The song came into the world during an incredibly dark time. The global devastation of the Second World War was drawing to a somber close against a backdrop of debris and hopelessness. Whilst millions of women throughout the world anxiously awaited the return of their husbands and sons, Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane penned a song that would articulate the wartime festivities beautifully: ‘Someday soon, we all will be together, If the Fates allow, Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.’
The song was written for MGM’s big budget musical Meet me in St. Louis starring the legendary Judy Garland, best known for her incredible performance in The Wizard of Oz. The film is a staple in the family of American musicals, and was given an honorary nod in the Sex and the City movie to heal Carrie’s broken heart.
Despite it’s somber origins, the song has ignited a passionate response from a score of musical heavyweights. It has been reinterpreted by so many that can relate to the message of hope in times of darkness, of positivity when everything appears to be crumbling. Here we look at the weird and wonderful ways that artists have put their signature on the masterpiece.
1944 – Judy Garland
There was an inescapable sadness in Judy Garland’s voice that always touches me. The delicate vibrato and soulful feeling almost brings me to tears. Somehow she touches upon the loneliness that can often engulf those that aren’t having a wonderful Christmas. She had an angelic voice and delivers the song with musical precision that is interwined with feeling. Stunning. 9/10
1957 – Frank Sinatra
Spine tingling, haunting and magical; the backing singers coupled with the heavenly strings make this one of the most celebrated covers of the song. To me, this is what Christmas sounds like. Gorgeous and beautiful, with a hint of nostalgia as we naturally reflect upon the past and anticipate the future. Accompanied by a choir of angelic singers, the warmth and richness of Sinatra’s voice still stands victoriously on its own. 10/10
1960 – Ella Fitzgerald
It seems much of the mood of the song relies on the beat. Fastened up and put in a major key with a cheery, joyous version of the song. Ella is flawless as always, and brings out the joyous hues of the song. 6/10
1978 – The Carpenters
The beautiful brother-sister duo are most famous for the lyrics ‘why do birds suddenly appear.’ A gentle, delicate, rendition with the accompaniment of a choir in the style of Frank Sinatra; the purity of Karen Carpenters voice is spine tingling. While it is a lovely cover, it is not the most memorable of the renditions. 6/10
This rendition strips the song of its sentimental value. It’s beautiful but it’s of the easy listening variety that is easily forgotten. Despite his exceptional voice, the song lacks the feeling of Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland. Basically it’s ‘ite. That is all. 5/10
2007 – Christina Aguilera
Christina draws heavily upon her catalogue of Mariah-inspired riffs through out the song. While her voice is undeniably ground breaking the constant up and downs become quite annoying and ruin the clean melody of the song. I love this woman, but not this cover. There are some occasions that restraint is a good thing. 4/10
2009 – Kenny G
Saxophonist Kenny G gives the Christmas classic a seductive makeover with a relaxing melodic makeover. Technically this is cheating as he’s not a singer but we’re all about variety at Richochet.
2012 – Lady Antebellum
Gorgeous duets with lovely acoustic instrumentation. The mixture of vocal style and the jazzy vibe are a welcome addition to the song’s legacy. The band bring an effortlessly chilled guitar makeover that I adore.
2013 – Mary J Blige
Mary resists the urge to reach for her signature fire notes for a more calm, understated atmosphere, showcasing the warmth and control of her voice. She brings in a contemporary R’n’ B vibe that is refreshing without reducing the festive cheer!
2013 – Kelly Clarkson
Kelly plods dutifully through the song without engaging with the original sentiment. While the angelic instrumentation harks back to the first few renditions it doesn’t replicate the magic. Kelly belts out a high note at the end that violently slices through the ambience of the track. I told that the rest of her Christmas album, ‘Wrapped in Red’ is phenomenal. 4/10
The verdict is that this is an awesome song. Hauntingly beautiful or light and cheery its sublime melody can bend itself to any voice, style or instrument. There is a delicate hint of sadness empowered by the strength of hope. This is the essence of Christmas, as light and happiness enters a world of sorrow, illuminating the shadows of our former lives.
God bless you, and here’s hoping you have a wonderful Christmas! x