often that I hear a Christmas song that doesn’t make me want to quit music.” Same here, tbh, so we are v on board with this cover.
A classic of the sad Christmas tide, who better than Joni Mitchell to bring a tear to your eye this season (and no we’re not choosing ‘the Love Actually song’ otherwise known as ‘Both Sides Now’). Our choice is ‘River’, where the innovative Joni sings a breakup song over a piano rendition of the 19th-century modern fave ‘Jingle Bells’, it’s the perfect sad but oh so good song to get you through the next few days.
A new addition to the Christmas canon this year, artist, writer and producer Finneas has given us ‘Another Year’. Although writing the track last winter season, the lyrics ring true to our current reality: uncertain, but with a glimpse of hope. “Had I known anything I know now about how 2020 would go, I don’t think I would have changed a word. I hope wherever this song finds you, it brings you some small dose of comfort. The horizon is bright, I think.”
Released as part of the soundtrack to The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, as Dolly Parton said herself “it’s kind of funny that people think [‘Hard Candy Christmas’] is a Christmas song, it’s really not,” Dolly says. “It’s really just about people having hard times and saying, ‘It’s like a hard candy Christmas,’ like when you’re so poor that all you get for Christmas is a piece of hard candy.” It makes our list, though, because Dolly always makes the list.
Released back in 1984, Prince’s ode to a widower whose lover dies on Christmas, ‘Another Lonely Christmas’ is a testament to the artist’s unparalleled songwriting and unique presence. As far as holiday tracks go, this one’s not going to be blasted in the shopping mall, but that’s alright with us: Prince is way too special to become Cinnabon background music.
Another one from The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show (sorry not sorry), this time it’s the two most mellow voices in the charts right now coming together for some yuletide sads. ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ sounds like it would be a happy song, but don’t worry if you actually listen, it’s not. “If only in my dreams” and all that.
Always got to finish on a classic, and can you get more classic than Elvis? The OG sad Christmas song, it, in fact, was his own favourite he recorded, which he revealed on TV when he performed it for the first and only time on record in 1968. If it’s good enough for the King, it’s sure as hell good enough for us.