Music

The evergreen popularity of ‘Last Christmas’

Yuletide star: George Michael in London in 2003

Yuletide star: George Michael in London in 2003  

Less than three years after George Michael’s death, we get to hear his previously-unreleased song. Titled, ‘This Is How (We Want You To Get High)’, the tune features in the new romcom, Last Christmas, starring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding. A peppy number blending dark lyrics with plucked strings, lush keyboards and a foot-tapping beat, ‘This Is How’ reveals Michael’s troubled feelings on alcohol and drug addiction, as he sings, “Looking for a different space, dreaming of a sunnier day, oh it never came, how could it have baby”.

Sound financial sense

Interestingly, Last Christmas also contains many old songs by Michael and his earlier band Wham!, besides occasional references to him. It opens with a children’s choir rendition of ‘Heal The Pain’, and there are a few versions of ‘Last Christmas’. The popular ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ is used briefly, and there are snippets from ‘Fastlove’, ‘Faith’, ‘Move On’, ‘Freedom 90’ and other songs, though some seem irrelevant in the film’s context. The hits ‘Careless Whisper’, ‘Jesus To A Child’ and ‘Father Figure’ are missing.

The soundtrack and the new song are significant for two reasons. One is that it provides another example of the trend of using a popular artiste’s music to add value to a movie. The second involves the use of previously-unreleased songs posthumously, either in a film or separately through an album or single. Let’s look at both separately. Earlier this year, the movie Yesterday had Beatles songs and Blinded By The Light had several ditties by Bruce Springsteen. In both cases, the film subjects had a close connection with the musician.

Earlier too, there have been many such examples – and we’re not talking of musical biopics like Bohemian Rhapsody or Rocketman, based on the lives of Queen’s Freddie Mercury and Elton John, respectively. I Am Sam (2001) and Across The Universe (2007) had Beatles songs, and their storylines were fictitious. Bob Dylan songs were used in Masked and Anonymous (2003) and Prince hits shone in Purple Rain (1984). In both cases, the singers acted as characters other than their own persona. There have been films using tunes by jazzman Miles Davis, rock star Tom Petty, the band Badly Drawn Boy, rapper Jay-Z and singer-songwriter Aimee Mann. Such soundtracks provide a good opportunity for record labels to create a buzz about the artiste’s repertoire and help revive their back catalogue. The same is the case with posthumously released music. If the new song or album does well, there may be a resurgence of older material.

Creating a buzz

There are numerous examples of posthumous releases, and Michael Jackson, Prince and rapper 2Pac Shakur top the list. Earlier this year, DJ Avicii’s ‘Tim’ was put out, but went largely unnoticed. In the case of Jackson, one hopes ‘This Is How’ gets the due mileage, and that the movie producers and record label build-up ‘Last Christmas’ as 2019’s Christmas song. But then, that will only happen if the film’s buzz lasts until end of the year.

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 10:28:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/the-evergreen-popularity-of-last-christmas/article29964733.ece

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