In Defense of ‘Last Christmas’ | National Review

In Defense of ‘Last Christmas’ | National Review

People visit a Christmas market in Cologne, Germany, November 27, 2021. (Thilo Schmuelgen/Reuters)

In response to The Worst Christmas Song Is ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham!

Listen, I understand that “Last Christmas” isn’t universally loved. Our readership at The Dispatch conveyed as much to me in the comment section of a recent article in which I explain why the Wham! classic is underrated. But I have to confess I was taken aback by the title of George Messenger’s Corner post decrying “Last Christmas” as “The Worst Christmas Song.” Really? The worst of all? In a world where “The Christmas Shoes,” “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth,” “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” and the heretical “Mary, Did You Know?” exist? (The last one is a fine enough song, but she did know, darn it!)

Messenger’s critique is not the sound of “Last Christmas” — it isn’t possible to critique perfection, after all — but the premise of the song, focusing particularly on what he alleges are nonsensical lyrics.

“How on earth do you give someone’s heart away?” Messenger asks in reply to the song’s famous chorus. And in response to George Michael’s vow to give his heart to someone special this year: “Well, was the girl he wrote an entire song for not special? Is that the big difference in approach?”

Much like reverse entropy and inversion, these lines are best not thought about deeply. Just feel them. While I concede the metaphor of giving one’s heart to someone only to have it then given away is weak, the point still comes across: Michael fell in love with someone who didn’t love him back. We get it, and, what’s more, we feel it. Heartbreak is a universal experience; it need not be eloquently expressed to be understood. And, as anyone who has gone through the experience can attest, a little post hoc “oh she wasn’t so special, I can find someone better” is all a part of the grieving process. The fictional subject of the song was special to Michael, but he can no longer allow himself to think of her as such.

Setting aside these lyrical quibbles, the true greatness of “Last Christmas” is found in the way it explores the seductive spirit of nostalgia that Christmas time often engenders. It’s the end of the year, it’s cold and bleak, and it’s only natural for one’s mind to turn to the past, especially the parts of it that are no longer in one’s life. You can either wallow in the past like the protagonist of “Last Christmas,” or you can do what the singer promises he will but never does quite in the song: Remember the past, but move on with your life.

In a seasonal spirit, I’ll end by saying that Messenger is right on one count: Every cover of “Last Christmas” is absolutely terrible. Had Taylor Swift written the song instead of just badly covering it, I’m not sure I’d be writing this defense.

Alec Dent is the lead fact-checker and a culture writer for The Dispatch.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.