(Sevens, a recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, pays tribute to the art of the individual song.)
Some of the best holiday songs are the ones that don’t focus on the religious or spiritual nature of the season, but rather on the emotional resonance of a time of year that is centered around the idea of sharing with others – be it gifts, charity or simply time. The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York” is exactly that type of song, focusing on the hopes and shattered dreams of a ne’erdowell and a woman who he picks as his last shot at greatness.
My absolute favorite songs are able to transport you to a place you may have never been yourself, say, New York City. The version of New York that Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl create in the song is a New York that doesn’t exist anymore. With images of the policeman’s choir and fantasies of a nobody making it on Broadway, these are the relics of a city of the past. Still, it’s exactly the type of environment that Christmas engenders in our minds. As the two wonder the town – first in love, then in hate, then in melancholic, resigned love again – they evoke the images of a holiday season that, while not amazing for everyone, has the same hopes of yuletide cheer. It avoids the sap of more traditional Christmas songs and instead hits the heart in a completely different way – one that, for me at least, is a lot more affective.
Discussion: While this remains one of my favorite Christmas songs, it holds another past relic and that’s the casual, flippant use of the word ‘faggot.’ As our culture becomes more broadly sensitive to language that is hurtful towards people of different sexual orientations, how do these words in songs make you feel? Does context matter and how much? words/ j. neas
MP3: The Pogues :: Fairytale of New York