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(Un)Covered: Last Christmas

“Last Christmas”
Writer: George Michael
Original Release Date: December 10, 1984

Don’t even try to tell me the 80s weren’t a magical time when that was the era that gifted us with the cheesy but oh-so-amazing Wham! song, “Last Christmas”.

The song tells the story of a guy who’s been wronged by a girl and is reminiscing about the happy times they had the previous holiday season; as such, it’s full of gems like the chorus “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart / But the very next day, you gave it away”. I can’t even think of that line without smiling; despite the sadness of the narrator’s situation, it’s such an addictive song! I really can’t describe it as anything other than “undistilled eighties”—the instrumentation is all synths and a drum beat and if it doesn’t make you want to put on legwarmers and rock a side ponytail, nothing will. For some reason, though, I always forget about that third verse…I don’t think it’s as memorable as the rest of the song, or maybe it just gets lost after that epic chorus.

First of all, The Maine’s holiday EP, …And a Happy New Year, is one of the greatest things to exist (I’m not saying I listen to it all year long, but I might). Since this was released early in their career, it’s interesting to listen to now because of how much they’ve changed: John O’Callaghan’s vocals have improved, and the band doesn’t carry the same neon pop sound they used to. They stayed faithful to the original, mimicking George Michael’s vocal inflections—the whispered “Happy Christmas” in the second verse, the strained “once bitten and twice shy”—but toned down the synths a little to keep it true to their sound at the time. I’d love to hear them re-record this cover now in their post-Pioneer era, because they’d probably strip it down completely, resulting in us sobbing into our wrapping paper.

There are dozens of covers of this song, but one of the reasons there are so many versions is because the original is just that good. So while I love The Maine, Wham! certainly proved they had some staying power since, even years later, we can all sing along to their lament of Christmas past as soon as it starts.

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